U.S. Army troops who were set to deploy to Africa in October are still waiting around for the green light. Since that time they’ve been stuck at their mobilization sites twiddling their thumbs and collecting tax money in the form of paychecks.
The delay, which is affecting 40 soldiers, is a direct result of quarantine requirements. According to an Army spokesperson, there are only a “limited number of chartered flights from Fort Bliss to [Baltimore/Washington International Airport] and on to Africa.”
Because of this all but unsolvable dilemma, some of the 40 troops have spent more than 50 days living under quarantine conditions, staring only at one another.
The delayed soldiers have been assigned as augmented’s on temporary assignment with fellow troops already on the ground in East Africa. They are inclusive of troops from the National Guard and Army Reserve, as well as a small medical detachment and civil affairs teams selected from active-duty Army personnel.
The entire group has completed all of the required pre-deployment training, but it’s imperative that they maintain quarantine protocol to stand at the ready once they are able to locate transportation.
The Army spokesperson reiterated how the delay has not a single thing to do with the Department of Defense. “It’s a matter of getting them there.” The delayed troops had no choice but to spend their Thanksgivings in quarantine at Camp McGregor, New Mexico, Fort Hood, and Fort Bliss.
One of the troops told the Military Times they “just want to get [into theater] and do their assigned missions.” Fearing reprisal from his chain of command the soldier asked to remain anonymous.
Here is where the breakdown began. Up until only a few days ago, no commercial airline was willing to bid on a charter flight to transfer the troops from Ft. Bliss to Baltimore’s BWI airport which is the point of departure for East Africa.
If a charter flight does not happen, as has been the case in previous incidents, “there is no backup plan if this plane does not get [the soldiers] to BWI on time for the rotator [to East Africa],” said the source.
“Soldiers are scheduled to depart [for BWI and transportation to Africa] on the next available charter flight, and we are developing options to expedite future flights,” the spokesperson added.
“Once again, we all have confirmed seats on the next rotator [to East Africa],” said one of the bored and stranded soldiers. But he then made his frustration and doubt clear with doubts concerning whether the group would even make it to Baltimore in time to catch the next flight for the deployment to happen.
The spokesperson had no answer when asked about the Army working on alternative plans to get the troops to Baltimore in time. He just kept repeating how they are “developing options to expedite future flights.” In any language, this does not portray hope.
So while the Army scratches its helmeted head over how to handle such situations, it would appear they have not as yet come up with a suitable solution. And this makes us scratch our heads as to why a military transport plane, with the capability of flying non-stop to its destination, has not been called into action.