U.S. Military, AFL Partnering To Fight Ebola…New Commander Arrives

By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The Liberia National Defense and its counterpart, the United States Military, have vowed to remain supportive in the combine efforts in fighting the Ebola virus disease in the country.   The Ministry of National Defense which has now drawn down to civil-military activities has a batch of its engineering unit working alongside the U.S. Military to construct nine Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) in seven of Liberia’s 15 counties.

According to the outgoing Commander of the United States Military operations in Liberia, Darryl Williams, the ETU currently constructed in Tubmanburg, Bomi County is expected to be turned over this week while that of Sinje, Grand Cape Mount County will be completed and dedicated sometime next week.

Major General Williams who has been setting up the ground and basis for the military operation ‘United Shield’ as it relates to the expected 3,000 U.S. soldiers in the region expressed gratitude for the extraordinary leadership qualities exhibited during his tenure which sets the condition for onward operations of the U.S. Military.

The outgoing Major General served in a pioneering position as the first Commander of the U.S. Military in Liberia for five weeks and said “Operation United Shield involves the efforts of the AFL and our team and it wouldn’t have happened without united effort.”

General Williams expressed his commendation yesterday when he formally escorted the incoming Major General Gary Volesky to Liberia’s Defense Minister, Brownie J. Samukai touring its Barclay Training Center facilities in Monrovia and thanked him for opening up his headquarters for the U.S. operations.

The incoming Commander of the U.S led Operation United Shield; Major General Volesky described it as an honor to be in Liberia working with the Liberian military to train healthcare workers and to build Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) around the country.

“I express my appreciation to the Government and people of Liberia for the opportunity to have a foothold on Liberian soil otherwise we would have remained on the Atlantic,” Volesky, the Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell noted.

Major General Volesky is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as well as the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University and a master’s degree from Princeton University.

In a brief chat, Defense Minister Samukai also injected that the soldiers and sailors of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were grateful and expressed the AFL preparedness to discharge its assigned humanitarian mission under the scheme of “Operation United Shield”, as a ‘Force for Good.’

Following a guided tour with the U.S. Military Commanding Generals, Defense Minister Samukai said the AFL engineering unit is working closely with the US Military in constructing the facilities and setting up of units, specifically those of the Americans accommodating the US service personnel operating in the area.

He said his soldiers are very keen on learning how to construct, manage, maintain the facilities and will as well benefit from the quality of medical services provided and also have the opportunity to shadow and learn from all that as well as build the capacities that will benefit the AFL for a long term.

Minister Samukai said given the challenges of Ebola, those trainings that will be provided, level of coordination and support as well as the kind of partnership developed are enduring and added that it will surely be appreciated.

On the issues of laboratories, Minister Samukai said there were already mobile laboratories around the ETU s and are operational while General Williams said the current plan is for the mobile laboratories is that they remain in the country but long term plans in that direction are with the Liberian government and USAID to be decided.

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