Since the beginning of October a detachment of 100 US Marines and sailors from Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF) have provided support to Operation United Assistance (OUA), the US response to the Ebola crisis in Liberia.
The rapid self-deployment of SPMAGTF-CR-AF Marines and sailors by four MV-22 Ospreys and two KC-130J Super Hercules provided a timely, mission-critical airlift capability to the Joint Force supporting OUA. The Marines enabled the Joint Force to reach remote locations virtually impossible to access by ground transport during the rainy season due to washed out roads. Additionally, SPMAGTF-CR-AF also sent a Forward Resuscitative Surgical System detachment, which provided an enhanced surgical capability to support US service members contributing to OUA.
Over the past two months, the Marines conducted over 170 missions, flew over 240 hours and transported over 1,200 passengers and over 78,000 pounds of cargo. They also supported the movement of key personnel, such as the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, US Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Malac, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power and various US Government and relief agency workers to visit treatment locations throughout Liberia.
“This mission demonstrates the versatility, scalability and responsiveness of Special Purpose MAGTF Crisis Response – Africa,” said US Marine Corps Colonel Robert C. Fulford, SPMAGTF-CR-AF commanding officer.
“In a little under 40 hours of travel time, we were able to get our Marines, sailors and aircraft on the ground in Liberia ready to actively assist with Ebola relief efforts. While supporting the OUA mission in Liberia, we simultaneously maintained an additional alert force based out of Moron, Spain, prepared to respond to crisis in Africa; we continued to provide a security force in US Embassy, Bangui, Central African Republic; and we conducted military-to-military training throughout Europe and Africa strengthening our inter-operability and relationships with partner nations.”
SPMAGTF-CR-AF supported OUA until the beginning of December when they were relieved by US Army aviation assets from the 101st Airborne Division, who assumed the long-term responsibility of support to the OUA mission. On completion of their mission the Marines and sailors shifted focus to maintenance, washing-down equipment in accordance with Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and preparing to move to US Army Garrison Baumholder, Germany, where they will begin their 21-day controlled monitoring period.
“Looking at the situation from every vantage point we want to make sure the Marines and sailors are healthy and the equipment is clean,” said US Navy Lieutenant Michael A. Schermer, SPMAGTF-CR-AF lead medical planner. “We are taking every precaution possible to ensure we don’t put others at risk when they return to their unit and eventually their families.”
During the 21-day controlled monitoring period, the Marines and sailors will be under the care of trained healthcare professionals, undergoing temperature checks twice daily and being evaluated them for symptoms of Ebola.
SPMAGTF-CR-AF is postured to respond to a broad range of military operations in the US Africa Command area of responsibility, including: US Embassy reinforcement, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP), training with partner nations, and other missions as directed.