The U.S. military’s mission to build tent hospitals and train health care workers to handle Ebola is coming to an end sooner than first thought. But as 700 Fort Campbell soldiers begin making their way home from Liberia, where they’ve been leading the Defense Department’s response, they still have a three-week isolation period to endure.
A first wave of 140 soldiers based at Fort Campbell could depart West Africa as early as this week, according to a 101st Airborne Division spokesman. Most will head to Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, where they’ll be housed in barracks recently vacated because of Army downsizing.
A 21-day regimen has been developed to keep the troops occupied. Fort Bliss public affairs officer Lee Peters says soldiers will get a lot of their mandatory annual training out of the way on topics ranging from sexual assault to cyber security.
“It’s not like you’re just sitting in a room for 24 hours saying, ‘geez, what time is our next meal. What time am I going to bed?’ We’re actually keeping them involved and employed,” Peters said.
Soldiers in quarantine will be able to order food or other creature comforts from on post or anywhere online. However, soldiers making deliveries will wear latex gloves, and they’ve been instructed to maintain at least three feet of separation.
Peters said the post is being “overly cautious” even though the Army says no soldier came in contact with Ebola patients.
Returning service members will have access to the Internet to communicate with their families, whom they haven’t been with in months. In-person contact is strictly off-limits.
“It’s almost like being a little kid at Christmas. You’re seeing your presents under the Christmas tree, but you can’t get to it,” Peters said. “You’re so close to your family and your loved ones but you know you still have to follow Department of Defense protocols.”