It seems in the age of Obama that the U.S. military is slowly making the transformation from the planet’s most powerful fighting force to one giant charity provider.

As most Americans know, the president has ordered thousands of U.S. troops to Ebola-plagued West Africa, a move that critics have said not only misappropriates American military personnel but also put their lives needlessly at risk — though so far, no reports of American servicemen or women being sickened by Ebola have surfaced.

Now, it appears as though the U.S. Air Force has been ordered to modify scarce transport planes to be able to transport patients stricken with the deadly virus.

According to a recent report from BusinessWeek, the military will be outfitting an untold number of aircraft with new isolation chambers designed to safely carry as many as a dozen people infected with the virus (transporting those with deadly diseases likely wasn’t something that Air Force recruiters thought to bring up with pilots and air crew chiefs when they were enlisting).

“That is a new capability that will be available in the next couple of weeks,” Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, head of the Transportation Command, told reporters.

Thousands of U.S. military personnel ordered to the hot zone

The prototype chamber was designed and manufactured by Production Products Manufacturing & Sales Co., which is a closely-held St. Louis-based firm that makes safety and protective outerwear and shelters.

As BusinessWeek further reported:

The U.S. military has deployed 2,900 personnel to Western Africa to set up communications, provide logistics capabilities and build treatment centers and hospitals.

Program documents don’t specify whether the system is intended only for the transport of U.S. military personnel or will be available for infected civilians.

President Obama ordered up to 4,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa, to build treatment facilities and, now, apparently, to transport Ebola victims from the plagued region to treatment facilities.

While the spread of the virus has slowed in some regions of the hardest-hit countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Ebola has infected more than 17,500 people since the current outbreak began about 10 months ago. Of those, 6,202 have died as of Dec. 3, according to the World Health Organization. Some reports have suggested that those figures are low, due to often spotty reporting.

In a separate report, the Defense Department said the effort to outfit the planes was initiated through the U.S. Transportation Command, working in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Prior to the current outbreak, Selva, who is head of Transportation Command, or TransCom, said the U.S. military did not have the capacity to transport Ebola patients.

“We have the capacity to isolate a single person and that capacity was designed exclusively to handle a SARS patient,” Selva told the Defense Writers’ Group, according DoD News.

We wanted to protect our people as well

Reports said that four of the “transport isolation systems” are designed to be carried aboard Boeing C-17 transport aircraft, and one aboard a C-130 plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin. On the larger C-17, Selva said as many as eight patients on stretchers could fit in the isolation unit, or 12 who are still able to walk.

DoD News added further:

Over the last 60 days, the command put a requirement on the street for a transportation/isolation module system. That system would load aboard a C-17 or a C-130. The module would isolate the patient, filter the air that moves through the compartment, and would allow access to treat the patient that has a communicable disease that is airborne, or, in the case of Ebola, fluid-borne.

“It accommodates the Ebola issue, but it also accommodates airborne contagions,” Selva said.

He added: “Our approach was if we are going to put military members in harm’s way, the capacity to move a single patient at a time was insufficient to the mission we were asking our team to do. We put an urgent operational needs statement together and challenged industry and the defense engineering community to come up with an operational solution for it. And in 60 days, they’ve delivered a solution that looks like it will work.”