A Boeing C-17 Globemaster landed in Monrovia, Liberia, on 19 September, carrying the first of 3,000 US military personnel that will deploy to West Africa in an effort to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
The aircraft carried a heavy duty forklift, drill set, a generator and a team of seven military personnel, including engineers and airfield specialists who are assigned to assess the payload capacity and stability of airport runways in Liberia’s capital, according to the US embassy in Monrovia.
Additional large military aircraft transporting more personnel and medical supplies are expected to arrive in coming days. The forklift will be used to offload incoming supplies.
US President Barack Obama, at the request of the Liberian government, has committed to sending at least 3,000 US military troops to the country, where they will establish a command center for supporting anti-Ebola efforts in the region, according to a White House fact sheet. The administration has also asked Congress to transfer $500 million from its overseas contingency operations war funding to pay for the effort, including a steady supply of military air transportation under the direction of US Africa Command, headquartered in Germany.
The team is tasked with creating an “air bridge” to spirit health workers and supplies into West Africa, where the hemorrhagic fever has taken hold and killed more than 2,400 people.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has already established an airlift campaign that in the last month has carried 16 tons of medical supplies and emergency supplies to Liberia, which along with Sierra Leone and Guinea, has been hit hardest by the disease.
Health workers have had difficulty traveling to the region after several major airlines suspended flights because of the outbreak. Supplies like protective suits, clean water receptacles and body bags for the safe removal of victims’ bodies also have been in short supply because of the lack of air traffic into the region.
In August, British Airways announced it was suspending flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia until sometime in 2015 because of concerns Ebola could be carried aboard an outbound airliner.
Air France followed suit and canceled service to Sierra Leone. Those precautions left both nations’ capitals with service from a single airline, Royal Air Morocco, according to reports.