WASHINGTON – A special Marine expeditionary unit based in Spain is deploying to Liberia, joining hundreds of other U.S. troops in support of efforts to contain the spread of Ebola, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Adm. John Kirby said today.
“I can announce today that 100 personnel from the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are deploying from Morón, Spain, to Dakar, Senegal, with onward movement to Monrovia,” he said.
The Marine task force will provide interim re-supply and transportation support until Army units arrive later this month to assume that longer term mission, Kirby said. As many as 4,000 U.S. military personnel could be deployed to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance.
First Stop Senegal
“These personnel will arrive in Senegal tonight and in Liberia tomorrow,” Kirby said, “and their footprint includes four MV-22 Ospreys, 2 KC-130 Hercules aircraft.”
The aircraft will help transport supplies and troops to and from a staging area in Senegal and to more remote areas.
The admiral noted one of the benefits of the Osprey is “it can go where lots of other aircraft can’t go.”
“One of the challenges that we’re having is some of the sites at which we are trying to set up these emergency treatment units are in pretty remote locations,” Kirby said, “where there are not only no roads, but there’s no other way to get to them sometimes than either on foot, or in this case, from the air.”
Conditions in Liberia
Kirby said the need for airlift capability speaks to the “very austere” environment where U.S personnel are required to operate.
“Troops that are trying to build these units and get the ground level are really set back every day, hours and hours every day, by rainfall,” Kirby said. “That doesn’t drain off, necessarily, very quickly, either.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the Ebola outbreak in West Africa the largest in history, with more than 3,400 deaths reported. Nearly that number of cases alone has been reported in Liberia, where the disease continues to spread.
President Barack Obama directed the Army to establish a Joint Force Headquarters in Liberia to coordinate support for what is a comprehensive U.S. and international effort to stop the Ebola epidemic in the region.