FORT GORDON, Ga. (Oct. 20, 2014) -- About 175 Soldiers from the 35th Signal Brigade (Theater Tactical) are heading to West Africa in late October to provide their communications equipment and expertise to the fight against the Ebola virus disease outbreak.
The 35th TTSB headquarters at Fort Gordon, Georgia, will provide 25 of the supporting Soldiers and 150 Soldiers from 50th Signal Battalion (Expeditionary) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
They will go to locations in the African countries of Liberia and Senegal to establish communication nodes in support of Operation United Assistance and fall under the operational control of the Joint Force Command. The JFC will be headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia, and be led by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The Soldiers from 35th TTSB headquarters team will provide network operations support and teams from the 50th ESB will install, operate, and maintain satellite communications in support of OUA.
Other 35th TTSB Soldiers, including food service and human resource specialists, will also be sent to support the signal teams.
The 35th TTSB Soldiers will be among the approximate 4,000 members of U.S. military forces the Pentagon intends to send to establish a Joint Task Force Command headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia.
The Army will provide military capability in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development efforts to contain and reduce the threat posed by Ebola. The overall goal is to save lives, and alleviate human suffering; promote internal and regional stability; and in the event of breakdown of civil authorities, protect U.S. personnel and facilities.
The duration of the deployment and follow-on rotations has not been determined.
"The 35th Signal Brigade is an expeditionary unit comprised of trained and ready Signaleers," said U.S. Army Maj. Leonardo Adams, operations officer, 35th TTSB, who has provided coordination as the operational lead for the brigade's support of OUA. "Our Soldiers will be doing what they do best; using their technical expertise to provide robust and reliable communications."
Soldiers will receive personal protective equipment and will be trained in proper use and wear depending on the soldier's expected level of interaction with the local population.
"The most important asset to the brigade is our Soldiers. It is my primary focus to bring them home safely," said U.S. Army Maj. Jason A. Foreman, who will be the network operations director in charge of the 35th TTSB in West Africa.
Leading up to the deployment, Soldiers will receive medical training to expand their understanding of the Ebola virus. The training will include preventive and protective measures as well as decontamination and disposal procedures.
"It's good for them to get the training because it provides them education on precautionary preventive measure," said Foreman a Brooklyn, New York, native, who added that the Soldiers will most likely stay in environments with low-risk of Ebola virus exposure. "The Soldiers will not be close to, or taking care of, any patient who has Ebola. But, they will be ready and prepared in case something unexpected happens or an emergency."
All troops must receive regionally specific training on Ebola prevention, malaria prevention and other medical threats. They must also have immunizations ranging from chickenpox, influenza and hepatitis to yellow fever and pneumococcal vaccines, according to a DoD official.
"We have been preparing for this mission since we were given the initial warning order that we might provide support in early September," said Adams. "I am confident they will accomplish the mission with ease and professionalism as they have so demonstrated in past assignments."
Unit leaders and medical personnel will regularly check Soldiers as others monitor their own health while deployed. This approach is in alignment with medical monitoring processes used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additional screening for EVD, other diseases, and behavioral health issues will be an important part of the post-deployment process. Soldiers will not return home until they've been fully evaluated and cleared.
Additional information about the virus can be found at the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Public Health Command websites.