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Largest-yet group of troops begins Ebola quarantine at JBLM

Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Tuesday accepted its largest-yet group of military personnel returning from Ebola-response missions in West Africa.

The 173 military personnel who arrived at the base come from various units that carried out different assignments in West Africa. None have shown symptoms of contracting the Ebola virus, the Army said.

JBLM is one of five domestic military installations that are hosting troops during mandatory quarantine periods following missions in Liberia and Senegal.

Previously, JBLM hosted two smaller cohorts of soldiers returning from Ebola-related deployments. They occupy themselves with administrative work, classes, online training, games and exercise in former ROTC barracks managed by the 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command.

The Defense Department earlier this month announced it is bringing home almost all of the 2,800 troops it had deployed to West Africa. Most had been sent to Liberia in October.

Troops who spend time on the ground in West Africa must spend 21 days in isolation with their units to wait out the virus’ incubation period.

The White House this month reported that U.S. personnel helped stymie the virus’ outbreak by training more than 1,500 medical workers and building 15 clinics in the region. More than 9,000 Africans have died after contracting Ebola, but the rate of new cases has slowed, according to health officials.

The Army’s 101st Airborne Division headquarters has managed military operations in Liberia since October. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, on Monday shared a photo on Twitter showing soldiers boarding a jet to leave Liberia and begin their quarantines at JBLM and at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“You can’t deny that we made a difference,” Volesky told USA Today last week.

“We've had a period of four days (in January) with no confirmed cases in Liberia. If you'd told people this in October (that) we'd be here this way in January, they'd have laughed us out of the building,” Volesky told USA Today.

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