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US Military Leaders: Monitor Troops Returning From Ebola Missions

FILE - U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to soon decide whether to subject all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response efforts to a "quarantine-like" period.

The Pentagon says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is considering a recommendation to impose a "quarantine-like" 21-day monitoring period on all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response efforts in West Africa.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday presented the recommendation to monitor all troops returning from West Africa. He said Hagel "hasn't made a decision about implementing this force-wide" but is expected to settle on a plan soon.

On Monday, Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno directed a 21-day period of isolation for all Army soldiers returning from Ebola-prevention missions. This first group of U.S. military personnel returning from Liberia included a two-star general and 11 staff members stopped at a base in Italy.

"I think the secretary understands that Army leadership, supported by the recommendations of the joint staff, wanted to take a very conservative approach, particularly for this first group," Kirby said. "And again, he understands that and didn't feel it was necessary to step in the way of it."

The military-recommended, 21-day program of controlled, supervised monitoring is a step far more stringent than guidelines recommended by civilian health authorities.

The Pentagon said Hagel shared military leaders' concerns about the safety and well-being of U.S. troops and their families and would consider a number of factors — including a potential "spillover effect" on the protocols of other agencies — when making his decision about the entire military force.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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