FORT GORDON, GA (WFXG) - About 25 Fort Gordon soldiers from the 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade will deploy to West Africa in late October to help in the fight against the Ebola virus disease outbreak.
The Fort Gordon soldiers will join an additional 150 of the 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C. The soldiers will provide their communications equipment and expertise in Liberia and Senegal to set up communication nodes in support of Operation United Assistance (OUA).
They will fall under the operational control of the Joint Force Command, which will be headquartered in Monrovia, Liberia and will be led by the 101st Airborne Division.
The soldiers from 35th Signal Brigade headquarters team will provide network operations support. Other 35th Signal Brigade soldiers will also be sent to support the signal teams.
Soldiers will receive personal protective equipment and will be trained in proper use and wear, depending on the soldier's expected level of interaction with the local population, Fort Gordon officials said.
"We've been provided a lot of protection and have been trained really well on all the equipment we are going to be given while we're down there, so I know that---I know I'm going to be safe," said Spc. Nicholas Heitt.
However, U.S. Army Maj. Jason A. Foreman, who will be the network operations director in charge of the 35th SignalBrigadee in West Africa, said the soldiers will not be taking care of any patients who have Ebola, but they will be prepared.
"We've done all our basic pre-deployment training, but in addition to that we've done a lot of preventative medicine training, as well as decontamination training, as well as disposal training," said Maj. Foreman. "The most important asset to the brigade is our soldiers. It is my primary focus to bring them home safely."
Leading up to the deployment, soldiers will receive medical training to expand their understanding of the Ebola virus. The training will include preventive and protective measures, as well as decontamination and disposal procedures.
"It's good for them to get the training because it provides them education on precautionary preventive measure," said Foreman a Brooklyn, New York, native, who added that the soldiers will most likely stay in environments with low-risk of Ebola virus exposure. "The soldiers will not be close to, or taking care of any patient who has Ebola. But, they will be ready and prepared in case something unexpected happens or an emergency."
For Spc. Heitt, this deployment will be one he won't forget.
"It's my first mission. I've never deployed before," he said.
But the troops aren't worried. In fact, many of them are looking forward to the mission.
"The soldiers, they like to help people. So they get a chance to do something that they don't normally do. They're actually getting the additional training that they get and they're looking forward to helping other people," said Maj. Foreman.
"It's what I signed up for. It's why I joined the military was to help and to serve the people of the United States and the world. So yes I'm a little nervous but I'm happy to go over and do my part over there," said Spc. Heitt.
The soldiers will deployed for six to nine months, according to Maj. Foreman.