The Military Response

The military will likely play a larger role in future contagious disease outbreak responses because of the capabilities it developed during the recent Ebola outbreak, Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West told reporters Thursday. West, who served as the Joint Staff surgeon during Operation United Assistance and was nicknamed “Queen Ebola” at the time, said the military became involved in the USAID-headed relief effort because of its ability to move equipment to Africa, but once involved rapidly developed new capabilities, including the Transport Isolation System, which can be used to safely evacuate infected responders if need be. “Putting together those isolation systems was really a great lesson on how we could rapidly develop capability if that were to become required depending on the environment that we were in,” West, who also heads US Army Medical Command, told the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C. She said two joint service teams comprised of 20 members—infectious disease physicians, critical care nurses, and protective gear instructors—were also created and attached to US Northern Command in case a domestic outbreak occurred and the civilian response needed to be augmented. “It was a lot of lessons learned from that experience,” she said.