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The 3,000 U.S. troops set to deploy to West Africa to battle the spread of Ebola will be working in high-risk areas but won’t be in direct contact with patients, NBC News has learned. Still, as a precaution, the military’s engineers, medical specialists and logisticians will be given special training, protective gear and general vaccinations as part of Operation United Assistance.
The first team will arrive in Liberia to join a three-person Disaster Assistance Response Team already in the country and be tasked with planning. After them, a command and control unit will set up a Joint Force Command in the capital of Monrovia, and will be led by a still unnamed general officer. The engineers will set up at least 17 Ebola treatment units, while the medical professionals will train other health-care workers — up to 500 per week — in Liberia.
It’s unclear whether the troops will be armed, but the Joint Force Command will make that determination on a location by location basis. All the personnel will receive training on Ebola transmission and dangers, but the people who are going have been chosen because they already have expertise in their respective fields. The U.S. military has previously responded to humanitarian crises, often after natural disasters, and in 1992 worked with the United Nations to bring relief during Somalia’s famine.
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