Inside the US Military’s Battle against Ebola

The World Health Organization recently announced that the Ebola epidemic—which has killed nearly 9,000 people in the affected West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia—is subsiding. 

The United States military spearheaded an extraordinary international response to the outbreak, deploying units from the 621st Contingency Response Wing of the US Air Force and the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force for Crisis Response-Africa (SPMAGTF-CR-AF). The Army also deployed soldiers, medics, and other personnel initially led by the commander of US Army Africa to support the US effort, named Operation United Assistance.

On February 9, the Africa Center welcomed senior US military personnel involved in the effort: Colonel Thomas M. Cooper, Vice Commander of the 621st Contingency Response Wing of the US Air Force; Colonel Robert C. Fulford, Commanding Officer of the SPMAGTF-CR-AF; and Colonel Patrick T. Sullivan, US Army Africa/Southern Task Force Liaison Officer to the Pentagon.

Cooper, Fulford, and Sullivan discussed their branch’s roles in the Ebola response, the current status of the epidemic, and the potential role of the US military in future crises given the lessons learned about joint operations of this kind. An off-the-record discussion followed, moderated by Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham.

Also in attendance and participating in the discussion were General James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Atlantic Council Board Member; General William E. Ward, USA (Ret.), former commander of US Africa Command; the Honorable John Blaney, former US Ambassador to Liberia; and the Honorable Franklin D. Kramer, Atlantic Council Board Member and Distinguished Fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.