Leaders Not Sure if Troops on Ebola Deployments Will Receive R&R
FORT CAMPBELL – Military leaders have not yet decided whether troops deployed to West Africa will receive mid-tour leave, officials told Army family members here at a town hall style video teleconference (VTC) to Liberia held here Nov. 13.
Answers given at the town hall by Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of the 101st, were paraphrased by Fort Campbell-based officials and posted to the base’s official Facebook page. The event was not open to reporters.
Defense officials have said the Ebola related deployments to Liberia could last as long as a year, but have yet to give a specific timeline for redeployment. Some soldiers with the 101st have been told they could return to the U.S. anywhere between December of this year and August 2015.
Once they return they will go into mandatory 21-day quarantine at one of five stateside bases to wait out the virus’s incubation time.
Traditionally, two-week mid-tour "R&R" leave has been available to service members deployed to a combat zone for 12 months or longer. But the 21-day isolation requirement could complicate any plans for that break.
"As we said when we deployed, we are prepared to stay here for 12 months," officials posted from the town hall to the Fort Campbell Facebook page. "We will tackle the question of R&R when we find out more specifics about the length of deployment. We are still [too] early into this deployment to talk about R&R and do coordination for that."
Volesky told reporters on Thursday that service members sent home on emergency leave would be exempted from isolation on a case-by-case basis.
Service members deployed to Liberia with the Joint Forces Command have been in country since late October, with most troops arriving there over the last two weeks.
Officials said that families can now start sending mail to service members deployed there, and can get the mailing address from their rear detachment command.
"We ask that initially [you] send letters only, and once we know [the APO] is working, we will open it to packages," officials posted. "We are trying to deliver mail to a location that has never had an APO before so we may actually take a picture of the first letter we get."
A rumor circulating among Army families that personal items, such as computers, would have to be left behind in Africa at redeployment for fear of bringing home the virus is not true, officials said.
"Do not worry that sending regular gifts, i.e. laptops, to your soldiers will be required to stay in Africa," they said. "They will be allowed to bring those items back home with them."
-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org