U.S. and Sri Lankan military forces teamed up in August for a special mission: providing health care and building schools in rural Sri Lanka.
Pacific Angel is a recurring joint humanitarian operation designed to improve lives and deepen ties in the Pacific region.
“With each opportunity to collaborate, the partnership between our militaries grows and local communities benefit,” said Robert Hilton, chargé d’ affaires, U.S. Embassy Colombo in Sri Lanka. “[Pacific Angel] represents how our expanding security partnership makes a difference in the lives of ordinary Sri Lankans.”
Whether that meant building a new school roof, upgrading water treatment or setting up free health care clinics in the town of Vavuniya, U.S. and Sri Lankan partners pitched in together, assisted by Red Cross volunteers and Sri Lankan nursing students. Pacific Angel medical staff saw more than 1,000 patients per day — providing eyeglasses, dental work, physical therapy and prescription medications.
A new perspective
U.S. medics and Sri Lankan health officials also held a series of training sessions on mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue virus. This infectious disease affects up to 400 million people every year.
Lieutenant Colonel Nicole Christiano of the U.S. Air Force, who led the medical team, said she learned new perspectives from her Sri Lankan counterparts. “It’s this type of hands-on training and interaction that will ultimately help us work together if we are ever called to operate in an emergency capacity,” she said.
The 11th annual Pacific Angel operation started its humanitarian mission in Timor-Leste and Vanuatu. After departing Sri Lanka, the U.S. contingent will continue its work in the Indo-Pacific region, with a stop in Vietnam.