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December 17, 2014 at 2:46pm

Servicemembers held for Ebola monitoring at JBLM go home

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Technical Sgt. Joe Greene happily returned home to Montana late Tuesday afternoon.

"I was ready to get back to my family for Christmas," he said during a telephone interview from his home in Montana. "I missed Thanksgiving with them."

One of 15 individuals monitored for Ebola symptoms, Greene spent 21 days in isolation at Joint Base Lewis-McChord North.

The monitored group of servicemembers came from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force. None were from JBLM.

Assigned to the 819th Red Horse Squadron at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, Greene had been deployed to West Africa as this country attempts to tamp down the spread of the deadly disease.

About 2,600 servicemembers are deployed to West Africa, building and operating a number of Ebola-treatment facilities.

A deployable, heavy operational repair squadron, the unit is commanded by Col. Ron Pieri.

The servicemembers entered isolation on Nov. 25 and were released on Dec. 16.

It wasn't as though Greene didn't he know would be held and monitored for the symptoms of Ebola when he returned from his deployment.

"I understood. It's one of the things we gotta do," he said in a matter-of-fact way. "It is what it is."

Greene and the others were not exposed to Ebola-infected patients, and the risk that they are infected was minimal, Maj. Mary Ricks pointed out in an earlier press release.

JBLM could house up to 1,000 quarantined military members and civilian contractors in World War II vintage barracks that until recently were used by Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets during Warrior Forge.

"Yeah, we were in these older barracks," continued Greene. "It wasn't bad.  We had open bays like basic training, a large separate bathroom and showers and a pretty decent dining facility. We were set up pretty well."

Other accommodations included Wi-Fi, cable, movies, video game consoles, books and a tent gym with exercise equipment.

In November, the Department of Defense announced that JBLM would be one of five installations that would provide a monitoring site for servicemembers and civilians returning from missions in West Africa.

The other four locations are the Army's Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany; Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Bragg in North Carolina; and at an Army base in Vicenza, Italy.

According to the World Health Organization most recent statistics, there have been approximately 18,500 cases of Ebola with more than 6,800 resulting in death.

Back at JBLM and with plenty of time on their hands, the monitored servicemembers did a lot of reading, working out, and in Greene's case, working with wood.

"Yes, I had time so I built some furniture," Greene said.

A medical team from the Madigan Army Medical Center checked the monitored servicemembers twice per day and asked if there was any fatigue or muscle pain.

"The medical folks were superb," Greene added. "In fact, everyone I encountered here at JBLM was very professional, and I think the Army did a great job."

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