By Jon Micheal Connor, ASC Public AffairsMay 11, 2015
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- The U.S. Army Sustainment Command's LOGCAP proved its value again in West Africa. This time, the contract-oriented program wasn't supporting a war, but rather contributing to the halt of the largest Ebola epidemic in history.
Within 48 hours of notification, LOGCAP -- Logistics Civil Augmentation Program -- had five contracted personnel in West Africa Sept. 22, after a formal request from U.S. Army Africa Command, as its initial team to support Operation United Assistance or OUA, said Matt Sannito, LOGCAP deputy director.
Agriculture ministers from West African nations called for financial aid and global coordination to control and prevent the Ebola Virus Disease health care crisis from spreading.
LOGCAP is the Army's premier capability to support global contingencies by leveraging corporate assets to augment current and programmed sustainment force structure. It provides global resources supporting deployed military needs augmenting combat support and combat service support units during combat, peacekeeping, humanitarian and training operations.
"This was a pure humanitarian effort," Sannito explained. One priority, he said, was "educating a community on proper preventative and control measures."
The U.S. military's response was to support USAID -- United States Agency for International Development. The USAID agency functions to administer civilian foreign aid. The U.S. Army was part of a joint effort that included forces from all branches of the Department of Defense.
Sannito said the EVD crisis was definitely a change in mindset for personnel because the threat wasn't human, but a virus.
At any given time an estimated 90 contractors, one Army civilian and two Solders from the 414th Contract Support Brigade, Vicenza, Italy, were present to carry out the various missions. All totaled, $75 million was spent in support of LOGCAP, Sannito said.
Fluor Corporation was given the responsibility for execution. Fluor is a multinational engineering and construction firm headquartered in Irving, Texas. It is a holding company that provides services through its subsidiaries in four areas: energy and chemicals, industrial and infrastructure, government and Fluor Global Services such as staffing and equipment rentals.
This was "a massive undertaking with significant costs, leveraging the full support of the U.S. Military and LOGCAP was essential in preventing the further spread of the Ebola epidemic and ensuring more lives were not lost," Sannito said.
In support of OUA to help the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone contain the outbreak of Ebola last fall, LOGCAP was crucial in establishing a regional intermediate staging base in Senegal, though the main effort was in Liberia.
But unlike the dry, barren conditions of Iraq and Afghanistan -- two areas where LOGCAP has heavily supported -- West Africa is humid from frequent rainfall and lush with vegetation, making this a new challenge, Sannito said.
For example, the land where different treatment facilities would eventually be built on had to be reinforced with brought-in material to support an infrastructure because the land was marshy, he said.
Another challenge was that there was no real standard for treatment facilities regarding EVD. The DoD had its ideas; USAID had its own ideas too, Sannito said, along with ideas from the World Health Organization.
Additionally, the U.S. went into countries without a standing Status of Forces Agreement which functions to provide rules and policies on most affairs regarding the host nation and the U.S., Sannito said. Ironically, one issue, he said, was a delay in obtaining visas for the contractors in a non-declared war zone, while there were no issues regarding military personnel.
"There were diverse challenges faced in support of OUA, though LOGCAP captured many lessons learned through our execution that are incorporated into how we are conducting operations around the world," Sannito said.
In the end, LOGCAP was in the strongest position to offer the best ideas because DoD was also concerned with ways to minimize risk of EVD spreading amongst the healthcare providers and others working in the Ebola Treatment Units.
Overall, various U.S. Army Materiel Command agencies contributed to the success in West Africa, including the Army Field Support Battalion-Italy, 405th Army Field Support Brigade. The battalion prepped and shipped 25 Force Provider Modules by air, land and sea. These modules provided key life support to more than 3,400 personnel operating in Liberia and Senegal.
The modules -- available in 150- and 50-person configurations -- are capable of providing climate-controlled billeting, shower, latrine, kitchen, power distribution and even morale, welfare and recreation facilities.
The different sizes of available modules helped reduce misunderstandings regarding expectations, Sannito said, and significantly helped in providing aid quicker as it provides predictability for planners.
LOGCAP provided the following services: limited construction, hazardous materiel (waste storage areas); washer/dryers (self-serve); sewage system; yard operations; canvas and tent repair; material handling equipment; chemical latrines/hand wash stations; bulk fuel operations; compressed air; showers; pest management; dining facilities; transportation motor pool; fire prevention; bottled water; power generation; fuel testing facilities; water production; and, common user logistics transport.
"Requirements were evolving on a daily basis," Sannito said. In early April, LOGCAP's mission ended.
"By no means was the success of OUA solely due to LOGCAP," Sannito said. "It was definitely a teaming event with all individuals delivering brilliantly to achieve the decisive edge in this complex environment."