About 30 members of the U.S. military began training Oct. 22 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as part of the creation of the Ebola Expeditionary Team, the Department of Defense announced. At the request of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense is establishing the team to be able to respond to an Ebola crisis in the United States. The team is composed of physicians, nurses and other personnel and would supplement civilian agencies when their resources have been exhausted.
In West Africa, American forces continue to move into position as part of Operation United Assistance. Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky arrived in Liberia on Oct. 20 and is assuming command of the Joint Forces Command in Monrovia. He was accompanied by 30 soldiers from the headquarters staff of the 101st Division. Nearly 700 more troops from the 101 are expected in the next several weeks, including a combat support hospital and military police.
Joint Task Force Port Opening Senegal is now fully operational at the Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport in Dakar. The unit’s mission is to serve as a freight hub to funnel supplies and personnel into the Ebola stricken region. The Kentucky Air National Guard is providing about 70 troops to this task force and the Air Force has assigned seven active-duty airmen.
The Defense Department announced on Oct. 20 that 175 Army soldiers from Fort Campbell and Fort Bragg will be deploying to provide communications for Operation United Assistance. They are scheduled to depart in late October after completing training, including Ebola-specific training. The troops will be providing network support and satellite communications.
For Carson, Colorado, will be sending the 615th Engineer Company to Liberia. Their primary mission will be the maintenance and improvement of roads, most of which are unpaved and suffer from the effects of 200 inches of rain each year. Sgt. Chris Wanamaker, supply specialist, 615th Eng., is quoted by the Defense Department:
“I feel pretty good to be deploying to Africa on a mission,” he said. “I am afraid of the unknown; however, if the work we do saves one life it will be worth facing that fear.”
Logistics in Liberia will be managed, in part, by the 53rd Transportation Battalion. While they have received training in the use of personal protective equipment and decontamination protocols, these Virginia-based soldiers are not expected to treat patients. They have, however, spent some time in refresher training in Humvee egress.
“In the deployed environment, the roads aren’t like here in the United States, the roads are uneven and there are more hills and ditches, so there is the possibility of a vehicle rolling over,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Clarke, 53rd Transportation Battalion (MC) cargo specialist.
The total number of reported Ebola cases in the West African outbreak has reached 9,911, according to the World Health Organization’s Oct. 22 report. Combining that report with more current Ebola data from Sierra Leone reveals 10,073 reported cases of Ebola in West Africa, the United States and Spain. There have been 4,892 Ebola related deaths. 443 health care workers have contracted the illness and 244 have died.
The Department of Defense has created a website for its activities in support of Operation United Assistance. Titled “DoD Helps Fight EBOLA in West Africa”, it will house in one place the videos, photos and news stories detailing that support.