Marines headed to Africa to fight Ebola outbreak

The Pentagon is deploying 100 troops from a special Marine response force to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak.

"These personnel will arrive in Senegal tonight and in Liberia tomorrow," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby at a briefing on Wednesday. 

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The 100 troops — mostly Marines, along with some Navy corpsmen — are part of a force of up to 3,600 U.S. troops that could deploy to West Africa to help efforts to stem the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The outbreak has so far claimed more than 3,000 lives and could infect 1.4 million more.

So far, about 350 troops are on the ground now, running laboratories, setting up treatment facilities, training healthcare workers and assisting with logistics.

The Marine unit will provide supply and transportation assistance for the anti-Ebola effort until Army units arrive later this month to take over the possibly year-long mission. 

They will deploy with four MV-22 Osprey and two KC-130 Hercules tanker aircraft, Kirby said. 

The troops come from a special Marine air-ground task force responding to crises in Africa, and are deploying from Morón, Spain, to Dakar, Senegal, and Monrovia, Liberia. 

There are growing concerns, though, about the safety of U.S. troops being deployed to fight the virus after the Pentagon said Tuesday that they could come into contact with Ebola samples.

Gen. David Rodriguez, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said at a Pentagon briefing Tuesday he was confident U.S. troops taking on the mission would be safe. 

“I am confident that we can ensure our service members' safety and the safety of their families and the American people,” he said.