Boots on ground: American civilians joining Ebola fight

By Leo Hohmann

The house in Liberia where Thomas Eric Duncan lived, photo: Front Page Africa
The house in Liberia where Thomas Eric Duncan lived, photo: Front Page Africa

Fluor Corp., a global construction company based in Irving, Texas, has been awarded a contract by the Pentagon to build temporary housing for U.S. troops working to combat Ebola in Liberia, WND has learned.

The company has posted on its website nearly 100 openings for all types of construction jobs in Liberia, ranging from carpenters and plumbers to HVAC journeymen, engineers, people to operate and maintain power generators, quality-control inspectors, electricians, water-supply supervisors, security personnel and various supervisors. The first openings were posted on Sept. 26, and more were added on Sept. 30, Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

Eric Krantz, a spokesman for the company, confirmed a contract has been awarded to Fluor for work in Liberia, but the number of people who will be sent to the West African country and the length of their stay has not yet been determined.

“We don’t have but a handful of people there right now,” Krantz said.

“Fluor has been tasked by the U.S. Army to provide basic construction services to support the U.S. military’s humanitarian activities in West Africa,” he said. Besides Liberia, a small contingent will also be needed at a staging area in Senegal.

Krantz said full details of the mission have not yet been received from the military “but we wanted to get resumes in hand so we will be ready when called upon.”

Fluor’s assignment will be limited to building and maintaining temporary military housing in Monrovia, Liberia, Krantz said.

“We have rigid protocols in place to protect the health and safety of our work force,” he said, adding that: “We have only been directed to send a small initial team.”

Among those infected with the current strain of Ebola, the death rate is about 70 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Krantz said the assignment could include logistical support services, facility maintenance, or other support. “But the only thing we’ve been told to do is these tent cities, temporary housing for troops or any other U.S. support personnel.”

He could not say how long the assignment would last.

“We don’t have that information yet,” he said. “We just have the request for the scalable housing units. It’s temporary housing structures. Right now we just have that small team on the ground, a very small number since it’s still in the early stages.”

Fluor is a global construction and engineering firm that receives billions in government contracts.

Krantz said the Liberia work comes under a larger umbrella contract the company has with the U.S. Army called the logistics civil augmentation contract.

“We bid on that and this is part of a task-force project (under the logistics operation umbrella),” he said.

The competitively-bid logistics contract was awarded by the Army in 2007 to Fluor and two other contractors, Krantz said. The 10-year contract involves supporting U.S. military operations via task orders issued by the Army.

President Obama  announced on Sept. 16 a major expansion of the U.S. role in trying to halt the spread of Ebola, including the deployment of 3,000 troops to Liberia. The estimated number of troops needed was later expanded to nearly 4,000.

“The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Obama said while at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

Since that time, the U.S. has had its first case of Ebola show up on U.S. soil when a Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled to Dallas, Texas, to stay with family. He was at first misdiagnosed by a local hospital emergency-room nurse and sent home, only to return two days later with more severe symptoms. He remains in critical condition.

More than 3,300 have died in several West African countries in the worst outbreak of Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1974.

U.S. officials said the focus of the military deployment would be Liberia, a nation founded by freed American slaves and the hardest hit of the four countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

According to previous reports, Obama’s plan calls for sending American troops, including engineers and medical personnel; establishing a regional command and control center in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, and forming a staging area in Senegal to help distribute personnel and aid on the ground.

It also calls for building 17 treatment centers with 100 beds each; placing U.S. Public Health Service personnel in new field hospitals in Liberia; training thousands of healthcare workers for six months or longer; and creating an “air bridge” to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa more quickly.

The plan has been roundly criticized by former U.S. military generals, as reported by WND.

Fluor has more than 40,000 employees “all over the globe” working on various projects, a spokesman said. Fluor reported $27.4 billion in sales revenue for 2013. It ranks as number 110 on the Fortune 500 list.

Additional reporting by Jerome Corsi.

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