In summer and fall of 2014, thousands of individuals in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea contracted the Ebola virus. This outbreak of the deadly disease, which until then had been highly uncommon in West Africa, prompted a major (albeit delayed) public health response on the part of the international community, including an unprecedented commitment made by the United States, which sent almost 3,000 active military soldiers to Liberia. “Mission in Flux” focuses on the US military’s role in the Ebola response, emphasizing the Michigan National Guard’s eventual involvement. In particular, it provides readers with a first-hand account of the challenges the Michigan Guard faced as it prepared for and then deployed to Liberia, just as the crisis had begun to abate and federal officials in Washington began considering how to redefine the mission and footprint of Ebola-relief in West Africa.
This case prompts readers to reflect on challenges the National Guard may encounter when involved in non-conflict missions overseas. It asks readers to consider what the military – and the Guard, specifically – can contribute to international public health emergency response, as well as how Guard officers can navigate significant and sudden changes to a mission due to shifting circumstances and the agendas and goals of officials in Washington, DC and within the US military command structure.