The United States military on Thursday ended its mission in Liberia, five months after troops began arriving here in a bid to stem the deadly Ebola disease that has killed more than 3,400 people.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the casing of the colors of the U.S. military here—the 101st Airborne Division—at the Ministry of Defense in Monrovia, the Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of the forces said the U.S. forces would still be engaged with the fight against Ebola in West Africa.
“While our large scale military mission is ending as the 101st departs Liberia, the fight to get to zero cases will continue and the JFC (Joint Force Command) has ensured capabilities were brought will be sustained in the future. ETU construction tasks, healthcare worker training, and logistical sustainment operations for Ebola containment have been transitioned to reliable partners that will continue supporting the fight against EVD (Ebola Virus Disease),” he said. “Our army labs have transitioned and will be operated by organizations that don’t just test for Ebola, but also other infectious diseases such as malaria and Lassa fever. And while the JFC will redeploy, over 100 soldiers will stay for a few months more to monitor the continued progress against EVD to ensure the gains we have made together are lasting.”
President Barrack Obama in September ordered the deployment of 3,000 soldiers in the West African region, most of whom in Liberia. The plan was to keep the military here for not less than nine months and at most 12 months.
However, things have improved on the Ebola frontlines. Liberia now has just two cases of confirmed Ebola cases.
Maj. Gen. Volesky said all was not set for Liberia to achieve zero cases of Ebola.
“The Joint Force Command worked with our Armed Forces of Liberia partners in building and overseeing construction of ETUs (Ebola treatment units). Additionally, we trained over 1,500 healthcare workers both in Monrovia and in local communities throughout the country to work in these ETUs and care for Ebola patients, but even more importantly, to educate and provide awareness in their own neighborhoods. Moreover, we established logistical systems to moving building materials, medical supplies and water to areas most in need, regardless of how remote the location was. Finally, we established four mobile laboratories in Liberia so blood samples of potential Ebola patients could be identified,” he said.
He said the progress made against the deadly virus could not substitute normal life once enjoyed by the Liberian people.
“But the importance of the progress we see today means more than just the reduction in the number of new or suspected cases of Ebola. This progress is also about Liberians being able to get back on a normal way of life, which we have seen grow remarkably over the past few months,” he said.
“And while no one can become complacent and allow Eobla to reemerge like it did in Augues, it is encouraging to see a country resuming everyday life,” he added.
“So as we case these historic colors, colors that have fought and won in combat against enemies across the globe, we close our latest rendezvous with destiny that helped the people of Liberia defeat an unseen, but just as deadly enemy. And when we uncase these colors back home at the Fort Camp Kentucky , know that the country of Liberia and its people will remain in our hearts and minds,” Maj. Gen. Volesky added.
Maj. Gen. Volesky then praised the gallantry of men and women of the U.S. military in carrying out the mission as well as their Armed Forces of Liberia counterparts, the Liberian government for granting the forces their maximum cooperation and the Liberian people for adhering to measures to end the disease.