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Hagel Orders Expeditionary Ebola Support Team

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In response to a request by the Department of Health and Human Services, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today ordered U.S. Northern Command to prepare and train a 30-member expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.

In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said formation of the team is an added prudent measure to ensure the nation is ready to respond quickly, effectively and safely in the event of additional Ebola cases in the United States.

Nurses, doctors, trainers

Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., the Northcom commander, is with the military services to source and to form the joint team, Kirby said. It will consist of 20 critical care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease and five trainers in infectious disease protocols, he added.

Once the team is formed, the admiral said, its members will be sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for up to seven days of specialized training in infection control and personal protective equipment. That training is expected to start within the next week or so, he added, and will be provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

After training, team members will remain in a "prepare to deploy" status for 30 days, available to be sent to other U.S. locations as required. They will not be sent to West Africa or elsewhere overseas, Kirby said, and will be called upon domestically only if that is deemed prudent by public health professionals.

Acting in advance of potential requests

“Identifying, training, and preparing forces in advance of potential requests ensures that we can respond quickly and is analogous to how we prepare DoD personnel in advance of other potential civil support missions, such as hurricane relief and wildland firefighting,” the press secretary said.

Hagel is committed to ensuring the Defense Department is prepared to provide appropriate capabilities to support the government's response to Ebola, the admiral said. “He is extraordinarily proud of the skill and professionalism of our servicemen and women and of the unique capabilities they bring to this important effort,” he added. “As always, their safety and security will remain foremost on his mind.”

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