The US-based Marshall Legacy Institute (MLI), engages in provision of technical support for clearance of landmines world-wide, has selected the Sri Lanka Army’s Mine Detection Dog (MDD), Alvin and its handler, Lance Corporal GNWM Nawarathne of 7 Field Engineer Regiment, Sri Lanka Engineers (SLE) as the MLI’s ‘Team of the Year – 2016’ to receive the MDD Award of the Year – 2016 during the ‘Clearing the Path’ Gala celebration on October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.
The two-member Army de-mining team, Alvin and its handler, Lance Corporal Nawarathne has been working together to-date since December 28, 2011, having de-mined approximately a land area of 73,340 sqm in the North and East. Their operations have so far recovered 20 Rocket Propeller Grenades (RPGs), 48 grenades, 137 Anti-Personnel Mines (APMs), 24 unexploded ordnance, 18 detonators and 243 ammunition and other explosive remnants of the war.
Their team work of de-mining, based on mutual understanding and devotion to the task, has enabled 1945 displaced people of 415 families to return to their original places of habitation during the past five years after specific areas were cleared of all explosive devices by being one of the most dedicated de-mining teams of the Sri Lanka Army which achieved expected results in a commendable manner.
The MLI announcing the selection of Alvin and Nawarathne for the ‘well-deserved award’ and congratulating both of them for their dedicated work to ‘free Sri Lanka of the scourge of landmines and other explosives’, in a special letter, addressed by MLI President to the Commander of the Army, has invited the MDD team to arrive in the US to receive the Award in a public celebration to be held in Washington DC.
Lieutenant General Crishanthe De Silva, Commander of the Army on hearing the nomination for the Award, conveyed his greetings to the team and extended his best wishes. The US MLI’s Board of Directors, presided by Perry F Baltimore consists of 17 members, in addition to a seven-member International Advisory Committee and has been supporting the Sri Lanka Army’s mine clearance operations since the year 2011 by way of technical assistance.
In the year 2012, the MDD Ciro and its handler, Sapper DKN Rohana of the Army’s Sri Lanka Engineers were also selected for the same Award in appreciation of their commitment to clear a landmine-infested area of 9570 sqm, recovering 101 LTTE-made APMs, three LTTE-produced hand grenades, one 60mm mortar bomb and two unexploded RPG bombs.
The MLI having donated 6 MDDs to the Army through the US State Department in June 2011 offered the service of a Senior Dog Training Instructor from Global Training Academy (GTA) for dogs and both these nominees for this year’s Award underwent specific training courses for three months at the Sri Lanka School of Military Engineering (SLSME) at Embilipitiya before they received the UN Accreditation Test to commence minefield clearance operations.
De-mining engineers of the Sri Lanka Army with their exceptional capabilities will continue to work dedicatedly and very hard to rid the country of all mines laid down by the LTTE. This MLI Award testifies to the exceptional performances of the duo in particular and Army de-mining engineers in general.
Dog, Alvin with a sharp sense of smell and intelligence has been performing well since the first day it was introduced to the minefield operations. It is now seven years and four months old and is of Belgium Malinois breed.