US military involvement in Operation United Assistance—the international Ebola relief effort—is coming to an end. More than four months since the beginning of continuous airlift support to Liberia and Senegal, airmen—along with other US service members—are returning home. “No military in the world can do what we did in Africa,” said Gen. Frank Gorenc, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander, in a release. “Our forward presence in Europe gives us the unique capability to act quickly when our partners in both Africa and Europe ask for help … I couldn’t be more proud of our airmen and what they do every day in this very challenging part of the world.” There were 2,800 DOD personnel deployed to West Africa at the height of the epidemic, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby in a Feb. 10 statement. “Given the success of the US response to the crisis, the majority of DOD personnel in West Africa will now return home,” said Kirby. “Today, around 1,500 of them are already back to their duty stations and nearly all will return by April 30.” The established monitoring process for those returning from the operation remains in place. (For more on US efforts in Operation United Assistance see Battling Ebola.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.