More than 2,000 years ago, the Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu said: “The line between disorder and order lies in logistics.” Such is the case in Monrovia, Liberia, where elements from across the entire U.S. government have pulled together with allied and partner nations to bring order to international efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
In just a few short weeks, the U.S. military has established the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance (JFC-UA) to support the comprehensive U.S. government response to the Ebola outbreak. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) remains the lead U.S. agency in charge of the U.S. response to the Government of Liberia’s request for assistance in containing the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
The mission of JFC-UA is focused on overseeing the construction of and facilitating staffing for healthcare facilities needed to contain the outbreak, such as a 25-bed treatment facility dedicated to treat healthcare workers who may become ill while treating Ebola patients.
“The most important thing the United States can provide is our people and their ingenuity to tackle tough problems,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, U.S. Africa Command Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations. “Preventing the spread of Ebola is the core task of this international effort. This applies to our support efforts and the protection of our people on the ground in the region.”
JFC-UA teams have partnered with Armed Forces of Liberia personnel to construct Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs). Construction of the first three ETUs in is underway in the towns of Tubmanburg, Sinje and Buchanan, with completion expected in early November. JFC-UA will be involved with the construction of up to 17 ETUs.
“We are working as quickly and efficiently as possible to support this USAID-led whole of government effort,” Hummer said. “There are some challenges with infrastructure and weather, but working together as part of this growing international effort, we will succeed in our goal of containing this deadly outbreak.”
An additional key element of JFC-UA support is in the form of mobile medical laboratories. Three of seven mobile labs requested by the Government of Liberia are operational. The labs have already processed more than 200 lab samples and reduced the Ebola diagnosis time from as much as 24 hours to as little as three hours. This efficiency helps medical personnel quickly identify people infected with the virus and those not infected, maximizing the number of beds available for actual Ebola patients.
“Another focus is building our training effort to train up to 500 healthcare support staff each week to help man the ETUs and provide support to the doctors and nurses providing care,” Hummer said. “There will be a fixed training site in Monrovia, and mobile training teams to support this effort.”
To quickly accomplish many facets of its mission, JFC-UA has leveraged partnerships with U.S. Transportation Command to quickly establish airfield operations in Dakar, Senegal and Monrovia, Liberia. Through the establishment of this air bridge, more than 20 airlift missions have been flown in support of the operation. Logistics operations will include air, land and sea modes of transportation.
JFC-UA has also partnered with Army Materiel Command, Army Contracting Command, TRANSCOM, and the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program to prepare, transport, and begin construction of temporary housing and other facilities to enable the in-flow of personnel and materiel to support the international effort.
In an effort to reduce the requirement for deploying a large number of personnel to the region, JFC-UA is using existing contracts through the Defense Logistics Agency to locally procure supplies and services. Along with USTRANSCOM, this has rapidly set the theater conditions for food, water, fuel, building materials and medical supplies.