FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was awarded the Joint Meritorious Unit Award by the commanding general of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. David M. Rodriguez, during a ceremony held in the division headquarters building here Aug. 27. The JMUA is the second highest award a unit can receive.
Rodriguez and Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, unveiled the award and a campaign streamer, recognizing the division’s five-month deployment in support of the U.S. Agency for International Development-led mission to fight the spread of Ebola in western Africa.
“The day the 101st got into Africa, things started changing,” said Rodriguez. “Every day they were there, the confidence and courage of the Liberian people started picking up.”
The Screaming Eagles led the Joint Forces Command-United Assistance, the Department of Defense arm of the effort, comprised of service members and other personnel from across the globe with critical skill necessary to quickly accomplish USAID’s mission.
“They conducted themselves with professionalism, pride, and they demonstrated that Ebola could be defeated by people,” Rodriguez said. “I had the distinct honor to watching this happen over the course of those five months. Every single thing the 101st Airborne Division turned over to those people, they were prepared to do it and pick up the ball and run with it.”
Sept. 12, 2014, President Barack Obama announced he would deploy the United States military to respond to what he called a "global health emergency," and a crisis that directly impacted the security and way of life "in our great nation." Two weeks later the 101st was announced as the headquarters to lead the military Operation United Assistance as part of the U.S response to contain Ebola in Liberia.
Volesky said during the ceremony that on October 18, 2014, while traveling to Africa that he had met with Rodriguez and was given clear guidance. The guidance was to employ the 101st unique military capabilities and to help contain Ebola in Liberia. Also, complete their tasks with the speed and flexibility necessary to beat the dreaded epidemic, and build confidence among Liberians that the virus could be defeated while garnering the support of the international community to also assist in the fight against the disease.
“Throughout Operation United Assistance, most of the public discussion has centered on capabilities or technology we brought to bear,” said Volesky. “It was the 2,800 servicemen and women who mattered most. They had the ingenuity to solve wicked hard problems and the determination to see solutions through.”
Oct. 25, 2014, the 101st Airborne Division established Joint Forces-United Assistance. On that day, there were approximately 80 suspected, probable and confirmed cases of Ebola per day.
Joint Forces Command-United Assistance built and supported 17 Ebola treatment units throughout Liberia – allowing for a more swift identification, isolation and treatment of patients – and the Monrovia Medial Unit, a facility specifically designed to care for and treat health care workers who contracted Ebola while caring for patients.
The JFC-UA also emplaced four Army mobile testing labs in the far reaches of Liberia so that suspected Ebola patients could be tested quicker without having to travel hours and sometimes days to a clinic.
Joint Forces Command-United Assistance Medical personnel, from hygienists to infectious disease doctors, trained more than 1,500 health care workers through classes based out of the National Police Training Academy in Paynesville, Liberia, and mobile training teams in the remote areas of the nation.
These medical professionals conducted the first phase of training for health care workers, which is conducted before they move on to the second phase conducted by the World Health Organization and the Liberian Ministry of Health inside operational ETUs.
As ETUs were being built, they needed to be regularly supplied so that they could operate safely and effectively. To that end, the JFC-UA created a robust logistics and supply system that webbed across Liberia.
The logisticians from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), with the help of the World Food Programme, built forward logistics bases, which allowed them to place supplies closer to remotely located ETUs.
“I am thankful today of the leadership of Maj. Gen. Volesky and his staff, and also the 2,800 people who executed this mission to an incredibly high standard,” said Rodriguez. “Thank you for a job well done, mission accomplished, and for showing the best part of the United States of America.”