450 US Troops Returning from Ebola Deployments

Army Spc. Kristal Calderon practices donning and removing protective equipment and a mask after a class at the logistical warehouse on Fort Gordon, Ga., Oct. 14, 2014. DoD photo
Army Spc. Kristal Calderon practices donning and removing protective equipment and a mask after a class at the logistical warehouse on Fort Gordon, Ga., Oct. 14, 2014. DoD photo

The Pentagon said Thursday that 450 U.S. service members are in the process of returning home from their deployments to West Africa to contain the Ebola virus, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

Currently, there are six in quarantine at the Army base in Baumholder, Germany; 100 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord , Washington; 100 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.; 87 at Fort Hood, Texas; and 163 at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The U.S. military’s efforts to contain the Ebola virus in West Africa have cost $385 million to date, the Pentagon said Thursday.

About 2,000 U.S. troops with the Operation United Assistance efforts in Liberia have set up treatment centers, trained more than 1,500 health workers, sped relief to remote areas and led to a significant drop in the number of new cases being reported.

Earlier this week, Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson said that recent progress against the virus would permit the re-opening of schools in February for the first time since last July.

Despite the progress, the military was maintaining its policy of putting all troops returning from West Africa into "controlled monitoring," or quarantines, for 30 days as a precaution after they leave West Africa.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ordered a review late last year on whether the 30-day quarantines were necessary. Warren said that Dempsey would brief outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the results of the review later this month.

The U.S. initially planned to deploy as many as 4,000 troops to Liberia and Senegal but the number has been scaled back as efforts to contain the virus have progressed.

Currently, there are 2,367 U.S. service members in West Africa – 2,174 in Liberia and 193 in Senegal, which is serving as a staging base for personnel and supplies.

Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, the U.S. commander in West Africa and also commander of the 101st Airborne Division, said last month that the number of U.S. troops in West Africa likely would be reduced in late January unless U.S. troops were needed in Sierra Leone, where the epidemic had been surging.

However, the World Health Organization said Tuesday that there were also indications of progress in Sierra Leone against Ebola.

"There are signs that the incidence has levelled off in Sierra Leone, although transmission remains intense in the west of the country," the WHO said.

The WHO has recorded a total of 20,747 cases of Ebola and 8,235 deaths since the outbreak of the epidemic early last year.

Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have been hardest hit by the virus. Liberia has recorded 8157 cases of Ebola and 3,496 deaths; Sierra Leone had 9,780 cases and 2,943 deaths; Guinea had 2,775 cases and 1,761 deaths, the WHO said. The U.S. has had four cases of Ebola and one death.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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