101st airborne deploying to Africa to assist Ebola aid

Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), help train Afghan forces in June 2013, in Khowst province, Afghanistan. Soldiers of the division's headquarters will soon be in Liberia in support of efforts to fight the deadly Ebola virus. Photo credit: U.S. Army

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has authorized the deployment of 700 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division headquarters element to Liberia to help with the Ebola epidemic there, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said here yesterday.

The soldiers will deploy in late October, Kirby told reporters during a briefing, and they will become the headquarter staff for the joint forces command, led by Army Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky.

“Gen. Volesky and his staff will assume overall command of the effort, and with his arrival, [Army] Maj. Gen. [Darryl A.] Williams will be able to return to his normal duties as the Army component commander for Africa command,” Kirby said.

Construction troops

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, the admiral said, in an area with a range of infrastructure repair needs.

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, conducting site surveys for future hospitals, supply storage and training facilities for health care workers fighting the Ebola outbreak.

The deployments are part of a whole-of-government response to the Ebola outbreak, said Kirby, noting that the U.S. military is contributing its unique capabilities in support of the lead U.S. agency — the U.S. Agency for International Development — and other interagency partners.

“This will not be an overnight process but we are already making significant progress,” the admiral said.

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.

“We expect the hospital to be operational about the middle of October,” Kirby said, adding that U.S. military personnel are not and will not be providing direct care to Ebola patients.

Force protection

Kirby said all troops deploying to Liberia are being trained on personal protective equipment and about Ebola virus disease.

“Secretary Hagel has no higher priority than force protection,” the admiral said. “The threat down there is the disease … so just like any other threat, we take it very, very seriously and we’ll make sure they’ve got the protection they need.”

Also yesterday, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, released a statement on the military response to the Ebola outbreak

“Today we have about 150 men and women from the Department of Defense in West Africa responding to the Ebola outbreak. They are the advance elements of our military force that will total roughly 3,000 Americans confronting a health crisis that has significant humanitarian, economic, political and security dimensions,” he said.

Dempsey said DoD is supporting other U.S. government and international relief efforts by leveraging unique U.S. military capabilities — specifically, establishing command-and-control nodes, logistics hubs, training for health care workers, and providing engineering support.

“The protection of our men and women is my priority as we seek to help those in Africa and work together to stem the tide of this crisis,” Dempsey said, adding, as Hagel did, that all deploying personnel receive training on the use of protective equipment and training on Ebola and malaria prevention and other critical procedures.

“I am proud of the dedication and skills of these men and women,” the chairman said in his statement, “and confident in their ability to make a difference.”


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