By David VergunSeptember 30, 2014
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 30, 2014) -- The headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will deploy to Monrovia, Liberia, as the Joint Force Command for Operation United Assistance.
About 700 Soldiers will arrive sometime in late October, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a Pentagon news conference today.
Soldiers from the 101st Sustainment Brigade are part of the deploying number, according to a division spokesman. In addition, he said elements of the 86th Combat Support Hospital are also preparing to deploy from Fort Campbell.
Also in late October, the Army will deploy another 700 Soldiers from various engineering units throughout the U.S. to supervise the construction of Ebola treatment units, conduct site surveys and provide engineering expertise.
The 101st Soldiers will be there for at least six months, Kirby said, but they could stay longer based on the needs of the mission.
The mission of JFC-United Assistance is to support interagency efforts, Kirby said. The U.S. Agency for International Development is one of the main agencies.
"The U.S. military will not provide direct care to Ebola patients," Kirby said.
Extra steps are being taken to protect the Soldiers' health, he said, including "personnel protective equipment" and educating the Soldiers about Ebola and other diseases prevalent in the area.
The military deployments are "part of a whole-of-government response to the Ebola outbreak," he said. Although the U.S. military isn't in the lead, it "is fully prepared to contribute unique capabilities in support of interagency partners. This will not be an overnight process, but we're making significant progress."
There has been some criticism in the press about the slow military response, Kirby said, answering that "there's nothing slow-footed about efforts we're taking to get there."
It takes time to get the hospital equipment and other logistical necessities to the area, he explained.
Some 195 Defense Department personnel are already on the ground in West Africa, and over the weekend, the equipment for a 25-bed hospital and two mobile labs arrived in Monrovia, Kirby said.
"We expect the hospital to be operational by the middle of October," he said.
JFC-United Assistance will help the government of Liberia contain the Ebola virus and synchronize the establishment of Ebola treatment units across Liberia, as well as train health care workers and establish logistical centers to support this effort.
Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of the 101st, and his staff will assume command of JFC-United Assistance. Volesky's arrival will enable Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams to return to his post as commander of U.S. Army Africa, Kirby said.
"Operation United Assistance is a critical mission," said Volesky. "We will coordinate all of the Department of Defense resources in Liberia to support USAID and the government of Liberia to contain the Ebola virus, and ultimately save lives."
All troops deploying to Liberia will receive specific medical training -- developed in conjunction with U.S. Army Public Health Command -- and utilize specialized personal protection equipment to ensure they are protected from exposure to Ebola.
"Protecting the health of our Soldiers is our number one priority," said Volesky. "Before our Soldiers deploy they will be trained on how to protect themselves from Ebola and all other potential health risks found in Liberia."
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