By Alex DeMetrick

ABERDEEN, Md. (WJZ) — A year ago, the Ebola virus reached epidemic proportions in West Africa.

A handful of Maryland soldiers went into the middle of the epidemic to help.

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Alex DeMetrick has more on the military honors those soldiers received Friday.

The soldiers from Aberdeen Proving Grounds number only about two dozen, but they tracked the Ebola through thousands of patients.

They were dwarfed by the room, but not the honor.

Members of the Army’s first area medical laboratory were singled out for their service in Africa.

At a time when the Ebola virus was raging in three West African nations.

Amid the confusion, panic and death, the unit from Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland set up mobile medical labs in houses and hotels in Liberia, testing blood samples of 4,500 patients. Blood tests determined who has the virus and who didn’t.

The infected were isolated for treatment and for those cleared.

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“We could get them out of the areas where they potentially could get infected while waiting for treatment,” said SSGT. Joshua Boggess, of the U.S. Army.

This at a time when fear of ebola was sweeping the globe.

“We were well prepared for it,” said Boggess. “We did a lot of extensive training prior to going out there, so it was another day at work for us.”

That work earned the lab team a superior unit streamer  an honor that means more than a ribbon.

“It’s a great pride known that we could go to another part of the world and help them out and give them a sense, a feeling of safety,” he added.

With Ebola, time is critical.

The Army team reduced the wait for blood tests results to just four hours.

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Besides Ebola, the Army’s medical lab unit trains for a number of infectious diseases.