News: GTMO's First Line of Defense
Joint Task Force Guantanamo's first line of defense for external security are the service members of the 480th Military Police Company from the Puerto Rico Army National Guard. The unit is responsible for the external security of the entire task force.
The 480th provides guards to control access points on the roads leading into Camp America, perimeter security of the camps and the surrounding areas of U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay — to include land, water and sea, and entry and exit control for camp access points.
The service members work day and night shifts to make sure security is tight at all times and at all places. Every guard is trained and authorized to use appropriate force to maintain security in accordance with strict rules of engagement and standard operating procedures.
The vehicle control points into Camp America provide an initial layer of security for JTF Guantanamo. Vehicles are checked for proper identification and are visually searched for any items that may cause a danger to the personnel at the JTF.
"We are looking for the safety and security of everyone at the JTF — the civilians, [service members] and detainees — security is our primary concern," said Sgt. Ada Vasquez with the 480th.
At the camp entrances, security personnel conduct checks for any kind of items unauthorized in the camps. They also control vehicle and personnel access into the camps, checking to make sure every person who enters the facilities is authorized to do so and has an updated security badge. They may also have to call for an escort for people who need to enter the camps but require an escort.
"What we do is very important," said Spc. Mayra Perez, who works at the access point to one of the camps. "We are the ones who decide who comes in and who doesn't."
From the vantage point of the camps' observation towers, the 480th maintains a 360-degree watch. From an elevated position, service members have a clear view over the camps and the surrounding areas.
"We see things other people may not see," said Spc. Evelyn Rivera, who provides watch in one of the camp towers. "If an incident includes more than one element or more than one area, it is easy for us to see and communicate or call for help."
Quick reaction forces and roving patrols provide additional layers of security for the JTF. Teams remain ready at all times to respond to incidents inside and outside the camps at a moment's notice. When not responding, the teams conduct daily training on the standard operating procedures of each potential situation they may face.
Roving patrols provide support to all of the camps and external security sites. They are available to check out unusual or suspicious activity spotted at any location in Camp America and can respond quickly to requests from all security positions.
The unit's mission comprises just a piece of the security measures in place at JTF Guantanamo to keep the service members, civilians and detainees here safe. Working together with various other services and elements, the security personnel feel their work is an important part of the JTF mission.
"We have a lot of [service members] here and we have to watch each other's back," said Army Pfc. Luis Rodriguez. "You never know what could happen if we weren't paying attention."
For more information about Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit the Web site at www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil.