Ebola: 101st Airborne Will Not Get Hazmat Suits While In West Africa

Ebola military aid troops from the 101st Airborne will not be receiving full hazmats suits while in West Africa. The Defense Department does not feel the soldiers will need such personal protection gear since the troops will not be giving direct aid to Ebola patients.

“They don’t need the whole suit, as such, because they’re not going to be in contact with any of the people,” Commander of U.S. Africa Command General David M. Rodriguez stated during a press briefing about the Ebola outbreak. Critics of the decision have voiced safety concerns, noting primarily that 101st Airborne troops may come into contact with many folks who have Ebola but have yet to exhibit full-blown symptoms.

The American soldiers will reportedly be tasked with building hospitals. The 101st Airborne troops will be the first of as many 4,000 U.S. Military members offering Ebola aid in West Africa, according to Nashville Public Radio. The health of the U.S. soldiers will reportedly be monitored via survey taking and temperature checks, as they enter and leave the tent city encampment. If an American soldier does get sick, he or she will immediately be flown back to the United States for treatment, according to General Rodriguez.

During Ebola deployment training last week, soldiers of the 101st Airborne were reportedly taught how to properly put on a full-body hazmat suit. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m kind of scared,” a soldier told USA Today. The newspaper also reported that American troops underwent just a four-hour hazmat training as a part of the deployment preparedness process. According to United States Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, a team of only two can train as many as 50 soldiers on the proper Ebola personal protection procedures.

During the four-hour hazmat training, the 101st Airborne troops were reportedly taught how to wear, remove, and decontaminate Ebola protection equipment. A “practical test” was given to the soldiers to make sure they understood how to use the potentially life-saving equipment.

The Pentagon stated that as the Ebola threat evolves in Liberia, the projected deployment could increase. The U.S. troops will be housed in a combination of tent cities on military airfields or inside the Liberian Ministry of Defense facilities, according to The Daily Mail. The Obama administration plans to have a 25-bed field hospital fully functional in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, by the middle of the month. An additional 17 Ebola treatment centers will then be quickly constructed.

How do you feel about the 101st Airborne being sent to Liberia to fight Ebola? Should the soldiers be given hazmat suits?

[Image via: Johnny City Press/The Courier-Journal, Stephen Lance Dennee]