Less than 3,000 total US military personnel will deploy to West Africa as part of the international effort to eradicate the Ebola epidemic, some 1,000 fewer than mentioned in the original request for forces. “There’s a lot of capacity here that we didn’t know about before, so that’s allowed us to decrease the forces that we’re bringing in,” said Operation United Assistance Joint Force Commander Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky during a Pentagon briefing via telephone Wednesday. Volesky said the number of troops in the region now is “just under 2,200,” and that “we will top out in the middle of December just short of 3,000, and that’s the most we’ll bring into the country.” US Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac said the work is nowhere near done. “We are really still very much at the beginning of this effort,” she said during the same briefing. Although the number of Ebola reports has decreased since the US began assisting in efforts to counter the disease, “We are not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination,” Malac said. “We need more treatment units, more personnel to help treat patients, and so we still have a long way to go,” she added.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.