At a time when most Americans are getting as far from Ebola as possible, President Obama is planning to send thousands of U.S. military reservists the other way.
His executive order, signed on Thursday, authorizes the Secretary of Defense to activate any soldier necessary to combat the Ebola outbreak ravaging west Africa.
There are already 540 active duty troops on the ground there, and as many as 4,000 could be added and heading that way. (Video via The Wall Street Journal)
Note we said could head that way. This is only the authorization to call up the reserves if need be.
But the Ebola virus is only 80 nanometers across, making it a difficult target for even our best sharpshooter. So, what will the soldiers be doing?
Mostly, they'll be building things — the region is in dire need of public health infrastructure, and the U.S. troops are going to fix that as fast as they can.
"Navy seabees are building the treatment centers, and Navy medical personnel are conducting lab testing. Soldiers are performing civil engineering and logistical duties, and airmen are coordinating military flights in and out of the country."
And although the troops won't be stationed near Ebola victims, they're taking precautions anyway — including getting their temperatures taken multiple times a day. (Video via Daily Mail)
Still, some experts are warning that infection might happen anyway.
ABC: “There are a lot of people who have Ebola who are not in a protected environment so the possibility of a solider getting Ebola is very real and something we have to be ready for.
Despite the risks, officials say the deployment is important — and that if Ebola isn't stopped in West Africa, it will become a greater risk to the U.S.
PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA MSNBC: “The sooner we control this outbreak at the source in west Africa, the less our people are going to be at risk."
The government says that if a soldier is tested positive for Ebola, he or she would be quarantined and flown to the U.S. for treatment.