On Thursday, October 16, 2014, President Obama authorized the use of National Guard and Reserve personnel to deploy to West Africa in support of efforts intended to stop the spreading of the Ebola virus.
To date, the Ebola virus has killed around 4,500 people. There have been eight confirmed cases in the United States. All eight cases were contracted while in the West African countries of Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, or from direct contact with Thomas Eric Duncan. Duncan contracted the virus in Liberia, and then returned to the U.S. Despite the extremely low number of cases in the U.S. and the fact that Ebola can only be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, there has been a growing panic about the spreading of the virus.
However, in West Africa, there is a real and severe threat of Ebola spreading. Contracting the virus in those countries is very often a death sentence for entire families. Due to impoverished living conditions, understaffed/underfunded medical care and a lack of educational awareness about Ebola, the virus has spread like wildfire. Reports say that many of the inhabitants in West Africa aren’t educated about Ebola, including how it is contracted, its symptoms, and how to prevent contact with infected people and materials.
The U.S. has taken a leadership role in the global effort to contain and combat the Ebola virus. In September, the U.S. sent 500 troops to Liberia and Senegal to assess the situation, deliver humanitarian aid, and stage sites for furthering what is being dubbed “Operation United Assistance.”
As many as 4,000 service members are now headed to support of Operation United Assistance, including elements from the Army’s heralded 101st Airborne Division. The “Screaming Eagles” have been an integral part of U.S. Army operation from the invasion of Normandy to the occupation of Afghanistan. But the 101st has also taken part in other non-combat missions. In 1957, soldiers from the 101st assisted with the integration of high school students. They protected a group of African-American students, who would come to be known as the “Little Rock Nine” as they attended Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. In 2000, members of the 101st also helped to combat fires in Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.
The president’s executive order also calls for the deployment of members of the Select Reserve and Individual Ready Reserves to deploy to West Africa, mainly Liberia.
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Military Connection: Americans Deploying to Liberia: By Debbie Gregory