The U.S. military will begin its first Ebola quarantine-like monitoring with the return of service members deployed for Operation United Assistance. This is the first time the military has monitored troops in this manner in the United States.
According to The Washington Post, the troops will be housed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis located just southwest of Richmond. None of the service members have shown any symptoms of the virus. The controlled monitoring is being conducted as an effort to stop the spread of the virus into the U.S., as ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on October 29.
“This is a policy that was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women,” Hagel said at the time. “And they very much wanted a safety valve on this.”
The 84 service members come from different branches of the military. The Air Force is most represented with 51 members, followed by 27 from the Navy, four from the Marine Corps and two from the Army.
They will remain in “quarantine” for 21 days, undergoing medical screening twice a day. The troops will be housed on base, in a secluded area west of the flight line called the Langley Transit Unit. The existing facilities, which includes a dining area and gym, were retrofitted by base engineers. They added new heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. They also installed lines for telephone, TV, and high-speed Internet service.
Military officials stated that Langley-Eustis was chosen as one of the monitoring locations because it has the ability to provide lodging, transportation and controlled access to the secluded housing. It also has medical facilities with the ability to isolate patients and has close proximity to an airfield.
While the troops will have some of the comforts of home, they will not be allowed to see their families in person.
“Troops will be able to communicate with family members via telephone and electronic means,” said Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon Press Secretary. “Access to the controlled monitoring area will be limited to health, support and facilities maintenance personnel.”
According to the Defense Department, Langley-Eustis is one of several locations in which troops will be placed in controlled monitoring. Other bases include Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Two overseas Army facilities will also be utilized: Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany and the Army base in Vicenza, Italy. The Washington Post reported that the Vicenza site has already been used by the first wave of service members who returned to Europe after deploying.