How Will Fort Campbell Troops Protect Themselves From Ebola? First, No Handshakes
Maj. Gen. James McConville (left) has been promoted to a job in the Pentagon. Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky (right) took over command of the 101st Airborne Division in a ceremony Friday. Credit: Larry Noller / U.S. Army

How Will Fort Campbell Troops Protect Themselves From Ebola? First, No Handshakes

Maj. Gen. James McConville (left) has been promoted to a job in the Pentagon. Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky (right) took over command of the 101st Airborne Division in a ceremony Friday.  Credit: Larry Noller / U.S. Army
Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky (right) took over command of the 101st Airborne Division this summer. His first mission will be to build hospitals in Liberia over the course of roughly six months. Credit: Larry Noller / U.S. Army

The 700 Fort Campbell soldiers deploying to Liberia in response to the Ebola outbreak are learning just how different this mission will be from Iraq and Afghanistan. For instance: no more handshakes with the locals.

These troops are not being sent to treat Ebola patients. They’re building hospitals. But they will be working with Liberians who could be infected. And Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky – commander of the 101st Airborne – said that means no touching.

“I grew up shaking hands and patting people,” he told Pentagon reporters on a call Monday. “We’ve got to conform to what they’re doing to mitigate the risk. So we’re going into detail with all of our soldiers to say this is the right behavior you have when you get into country.”

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control have already trained soldiers over the course of two days. Next week, Volesky said Army medical personnel will be at Fort Campbell teaching troops how to wear special protection equipment.

Volesky was asked whether troops would be armed while on the ground in Liberia. He said they wouldn’t wear body armor, but they would — in his words — “be able to protect themselves in any circumstance.”

Numbers And Dates

  • Five 101st Airborne soldiers have already gone ahead
  • Maj. Gen. Volesky plans to leave on or shortly after mid-October
  • In total, 3,000 to 4,000 troops may be involved in the Ebola response, with the 101st Airborne leading the military effort

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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