Fort Eustis soldiers deploy to W. Africa to help fight Ebola outbreak

FORT EUSTIS, Va. (WAVY) – A deployment is about to begin. One no soldier with the 53rd Transportation Battalion at Joint Base Langley Ft. Eustis thought they’d be seeing so soon.

“Typically, at least in the last ten years or so, we’ve known well in advance for our deployments. this one, we had about three weeks notice,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Baird, Commander of the 53rd Transportation Battalion. “But it’s something that we’re all excited about. This is one of those missions where we’re going to go and make a difference for the world.”

Dozens of soldiers from the 53rd recently learned they were needed to move medical and building supplies in support of USAID workers setting up medical facilities in Liberia. It’s what the Army calls a non-standard deployment, and no one knows yet how long the mission might take.

In a press release, the Army says soldiers will not make contact with infected patients. However, soldiers did receive training on how to protect themselves if they are exposed to the deadly virus.

“They showed us how to put the uniform on. how to disinfect the uniform,” explained Specialist Sherell Caldwell. “So they made us do it like three times. So we had some good training.”

The Army did not let 10 On Your Side interview any troops or family members at the deployment ceremony except the two included in this story. So we couldn’t ask them if they had any Ebola concerns. But according to their commander, concerns are minimal.

“Obviously initially there was a lot of concern with it, but based on the training that we got and the information that’s out there, I think most of the families are fairly comfortable with it,” Baird said.

Still, Tuesday, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, released a video addressed the growing public concern for the more than 3,000 Army troops already in or headed to West Africa. He says soldiers will be monitored daily while in Africa, and for 21 days upon return.

The safety and health of the men and women of our joint force and their families remains of the greatest importance to me and the Joint Chiefs,” Dempsey said.

After farewell hugs and a few tears, the soldiers of the 53rd rolled out to fight a different kind of threat – perhaps just as important to national security as any other.

 

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