PAYNESVILLE, Liberia — After arriving in Liberia in mid-October to help fight the spread of the Ebola virus during Operation United Assistance, Joint Forces Command–United Assistance, 36th Engineer Brigade soldiers are preparing to hand the National Police Training Academy back to the Liberian National Police.
“We are reducing our footprint as far as all the tents that we lived in and our living area,” said Capt. Terrence Lucas, commander of the brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company. “We had 56 tents, and we’ve gradually started taking them down to prepare for our redeployment. We currently have 22 tents up, and we’re taking the rest down as we continue to send soldiers back to the states.”
The tents included shower systems and bathrooms. Soldiers and Defense Department contractors worked together to pack, take down, and load the equipment in their containers to be shipped back to the states.
“We moved all the soldiers into the building so that we can continue to take down the equipment,” Lucas said. “Once we’re done with the tents, we are going to go through the base to remediate all the (fuel spill or oil spill) from vehicles. We have to remove that dirt and bag it, then ship it to a hazardous material storage area.”
Master Sgt. Stolley Waiters, the brigade’s operations noncommissioned officer in charge, ensures the force providers shut down and the guard forces continue to protect all of the personnel and equipment until the transition is complete.
“We periodically check and make sure that all of the buildings are cleaned, repositioned in place and ensure that it’s good for inspection,” Waiters said. “That way when it’s time to clear, we wont have any issues.”
Waiters said the health and welfare of the soldiers is a top priority.
“Although we are winding down, we continue to ensure that the soldiers have plenty of food and water, electricity, showers and a decent place to sleep,” Waiters said.
This was his first humanitarian mission, and Waiters said it differs from the other deployments he’s been on.
“I got to see the build up from the start and now the teardown within a few months,” Waiters said. “That was pretty interesting, and the soldiers did an outstanding job. Usually when you deploy, everything is already set up and ready. We did everything from start to finish in just a few months.”
After reflecting on his time here, Lucas said he is happy he was able to play a role in a high-profile mission.
“This experience has been really rewarding working with the local police at the (training academy),” Lucas said. “Being able to provide assistance and ensuring that we give the base back in a better condition than we received it. That’s the Army way; whenever you get something, you clean it, maintain it and make it better for the next individual.”