The U.S. Joint Forces Command- United Assistance, comprising 2,500 service men deployed in Liberia last year to fight the Ebola virus, is scaling down following the decline in cases of the disease.
At a colorful ceremony on February 26 at the Barclay Training Center (BTC), in Monrovia, Major General Gary J. Volesky said 100 troops will remain in Liberia to work with healthcare personnel for a few months.
Recounting activities of the Joint Forces Command, Maj. Gen. Volesky said his service men worked with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in building and overseeing the construction of ETUs across the country.
In addition, Maj. Gen. Volesky said, they were able to train over 1,500 healthcare workers in Monrovia and local communities throughout the country to work in ETUs and care for Ebola patients.
“We established logistical systems to move building materials, medical supplies and water to areas most in need, regardless of how remote the location was,” he stated.
“Finally, we established four mobile testing labs in Liberia so blood samples of potential Ebola patients could be identified, and those that were infected could begin receiving treatment in a matter of hours—not days, and those that were not infected could be quickly released [to] reduce their chances of becoming infected,” he recapped.
Maj. Gen. Volesky acknowledged the roles of the government and people of Liberia in the fight against Ebola, noting with emphasis, “But none of this would have mattered if it [were not] for the phenomenal leadership provided by President Sirleaf, Ministers of Health, Defense and other key leaders within the Liberian government, who created and enforced policies that changed cultural practices that were facilitating the transmission of the EVD.”
According to the U.S. Joint Command-United Assistance, the end of their mission in Liberia is predicated upon the fact that tremendous progress has been made.
Besides the decline in cases of the virus, he noted, progress is also being made given the fact that Liberians are able to get back to a normal way of life, which he described as a remarkable accomplishment over the past few months.
“The ability to reopen schools, the huge increase in the numbers of people shopping in the markets, and the lifting of the curfew and reopening of the borders with Liberia’s neighbors are more important examples of how a normal way of life is returning to Liberia,” he added.
He indicated that while no one can become complacent and allow Ebola to reemerge to the extent that we saw last August, it is encouraging to see a country resuming its everyday life.
Even though a large scale of the U.S. military mission is ending with the departure of the 101st JFC, Maj. Gen. Volesky said that the fight to get to zero cases will continue as the Joint Force Command has ensured capabilities that will sustain the future.
“ETU construction, healthcare worker training, and logistical sustainment operations for Ebola containment have been transitioned to reliable partners that will continue supporting the fight against EVD,” he said.
The Army labs set up in the country have been transitioned and will be operated by organizations that don’t just test for Ebola, but also other infectious diseases, such as Malaria and Lassa fever.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Volesky used the occasion to acknowledge the roles of Ambassador Deborah Malac, staffers of the U.S. Embassy and soldiers that served with the Joint Forces Command.
He presented a token of appreciation to Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and a medal to AFL Chief of Staff, Bridg. Gen. Daniel Ziankahn, for what he referred to as exceptional roles played by the AFL, who worked diligently with the US Joint Forces to successfully accomplish the tasks at hand.
Defense Minister Samukai thanked the U.S. Joint Forces Command for its role in the Ebola fight.
He added that while the military is departing, government is in negotiation with partners to identify with Liberia in the post-Ebola era.
Brigadier Gen. Ziankahn said the time the joint forces spent with the AFL in building ETUs across the country was quite rewarding, noting that it was the first time he and American soldiers have lived together and interacted in detail.
He also thanked them for the recognition and said it further motivates him to do the best he can for his country.