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Pentagon reduces Ebola deployment estimates

Pentagon reduces Ebola deployment estimates

The number of troops needed to support U.S. military efforts to help contain the Ebola epidemic in West Africa will be less than first estimated, about 3,000 service members instead of the initial 4,000, Defense Department officials said Wednesday.

Speaking with Pentagon reporters via Skype from the Liberian capital of Monrovia, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, 101st Airborne Division commander, said U.S. responders initially underestimated the resources already in Liberia and personnel with the U.S. Agency for International Development also had made more progress in the response than expected.

“Our target is 3,000,” Volesky said.

About 2,200 service members are now in Liberia and Senegal participating in Operation United Assistance, he said.

Those troops have established a port operations and logistics center in Dakar, Senegal, built a hospital to treat health care workers in Monrovia and have stood up a joint Ebola treatment facility, with “three or four” more to come in the next few weeks, Volesky said.

He expects all 17 planned Ebola treatment facilities to be completed in December.

The number of Ebola cases has dropped in Liberia but the disease remains a threat, with cases increasing elsewhere in the region, Volesky said.

In related news, 26 sailors, including 15 Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, are expected to arrive back from a West Africa deployment at Joint Base Langely-Eustis, Va., on Thursday afternoon.

There, they will undergo a 21 day-quarantine, according to Navy spokesman Lt. Timothy Hawkins.

The Seabees arrived in Africa between Sept. 23 and Oct. 8 and participated in conducting site surveys for hospitals, building storage units, training facilities for healthcare workers and other engineering work.

The other sailors are medical personnel serving with Marines who provided logistical and transport support, and one Navy medical center research technician.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Oct. 29 ordered all U.S. military service members returning from the Ebola response mission to undergo “controlled monitoring” for 21 days.

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