04 April 2011

Visit to Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF GTMO)

Recently, I spent a day with our Sailors who are inside the wire supporting Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF GTMO) in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. JTF GTMO is the task force that provides the care and custody of detained enemy combatants.
Thanks to the Assistant Officer-in-Charge
of Camp VI for a very useful visit and
JTF GTMO has three supporting components: The Headquarters Element; Joint Medical Group; and the Joint Detention Group. Our Navy has Sailors deployed as Individual Augmentees (IAs) supporting each component with the majority conducting detainee ops in the Joint Detention Group.
The Joint Detention Group (JDG) is the guard force component of JTF GTMO comprised of Sailors and Soldiers responsible for detainee ops. The Sailors in the JDG are IAs from our Navy Expeditionary Guard Battalion (NEGB) who provide “safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody” of the detainees they oversee. These Sailors come from a variety of Navy career fields, but all go through five weeks of training conducted by subject matter experts to learn the skills needed for guard duty and become familiar with the latest tactics used by detainees. Upon arriving for duty at the camp, they undergo an additional two weeks of on-the-job turnover with the Sailors they are replacing.

During my visit, I had the opportunity to observe and talk with our Sailors about their jobs and the many challenges they face and work through every day.  I was very pleased to see how they filter out the “noise” from working in such a controversial location and instead stay focused on executing their mission every day. And I can assure you, there is not a more difficult mission in our Navy right now.
Talking with our Sailors about some of the issues unique
 to an Individual Augmentee assigned to JTF GTMO
There is nothing that can fully prepare our Sailors for all of the unique experiences they encounter during their tour at GTMO. Every day they come face-to-face with individuals who hate them and everything they represent. Detainees employ a range of tactics in an attempt to disrupt the flow of daily operations, reduce morale in the camps, and physically and mentally manipulate the guards. Yet our Sailors exercise proper restraint and stick to the strict operating procedures of the camp - they are true professionals. I want to underscore the importance of our Sailors’ professional conduct because I believe it directly contributes to our credibility around the world. Many of these detainees are being held for planning and/or carrying out terrorist activities against our nation. Our Sailors at GTMO are well aware of this fact, yet they still carry out their duties every day with remarkable discipline.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by the Sailors I had the opportunity to meet and talk with. They clearly understand the importance of their mission and take their jobs very seriously. I appreciate the time they gave me and the very candid conversations we had…I’ve already started taking action on the issues we discussed.
Getting the gouge from our Sailors over a good meal
Bottom-line - These are great Sailors doing a damn difficult job extremely well. I couldn't be more proud of them. All the best, JCHjr


Anonymous said...

Why are the two sailors wearing their covers in doors?

Anonymous said...

Adm. Harvey is truly a sailor's man. I had the opportunity to meet him and he truly reaches out to his people.