News: Making it Happen Behind the Scenes
Story by Sgt. Andrew Hillegass
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Making sure the logistical needs of Joint Task Force Guantanamo are taken care of can be a large order to fill. Helping fulfill those needs falls squarely on the shoulders of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard's 191st Regional Support Group.
The unit has been in command of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo Headquarters and Headquarters Company since its arrival in December 2008. Their mission while deployed is expansive, ranging from service member safety to housing issues. In addition to its far-reaching responsibilities, the group has also had to learn to work with and rely on one another, since the unit was formed shortly before deploying.
"It was challenging," said HHC Commander, Army Capt. Manuel Rodriguez. "I didn't get to know everyone until we got here."
Adding to the stress of working with a new set of personnel while deployed is adjusting to work in a joint environment.
"I've never been in a joint atmosphere before," said Rodriguez. "It's one of the better experiences of my career."
Once the unit members arrived and were settled into their new roles at the JTF, they began to undertake the daily challenges that confronted them.
One of the bigger tasks the group handles is housing arrangements for JTF personnel. Army Master Sgt. Michael Alicea is the facilities manager at the HHC and is in charge of assigning accommodations to personnel as they arrive at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
"I assign housing to JTF personnel as they are scheduled to arrive at Guantanamo," Alicea said. "I am also involved when we have units depart the island."
Of course, the HHC provides more than just a place for you to lay your head. They also are tasked with another important function here at the JTF Guantanamo.
"The safe ride program offers a ride home to troopers who are without transportation on weekend evenings," Army Sgt. 1st Class Guillermo Santiago, Camp America commandant, explained. "This program is managed by the HHC first sergeant."
For the members of the 191st RSG, their deployment also meant they would be working in an environment completely foreign to most of them. They have had to endure a crash course into the world of joint operations, forcing the service members to develop a quick understanding of the other branches of the military and how those personnel conduct business.
"There have been a few lessons we have learned since arriving," Santiago said. "Some are related to being on an active duty status for the first time, along with the way we conduct business in a joint environment."
However, Santiago is also quick to compliment his unit members and how they have dealt with these circumstances.
"The commitment and performance of all the [service members] assigned to the 191st RSG while deployed has placed this unit in a historical place in the proud and rich heritage of the Puerto Rico National Guard," said Santiago.
For more information about Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit the Web site at www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil.