Airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord are among the U.S. service members joining efforts to stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Air Force confirmed Wednesday.
Aircrew and maintenance personnel from JBLM’s 62nd Airlift Wing have been involved with the humanitarian assistance mission, said a spokesman for the active-duty wing. They are not in direct contact with Ebola patients, but they have been delivering supplies and troops to support the humanitarian mission in Liberia and Senegal.
At this stage, military personnel in Liberia are building 18 Ebola treatment facilities and preparing infrastructure for the arrival of American troops and aid workers, according to the Defense Department.
About 4,000 U.S. military personnel could be deployed to West Africa in coming months. Most of them are expected to come from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
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So far, the Army has not announced any deployment orders for ground troops at JBLM that would send local soldiers to Liberia.
But McChord teams reportedly participated in some of the first missions to Liberia after President Barack Obama set in motion a military operation to slow the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa.
On Sept. 22, the Air Force published a photograph of a McChord Air Field-based jet delivering tools, a generator and seven U.S. military service members to Liberia. The Army National Guard on Oct. 2 published another photo of a McChord jet delivering troops to Liberia.
On Tuesday, the Air Force published a news release from Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina — the home of the Air Force’s largest fleet of C-17 cargo jets — that mentioned the participation of JBLM crews in ongoing assignments supporting the humanitarian mission in West Africa.
JBLM’s 62nd and 446th Airlift Wings both fly C-17 cargo jets and perform similar assignments to the ones described by Joint Base Charleston, such as delivering supplies and personnel.
“These missions deliver critical supplies to the units on the ground. (The aircrews) are stopping briefly and usually leaving the area within two to three hours or less, and there is little danger of the crew or aircraft coming into contact with personnel infected with Ebola,” said Col. Caroline Evernham of the Charleston-based 315th Airlift Wing.