By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army AfricaOctober 7, 2014
MONROVIA, Liberia (Oct. 7, 2014) -- More than 50 personnel from U.S. Army Africa are on the ground in Liberia responding to a request from President Barack Obama to assist in the fight against an Ebola outbreak in the region.
A 25-bed clinic for aid workers and two mobile labs have arrived in the country to diagnose the disease, and U.S. Army Africa is also setting up training for health care workers.
On Sept. 16, President Obama issued the following directive:
"At the request of the Liberian government, we're going to establish a military command center in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region -- similar to our response after the Haiti earthquake. It's going to be commanded by Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, commander of our Army forces in Africa. He just arrived today and is now on the ground in Liberia. And our forces are going to bring their expertise in command and control, in logistics, in engineering. And our Department of Defense is better at that, our Armed Services are better at that than any organization on Earth."
"President Obama has made it clear the U.S. is committed to all governments in the region, and Liberia has the full backing of the U.S.," United States Ambassador to Liberia Deborah R. Malac said.
Currently, U.S. Army Africa, or USARAF, personnel are working under the direction of the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, and through U.S. Africa Command in an international humanitarian effort known as Operation United Assistance.
Williams, USARAF commander, explained his command's involvement in Operation United Assistance.
"We are partnering with the Armed Forces of Liberia and they're eager to help their fellow countrymen. Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, are working side by side with our Liberian host and will build on our already special relationship," Williams said.
Key in USARAF's mission is the establishment of a 25-bed clinic for aid workers.
"The construction of a 25-bed expeditionary clinic for aid workers, multiple Ebola treatment units and a facility for training Liberia medical health workers is under way. As I speak, successive teams are spread throughout Liberia conducting site surveys and have begun construction already," Williams said.
"With the arrival of the hospital over the weekend, we will continue to expand our efforts to accomplish our mission," he said. "This weekend also saw the arrival of two mobile testing labs. They're bound for the Island Clinic and Bong County [Ebola treatment units]. These labs are a huge step in the fight against this disease. I cannot overemphasize the importance of our mission and we're glad to be on the team," Williams said.
According to information provided by the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, the clinic and lab equipment delivered by U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft is bound for two locations in Liberia, and is expected to be operational this week.
The mobile labs are a huge step in stopping the spread of Ebola, as they should reduce the wait time for test results from several days to just a few hours, officials said. The labs will be operated by members of a U.S. Navy Medical Research Unit.
The 25-bed hospital arrived just as the U.S. military broke ground on a site in Margibi County. Originally designed to treat military Service members in combat zones, the facility will be staffed by the U.S. Public Health Service and will provide support to all health workers in Liberia.
Williams praised the work of the Liberian government, and affirmed the role of USARAF in Operation United Assistance.
"From a tactical standpoint as a Joint Force Command, I owe the best means to move this thing as quickly as possible. This is about urgency and speed. That's what I'm about -- urgency and speed. What you're going to see here pretty soon, are forces flown in relatively quickly," Williams said.
USAID is the lead U.S. government agency overseeing the overall response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The U.S. military response, led by U.S. Army Africa, is acting in support of USAID by providing expertise in command and control, engineering and logistics.