You've seen the headlines and felt the panic.
We are sending our troops to "fight Ebola." And it's scaring the crazy right out of us.
And there's no reason it shouldn't. A deadly virus with no intention of being contained? No cure? No vaccine? Are we sure this isn't the latest end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it thriller movie?
But as it turns out (and it probably shouldn't surprise us) many of these headlines are simply misinformation or, in some cases, information taken out of context. With about 1,400 service members headed over to Liberia to fight Ebola, military leaders are facing an uphill battle on getting the correct information out there. And they are relying on military family groups and the chain of command to make sure it's happening.
So what's the real story?
Because I'm stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., where about half of the soldiers deploying to Liberia are coming from, I had the chance this week to sit down with the 101st Airborne Division surgeon and the Division's public affairs officers (PAO), both of whom will be deploying to Liberia with about 700 others from the headquarters.
And they said the misinformation campaign that is making us all feel so panicky is simply a lack of communication.
The officials said that they are looking to commanders and the family readiness groups to correctly explain to families what kind of protection soldiers are getting."What I think what we need to look at is in terms of our family readiness groups being able to have commanders or rear detachment commanders go through the levels of protection and the reasons why soldiers would be putting that protection on," said Col. Brian DeSantis, the division PAO. "I think we also need to reeducate our soldiers … so they can talk to their families about it. Every soldier that is out there is going through this training."
But officials do understand why this stuff is freaking people out. The unknown aspects and the fact that "fighting Ebola" doesn't exactly conjure up images of what most troops will actually be doing -- building new facilities and training health care workers far away from actual Ebola patients -- make this a very unsettling situation.
"When you say fight, yeah it does bring up a close combat, close quarters kind of image where we are up there in close proximity," DeSantis said.
"This is very new as well. Weve been going to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. And so my first deployment back in 2002 there was all this fear of soldiers being harms way. It was just a different threat ... So there was that same level of concern but over 13 years it became routine. Whereas Ebola, everybody's ears are up now because that’s something completely different."