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A majority of Americans support banning all flights to the United States from countries experiencing an Ebola outbreak, according to an “exclusive” NBC News online survey.
The Liberian ambassador in Washington, Jeremiah Sulunteh, fears his country could be close to collapse from the Ebola outbreak and there are pleas for support from the international community, according to BBC News.
Donald Trump came out firing today and criticized President Obama for sending troops to West Africa to combat Ebola and for not halting commercial flights from Ebola-stricken countries, according to Mediaite.com, echoing Sen. Rand Paul and other right wing politicians and pundits.
“Federal health officials will require temperature checks for the first time at five major American airports for people arriving from the three West African countries hardest hit by the deadly Ebola virus. However, health experts said the measures were more likely to calm a worried public than to prevent many people with Ebola from entering the country,” according to the New York Times.
Perhaps this comes after Republicans clamored for tougher actions. However, the Times reports:
The president’s Republican critics were largely silent Wednesday after Mr. Duncan died and the administration announced the airport screenings. It was unclear if the Republicans saw the temperature checks as a sufficient response to the epidemic or if they did not want to be perceived as seeking political gain from Mr. Duncan’s death.
Regardless of what some call “hysteria,” the men and women in the middle of this political fracas — the hundreds of military personnel already in West Africa and, I am sure, the thousands more to be deployed — are going about their mission in a “cool, calm and collected way” — and, may I add, very courageously.
Their commander-in-chief is well aware of that.
Meeting with his senior advisors Oct. 6 to review the U.S. response to the epidemic, President Obama said, “As I’ve said from the start of this outbreak, I consider this a top national security priority. This is not just a matter of charity – although obviously the humanitarian toll in countries that are affected in West Africa is extraordinarily significant. This is an issue about our safety. It is also an issue with respect to the political stability and the economic stability in this region.”
President Barack Obama greets troops and thanks them for their service as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, far left, does the same at the Pentagon, Oct. 8, 2014. Obama visited the Pentagon to meet with Hagel and combatant commanders to discuss the ongoing fights against ISIL and Ebola. Photo DOD.
In the meantime, the military mission to West Africa is well under way.
Following hundreds of soldiers, airmen and sailors already in or on their way to West Africa, a special 100-men-strong Marine expeditionary unit based in Spain is deploying to Liberia via Dakar, Senegal.
The Marine task force will provide interim re-supply and transportation support until Army units arrive later this month to assume that longer term mission, Pentagon spokesman Admiral Kirby said.
Kirby discussed the conditions these Marines will face in West Africa:
“These personnel will arrive in Senegal tonight and in Liberia tomorrow and their footprint includes four MV-22 Ospreys, 2 KC-130 Hercules aircraft.”
The aircraft will help transport supplies and troops to and from a staging area in Senegal and to more remote areas.
The admiral noted one of the benefits of the Osprey is “it can go where lots of other aircraft can’t go.”
“One of the challenges that we’re having is some of the sites at which we are trying to set up these emergency treatment units are in pretty remote locations,” Kirby said, “where there are not only no roads, but there’s no other way to get to them sometimes than either on foot, or in this case, from the air.”
Kirby said the need for airlift capability speaks to the “very austere” environment where U.S personnel are required to operate.
“Troops that are trying to build these units and get the ground level are really set back every day, hours and hours every day, by rainfall,” Kirby said. “That doesn’t drain off, necessarily, very quickly, either.”
More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group stood up a cargo hub at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar Oct. 5, that will funnel humanitarian supplies and equipment into West Africa in support of Operation United Assistance, or OUA, the international effort to fight Ebola.
Staff Sgt. John May, left, and Senior Airman Alex Vincent carry equipment into the joint operations center Oct. 5, 2014, at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, in support of Operation United Assistance. Both Airmen are members of the Kentucky ANG’s 123rd Contingency Response Group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Maj. Dale Greer)
We’ll keep you posted on our troops who are in a very different kind of harm’s way.
We thank them and wish them well.
Lead image: Aerial porters from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group off-load the unit’s gear from a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster III Oct. 4, 2014, at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar, Senegal, in support of Operation United Assistance. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Maj. Dale Greer)
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.