JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
As the number of Ebola cases is beginning to decline and the American population is learning to live with the fear of a world in which Ebola is a real danger, American service members recently deployed to the front lines of the infection, battling the disease overseas before it could invade our shores.
Staff Sgt. Brett Randall from the 628th Medical Group at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., was just one service member deployed to Liberia as part of Operation United Assistance, working to support the mission to end the scourge of Ebola. An independent duty medical technician, Randall was at an undisclosed location in Liberia for almost six weeks.
"My primary mission was to provide basic medical/trauma support for the Joint Task Force - Port Opening team to include public health, bio-environmental inspections of food and water sources and sanitation education to mitigate any non-battle related illnesses," Randall said.
The JTF-PO is a joint operation and consists mainly of Air Force and Army personnel who set up a bare base in country and initiate cargo flow from aircraft delivering supplies to the storage facilities where the supplies will ultimately end up in the hands of various agencies like USAID to fight Ebola.
And although Randall and his team were near the front lines of the epidemic, they had no interaction with the locals so the risk of contracting the disease was minimal. He and his team were confined to their living quarters and duty locations only, tasked with taking care of the service members who were themselves supporting the health organizations fighting the outbreak.
"Our living conditions were what anyone would expect at a bare base during monsoon season ... hot and humid all day and night," Randall said. "We had limited access to the internet or communications back home, but we all took turns to ensure we got to communicate with our families. Some team members put their creative skills together and made a make shift gym to stay physically fit when we had down time. In the evenings if we could, we got together to watch movies, play cards or play catch with a football or a Frisbee. We lived in a tent city with rocks and mud everywhere so we had to make our own entertainment."
But due to mission requirements, entertainment was a low priority.
"My shift was 36 hours on, eight hours off," Randall said. "My night started with temperature screenings per DOD mandate, then two hours of clinical time to evaluate and treat anyone that needed to be seen by a medical provider. If there were no patients, I started my water and MRE testing to ensure the resources provided were safe for consumption by our military members."
Working as a medical technician also took a back seat when aircraft arrived.
"When a cargo plane arrived, I assisted Security Forces with force protection measures to ensure the safety of the aircraft and air crew," Randall said.
Prior to leaving at the end of his shift, Randall again screened his team and himself to verify they were non-symptomatic and without a fever.
"Staff Sgt. Randall was the right Airman at the right time for this mission," said Lt. Col. Raymond Clydesdale, JB Charleston's 628th Aerospace Medical Squadron commander. "He lives to be out on the front lines, supporting our Airmen and leading the way by example."
Although most members of the JTF-PO have left Liberia, approximately 20 Airmen stayed behind to continue to support the mission.