(Continuing Updates) The Ebola Crisis: U.S. Military Gears Up
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The Defense Department has announced that it could deploy up to 4,000 service members to Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance against Ebola — that is one thousand more than previously announced.
Operations are moving forward in Liberia. “Over the last 36 hours, two Ebola testing laboratories manned by personnel from the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center are now fully operational,” Pentagon spokesman Admiral Kirby said. The labs can process about 100 samples each day.
U.S. personnel are also on track for completing a hospital for infected medical personnel on Oct. 18. “Construction of two treatment centers for other Ebola victims will begin today and should be completed by the end of the month,” the admiral said.
The U.S. Army announced the units that will deploy to the region beginning in mid-month and running through November. With the previously announced unit deployments, this will bring the total Army commitment to about 3,200 soldiers.
More than 1,800 Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based soldiers will arrive in Liberia sometime late this month. Other soldiers will deploy from the 101st Sustainment Brigade, the 86th Combat Support Hospital of the 44th Medical Brigade, and a Military Police company from the 16th Military Police Brigade.
These units will provide medical and logistic support, as well as site security, to the Joint Task Force. Soldiers will deploy from other bases as well including, Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Eustis, Virginia and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
Kirby emphasized once again that troops going to the region will be closely monitored before, during and after deployment.
Health experts will explain the best way to protect themselves from the disease. They will also explain the symptoms of Ebola.
“While the troops are there, they’re going to be constantly monitored on a regular, frequent basis,” Kirby said.
Some will call it fear mongering, irresponsible, or politics-as usual.
Others will agree with Rand Paul.
I just call those 3,000 military on their way to West Africa to help combat a frightening virus, “brave men and women” and pray for them.
Here’s what Rand Paul says, according to TPM.
“Where is disease most transmittable? When you’re in very close confines on a ship,” Paul said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. “We all know about cruises and how they get these diarrhea viruses that are transmitted very easily and the whole ship gets sick. Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”
“It’s a big mistake to downplay and act as if ‘oh, this is not a big deal, we can control all this,'” he added. “This could get beyond our control.”
On other U.S. government reactions, Paul says that he thinks U.S. officials are underestimating the transmissibility of the deadly virus and that they are downplaying the threat of the virus spreading to America in order to be politically correct.
“I really think it is being dominated by political correctness,” he told Ingraham. “And I think because of political correctness, we’re not really making sound, rational, scientific decisions on this.”
The Kentucky Air National Guard (ANG) reports that more than 60 airmen from the Louisville-based 123rd Contingency Response Group will start departing today for Senegal to establish a cargo-processing hub in support of Operation United Assistance, the international effort to battle Ebola in West Africa.
They will establish an aerial port of debarkation, or APOD, at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport, designed to accept large quantities of cargo arriving on C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy aircraft, process the material for staging, and then load it onto smaller aircraft for distribution into affected areas.
The Kentucky airmen will remain in place as long as the mission dictates.
An advance team of eight Kentucky Air Guardsmen and one active-duty airman arrived in Senegal Sept. 28 to assess the airfield and operational capabilities.
The Kentucky ANG adds:
The 123rd Contingency Response Group, part of the 123rd Airlift Wing, is the only unit of its kind in the Air National Guard. Conceived as an “airbase in a box,” the group acts as an early responder in the event of contingency operations worldwide. Several members of the team were involved in previous humanitarian missions, to include the Haiti earthquake aid in 2010.
Its personnel have the training and equipment to deploy to remote sites, rapidly open a runway and establish airfield operations so cargo or troops can begin to flow into affected areas. Unit members represent a broad spectrum of specialties, including airfield security, ramp and cargo operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.
Read more here.
Michael Lumpkin, center, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, Nancy A. Lindborg, the assistant administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Dr. Thomas Kenyon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director for Global Health, discuss their efforts to see the impact of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia during a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 1, 2014. Photo DOD
As part of the 3,000 U.S. military to be deployed to West Africa to help combat the Ebola outbreak, 700 soldiers from the 101st t Airborne Division headquarters will deploy in late October to Liberia.
The Army will deploy another 700 soldiers from engineering units throughout the United States to supervise the construction of Ebola treatment units, conduct site surveys and provide engineering expertise, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said, in an area with a range of infrastructure repair needs.
Also, according to DOD, about 195 Defense Department personnel are now on the ground in West Africa and over the weekend the equipment for a 25-bed hospital for health care workers and two mobile labs arrived in Monrovia.
Last week, 15 construction-specialty sailors, or Seabees, from the Naval Mobile Construction Batallion-133, Task Group 68.7 arrived in Monrovia to provide engineering support to Operation United Assistance.
Both Secretary Hagel and JCS Chairman Dempsey have said that the protection of our men and women is priority and that all deploying personnel receive training on the use of protective equipment and training on Ebola and malaria prevention and other critical procedures.
Health care workers put on personal protective equipment before going into the hot zone at Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, on Sept. 22, 2014. U.S. Agency for International Development photo by Morgana Wingard
The Washington Post reports that a patient who was being evaluated for Ebola has tested positive for the virus — the first time Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will host a press conference at its Atlanta headquarters this evening.
Read more here.
As reported here, the United States is committing 3,000 U.S. troops to construct 17 Ebola treatment centers across Liberia each with 100 beds, to train thousands of health-care workers and to provide other logistics and materiel support.
The Department of Defense has, so far, requested to reprogram two rounds of $500 million each in fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency funds to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to fight Ebola, and is prepared to devote up to $1 billion to its Ebola response efforts.
Although the Wall Street Journal writes, “U.S. Troops Battling Ebola Get Off to Slow Start in Africa” the Department of Defense reports this morning that its “contribution to the fight against Ebola in Liberia is taking shape as more service members and building supplies arrive in Monrovia.”
Here are some details and images:
Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said that about 150 U.S. service members are now in the Liberian capital Monrovia, conducting a range of activities in support of USAID, as U.S. Africa Command sets up a joint force command headquarters there to support U.S. military activities.
Warren said a 25-bed hospital arrived over the weekend, its parts distributed among three C-17 aircraft. The hospital, which he said came from Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, will be dedicated to treating health care workers who become infected with Ebola.
“There’s a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for today,” Warren added, “and we expect the 25-bed hospital will be up and running sometime in the middle of October.”
Forty more personnel also arrived over the weekend, he said. Thirty-four will be dedicated to setting up the hospital, and six will set up a mobile laboratory.
Warren said the Operation United Assistance personnel also will set up a training facility for health care workers near Monrovia, as well as an intermediate staging base in Senegal.
Airmen from the 633rd Medical Group at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., have partnered with representatives from the U.S. Public Health Service to deliver a modular medical treatment center to Africa. While they will not be involved in treatment of patients exposed to the virus, they will be supporting the overall effort by setting up the facility and training international health care workers.
Below, Airmen assigned to the 633rd Medical Group board a C-17 Globemaster at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Sept. 26, 2014, on deployment to West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance. The 633rd Medical Group packaged and delivered a modular medical treatment center, as part of a governmentwide effort to support humanitarian relief operations in Ebola-stricken African nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman.)
Below, a C-17 Globemaster is loaded with cargo prior to departure at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Sept. 26, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)
“The most important thing is the airmen setting up and training the [international health workers] on the equipment and how it works,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Sean L. Murphy, ACC’s command surgeon. He noted that while the airmen will not be doing patient care, they will use force health protection measures as a precaution and will play an important role in the humanitarian mission.
“We are potentially setting a precedent, because the EMEDS unit is typically set up for things like trauma care,” said Public Health Service Rear Adm. Scott Giberson, acting deputy surgeon general. “[Instead], we will be using it for an infectious pathogen and treatment of international health care workers.”
The Air Force’s EMEDS is one of the greatest assets to have in this situation, Giberson said, noting that the Defense Department, U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command are supporting the effort with logistics and other contributions. “But the Air Force has the piece of delivering the facility for us and [providing] the expertise of setting up the facility and training us on the facility,” he added. “We need that piece of the puzzle to complete the successful mission.”
Medical supplies from the Air Force Medical Operations Agency are loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III Sept. 26, 2014, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Kelly Field Annex in support of United States Africa Command and United Nations operations to help treat patients and halt the spread of the Ebola virus. The supplies will support field hospitals and aid workers battling the virus in Monrovia, Liberia, and efforts to fortify global health security infrastructure in the region and beyond. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Justine K. Rho)
All photos and captions: DOD
Lead photo: A colorized scanning electron micrograph of filament-like Ebola virus particles, in blue, budding from a chronically infected kidney Vero E6 cell, in yellow-green. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease photo