Soldiers headed to West Africa left hanging out to dry

Our troops deserve nothing but the best. But for those traveling to West Africa, that’s not what they’re getting.

Not even close.

Nashville Public Radio reports (italics are mine):

Troops from the 101st Airborne Division leading the military response to Ebola in West Africa will only need gloves and masks to protect themselves from the deadly virus, so said Gen. David Rodriguez at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday.

“They don’t need the whole suit – as such – because they’re not going to be in contact with any of the people,” the commander of U.S. troops in Africa said.

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne will primarily be building hospitals, ultimately leading what could be a contingent of 4,000 American service members. They’ll be housed either in tent cities at military airfields or in Liberian Ministry of Defense facilities, Rodriguez said.

Soldiers’ health will be monitored through surveys and taking their temperature on their way in and out of camps. If a service member does get sick, Rodriguez said they will be flown home immediately for treatment.

First of all, if they need to be protected from Ebola, then they need to be protected. Period. Gloves and masks don’t cut it. Either they’re at risk, or they’re not. Obviously they’re at risk while they’re over there, no matter what their job description. And being at risk, they need full protection.

There is no reason a single service man or woman should become ill. None. If any of them do become sick, it will be from negligent government policies.

And the statement that any service member who becomes ill “will be flown home immediately for treatment” contradicts prior statements put out by the Department of Defense. Breitbart reports:

If any American soldier in Liberia contracts the deadly Ebola virus, they [sic] will be quarantined, stabilized, and evacuated to a medical facility for treatment … U.S. military hospitals that will admit potentially infected troops have not yet been identified.

So they will not be flown home immediately for treatment. They will remain in Liberia where they will be quarantined and stabilized before being sent to a proper hospital for treatment. Where they will be sent remains up in the air as details are still being worked out, as noted in this exchange from a recent DOD press conference:

Q: Hi, General. This is Courtney Kube from NBC News.

I'm sorry, I'm still a little unclear on the procedures if some U.S. troops are exposed, not necessarily if they have Ebola, but if they're exposed to it, especially if there's a group of them.

The contracting mechanism that you mentioned, I'm assuming that's a contracting flight that would then take them back to the United States. What medical facility or facilities have been identified? Would they go to a civilian facility or a military one? (snip)

Has there been agreement with the government there about procedures for when they get back, whether they want them quarantined or -- considering they're not going back to the United States immediately, is there any kind of agreement with the government?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAMS: Well, I'll start with the second one first.

I know that AFRICOM is currently working the procedures for those sorts of things. And we're also working. As you know, the 101st, it will come on and take this mission and to its completion. General Volesky actually is en route this weekend, and we'll change out next weekend -- the following weekend.

And so we are also starting to work with -- not just Spain, Moron, but also Italy and the other places where my current forces are coming from. We have folks that are here from Germany, from Italy, and all over. So, that's being worked at higher levels to work those sorts of -- to work those pieces.

And your first question again, ma'am?

Q: I'm still just a little unclear on the -- the specific procedures for evacuating troops or specifically if there's a group of troops that are exposed to Ebola, you know, when they'll be quarantined in Liberia but then, if a contracted aircraft that brings them back to the U.S., I'm assuming. And where will they go? Military facility? Civilian?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAMS: Well, I would start with that the ambassador just mentioned, there are non-government organizations, AID, CDC. I fell in -- we fell in on a host of folks that have been living here for some time, and operating in this complex environment.

And so, if, god forbid, one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marine contracted this disease, as I mention, they would be stabilized, they would be quarantined, we would go through the appropriate protocols. People would be attending to them in the appropriate PPE.

… And so they would be quarantined and then we would synchronize and work those actions so they would go back to the appropriate medical facility.

Q: And has any U.S. military medical facility been identified as the one that would accept potential Ebola-exposed patients?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAMS: Not to my knowledge, ma'am. I'd have to get back to you on that. I know that the joint surgeon, we're in constant contact with not only the joint surgeon, but our own Army surgeon about the appropriate protocols.

I would envision that the -- I've got a lot of time in Europe that Landstuhl would probably be activated, but I cannot comment on that fact. I know that here on the ground, I'm at the tactical level, my concerns would be about stabilizing the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine, making sure we use the appropriate PPE, and then we would work with the coordination and synchronization to get them to the appropriate medical facility, where they could get the treatment they needed.

So we’re sending troops to West Africa without proper protection and there is no concrete plan in place for getting them the care they will need should they fall ill. 

Instead we’ve got confirmation there are “non-governmental organizations” involved and that the military “fell in on a host of folks” (whatever that means) while operating in a “complex environment.” Eventually service men that have been exposed to Ebola will be transferred to medical facilities for treatment – facilities that have not yet been identified. But rest assured the facilities will be “appropriate.”

Right now, however, those in charge are still “coordinating,” “synchronizing,” and “working those pieces.” Stay tuned.

It’s Obama to a tee.

God bless our troops and keep them safe from harm.

(And to the person who transcribed the press conference, God is not written with a lower case “g.”)

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