Written by Sgt. Ange Desinor
13th Public Affairs Detachment
Paynesville, Liberia – Singing, clapping and dancing greeted Soldiers of the 36th Engineer Brigade, out of Fort Hood, Texas, as they walked up to a tent to attend the grand opening ceremony of the Ebola treatment unit near Buchanan, Liberia, December 22nd, as part of Operation United Assistance.
The Buchanan ETU was built by the 902nd Engineer Company Soldiers who supported 36th Engineer Brigade, and handed it over to the International Organization for Migration. The Soldiers of the 902nd Engineer Company built the ETU in 22 days. The IOM customized the facility for its needs before opening it to the public.
“Based on the other ETUs and the experiences we have, we decided that it would be best to make adjustments to the facility,” said Dario Gonzalez, a medical director with IOM, and a native of New York City.
The adjustments of the ETU made by the IOM were to enhance their vision of care, Gonzalez said.
The biggest change they made was to reduce the capacity from 100 beds to 50 beds.
“Initially, Ebola was an epidemic and the number of cases was high in Grand Basa County,” said Maj. Anthony Costello, design engineer for the 36th Engineer Brigade. “Now that the number of cases have gone down, IOM made modifications.”
Before construction, there was nothing but flat land, said Costello, an Atlanta native. As he observed the facility, he said this gave him a sense of closure as he walked around the ETU and pointed out the changes.
In early November, 1st Lt. Abraham Richardson, a platoon leader for the 902 Engineer Company, and a native of Hartland, Maine, said they also received local support and equipment from the community to help build the ETU.
The ETU currently has 170 workers and 50 beds for patients.
Dr. Joseph Kerkula, the Grand Basa County health officer, and Basa Governor Etweda Cooper, thanked everyone for coming to the ceremony.
“I’m thankful that numbers of new cases of Ebola is going down, and I’m glad that we have a facility, but I hope we never have to use it,” said Cooper.