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Army Engineers Back In Fort Hood After Battling Ebola In Africa

Operation United Assistance has come to a close for more than 500 members of the 36th Engineer Brigade, who have completed the 21-day quarantine at Fort Hood after returning from West Africa over the last few weeks.

Lt. Col. John Hartke said that as soon as they arrived in Liberia last October, the troops began building 100-bed treatment facilities to help stem the tide of Ebola.

“The country’s still recovering from their civil war, and they don’t have a very strong medical infrastructure. So by creating these Ebola treatment centers — and there was one built in every county in the country —it provided an infrastructure for the people who were infected with Ebola, or even suspected of being infected with Ebola, a place to go so that we could stop the transmission,” he said.

Hartke said that at its peak, the mission had 750 beds available, but that number was reduced as the incidence of the disease started to decline.

He believed it was the first time for such a coordinated disease response by the U.S. Army. “I’ve been in the Army 27 years and this is the first time I’ve seen something like this where we’ve gone and responded in this way. We’ve responded to natural disasters like Haiti before, but to target a disease, this is the first one I’m aware of,” he said.

Also returning to Fort Hood this month were 100 troops with the 48th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Brigade.  

The Army said the United States was not leaving West Africa. A civilian-led response will continue to fight Ebola until there are zero cases.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.