FORT HOOD, Texas (Nov. 24, 2014) -- North Fort Hood's Controlled Monitoring Area Site is operational and ready to accept troops returning from Ebola virus disease outbreak areas. Troops are anticipated to arrive here for monitoring, within the next few weeks.
The site was established, per Department of Defense instructions, out of an abundance of caution to monitor Soldiers returning from areas experiencing an outbreak of Ebola, and to ensure the safety of families and community members.
"This is a prudent and conservative approach that addresses the growing concerns within our military families and Fort Hood communities," said Maj. Richard Dempsey, Controlled Monitoring Area Site project officer, III Corps.
Soldiers being monitored within the Controlled Monitoring Area Site, or CMAS, at Fort Hood, would be classified as "no-known-risk" or "low-risk," because they would not have provided direct care to Ebola patients.
Prior to returning to the U.S., Soldiers will have already undergone 10 days of monitoring in Africa. Once back in the states, they will then spend 21 days being monitored at one of five selected installations in the U.S.
Fort Hood is one of those monitoring locations.
The CMAS at North Fort Hood has an initial capacity of two groups of 50 Soldiers at a time, known as cohorts, but that capacity is scalable to fit the needs of the service, said Maj. Tom Chapeau, executive officer, 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.
Chapeau's unit is assigned as cadre for the CMAS until Dec. 1, when 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, will assume the mission. Cadre members will conduct day-to-day operations from the administrations building within the CMAS campus and ensure the quality-of-life needs are met.
Cohort members will not enter the administration building, unless "absolutely necessary," Chapeau said.
The CMAS and monitoring procedures follow guidance issued Friday by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, which applies to "all Service members who have served in the Ebola outbreak area in West Africa as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Service members who have been exposed to asymptomatic or symptomatic persons within the U.S."
North Fort Hood's CMAS consists of two two-story dormitories that hold two rows of bunk beds with lockers down the middle aisle. Soldiers will not be double stacked on the beds, Chapeau said.
Male and female troops will be segregated by floors, Dempsey noted.
While at the CMAS, the Soldiers will have access to wireless Internet, gaming systems, exercise equipment, a library, television and other recreational activities on-site.
They will share the recreational materials and dine together. Each cohort is responsible for preparing their meals and daily clean up duties, Dempsey said.
If the groups are too large to eat in the dayroom building, one of North Fort Hood's dining facilities could be used for the cohorts. Each cohort will remain separated in their own group during the 21 days.
They will use disposable dining materials and bag up their own trash, he added.
Mermite containers used to deliver and hold the meals will be cleaned initially by the cohort Soldiers, then sanitized clean by them before contractors complete a third cleaning. Trash will be placed in a dumpster within the CMAS campus and held for 72 hours after they are full.
"If no one is sick in that time, the dumpster will be moved outside the fence and the trash is treated as normal refuse," said Lt. Col. Frank Riggle, III Corps medical operations. "If someone is sick, the dumpster will be isolated and the trash will be treated as regulated medical waste for disposal."
Soldiers will have access to sick call and medical services while at the CMAS. Any Soldier who becomes symptomatic will be placed into isolation at the CMAS before transport by special ambulance to Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center for testing, Fort Hood officials said.
Medical supplies and equipment to treat acute conditions will be on-site at the CMAS inside the medical administration building. A medical provider, dentist and three medics will be assigned to the medical administration building to address health issues.
"They will not be treating anyone who is symptomatic (of Ebola)," said Maj. Jason Smith, an emergency medicine physician at CRDAMC.
During their 21-day stay at the CMAS, Soldiers will undergo twice daily health screens that include taking body temperatures and monitoring for other symptoms of the virus, as well as to serve as accountability checks.
While in the CMAS, Soldiers will conduct training during the observation period.
During the first seven days of monitoring, Soldiers will focus on reintegration training. The next 14 days will offer training opportunities, for which the cadre will be responsible for providing any equipment needed, Chapeau said.
Cadre members will maintain a five-foot standoff distance from those being monitored and will undergo twice daily health screenings, Smith said.
Cohorts will not be permitted to leave until they clear the 21-day monitoring, but they can receive mail.
Those entering or exiting the CMAS will go through the sole entry control point to ensure safety and accountability of everyone.
"This is not to detain," Dempsey said, adding that the single point serves for accountability of who is entering or leaving the area. "This is a monitoring method to ensure that personal protective equipment is worn and that people don't just wander in."
Providers will wear the CDC-recommended PPE while treating any conditions within the cohort, but the risk of any infection is low, Smith said.
"The risk here is less than that of those people getting off a plane from Liberia," he said.
Still, officials are not taking any chances.
"The health of the force, their families and our Fort Hood communities," Dempsey said, "is our top priority."