Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TOP STORY >> Wing going to Africa to fight Ebola

About 20 Little Rock Air Force Base airmen and one or two of its C-130s are slated to deploy to Dakar, Senegal, in coming weeks to join the war on Ebola, according to Air Force and other reports.

They will join more than 35 airmen and two C-130J Super Hercules from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, deployed to Dakar this week to establish the 787th Air Expeditionary Squadron and to fly humanitarian cargo into Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance, the mission to fight Ebola in West Africa, according to the Air Force News Service.

“Our airlift mission here is extremely important, particularly as the number of deployed U.S. forces continues to increase,” Lt. Col. Michael Brock said. Brock is a C-130 pilot and the squadron’s commander. “We will be flying daily sorties into the affected areas to deliver supplies and equipment that are mission essential, both to the sustainment of troops and to ongoing efforts to contain and eliminate the Ebola outbreak.”

The Dyess airmen, all from the 317th Airlift Group and 7th Bomb Wing, joined forces with more than 70 airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group, who have been operating a cargo hub at Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport in Dakar since Oct. 5.

Two more C-130s and about 90 additional airmen are expected to arrive from Dyess AFB and LRAFB in the coming weeks, bringing the 787th to full operational capacity for its 120-day mission by the end of the month.

The 787th AES flew its first sortie into Liberia on Nov. 4, airlifting more than eight tons of medical equipment, stretchers, blood, bleach and other supplies, according to Brock.

The Air Force operations in Senegal are part of a massive “whole-of-government” approach to Operation United Assistance, directed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and incorporating a broad array of federal agencies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Department of Defense.

The U.S. military has committed approximately 3,900troops to support the mission.

They will staff medical laboratories, provide training to local health-care workers and build up to 17 100-bed Ebola Treatment Units and a 25-bed hospital.

More than 1,600 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Defense Department civilian employees and contractors are currently deployed to Senegal and Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance.

“The 787th (AES) is executing a noble mission,” Brock said. “I’m very proud of the team and their professionalism as we’ve stood up our squadron here. We’re excited to work with the 123rd CRG and build on the foundation they’ve established in Dakar.”

The 787th’s airmen are working with their Kentucky Air Guard colleagues, whose primary task is to offload cargo arriving in Senegal by 747 aircraft, stage it for forward movement and upload it to Dyess C-130s for delivery to Liberia.

“I couldn’t be more pleased by what our airmen have accomplished in such a short period of time,” said Col. David Mounkes, the commander of the 123rd Contingency Response Group and Joint Task Force-Port Opening Senegal.

“It is especially gratifying to know that we’re part of a much larger, global effort to render assistance to people who need our help fighting a horrible disease that has claimed more than 4,000 lives,” Mounkes added.

Although military service members are going to Africa, most service members will not be performing missions that place them at risk to catch the virus.

The National Center for Medical Intelligence says the risk to nonmedical military personnel is low. Force Health Protection teams are making sure that all personnel will comply with personal protection measures and use appropriate personal protective equipment.

The CDC is monitoring the situation and will determine if changes in personal protective measures are required.