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Operation United Assistance efforts to fight Ebola virus sets stage for future African support

 

Written by Michael Tuttle
Defense Logistics Agency

United States Africa CommandMonrovia, Liberia – Tim Robinson was counting down the last four hours of monitoring before he could hug his two sons for the first time since deploying to Liberia to help combat the deadly Ebola virus.

Robinson was on active monitoring for 21 days in November when he returned to Germany following his five-week deployment to Monrovia as a Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support representative.

Before returning to three weeks of working from home and twice-daily house calls for temperature readings, Robinson was one of the first people on the ground in support of Operation United Assistance, the Defense Department operation supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development-led effort to contain Ebola in West Africa.

Tim Robinson, a DLA representative deployed to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance, talks about locally procuring construction materials at the U.S. Army Africa Joint Logistics Operations Center in Monrovia. Robinson deployed for five weeks in support of the Defense Department operation supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development-led effort to contain Ebola in West Africa. (Courtesy photo)

Tim Robinson, a DLA representative deployed to Liberia in support of Operation United Assistance, talks about locally procuring construction materials at the U.S. Army Africa Joint Logistics Operations Center in Monrovia. Robinson deployed for five weeks in support of the Defense Department operation supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development-led effort to contain Ebola in West Africa. (Courtesy photo)

As the DLA Troop Support Europe and Africa liaison to U.S. Africa Command, Robinson was a natural fit to deploy as the main point of contact for support of food, clothing, personal protective equipment and medical supplies, said Army Lt. Col. Patrick Taylor, DLA Troop Support Europe and Africa commander.

Robinson also oversaw the staging of materials needed for the construction of Ebola treatment units. He said the lumber, plumbing, cement blocks and other supplies provided through the construction and equipment supply chain will help set the stage for future African support.

Robinson had to stay on top of the lumber stock in the region and reach back to DLA Troop Support in Philadelphia for additional materials through Construction and Equipment’s Maintenance, Repair and Operations program.

As the ETU construction material requirements changed frequently, there were also requirements for a new medical unit in Monrovia and living space for soon-to-arrive service members deploying to support OUA.

“All customer requests were supported on time and we were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the MRO program,” Robinson said. “We became the Walmart in the eyes of the customers.”

Robinson said he also developed a strong relationship with DLA Distribution because materials were stored and moved through its warehouse operations in the region.

As one of the first 40 people in Monrovia as OUA began, Robinson saw the initial staging of containers and government-furnished materials, such as meals, ready to eat; bottled water; and health and comfort packs. When he left Nov. 1, two ETUs, the Monrovia medical unit and living space for deployed troops were complete.

Although he didn’t come into direct contact with Ebola patients, Robinson, a retired Army chief warrant officer four, said working in the dangerous health environment was stressful. While there, his temperature was taken twice daily and he washed his hands regularly with a mix of chlorine bleach and water.

To minimize the risk of spreading the virus, doors were held open for people walking through, he said.

Robinson was also nervous about returning to Germany and having “all eyes on me for 21 days,” he said. His biggest fear was catching a cold during the 21-day active monitoring period, in which another DLA Troop Support employee came to his house to check on him twice a day.

“That fear, coupled with my desire to keep loved ones away from risk, makes the requirement not to make contact palatable to me,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that the experience he gained in Liberia will benefit him and the organization greatly as he returns to working with AFRICOM.

But first, he was looking forward to picking up his sons from school.


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