News: JTF Guantanamo Inspector General
Story by Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Van Poots, the Joint Task Force Guantanamo deputy Inspector General, speaks to incoming JTF service members during a newcomer's briefing at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Nov. 6.
The JTF Inspector General's office serves as the commander's eyes, ears, voice and conscience in matters that are important to service members. The Inspector General's main functions include inspections, investigations, assistance and training.
The IG recommends addressing problems or issues through the chain of command first. Those issues that cannot be addressed through the service member's chain of command, or are not sufficiently addressed through the chain of command, can then be taken to the IG office for further assistance. Although the IG's office is here to help service members, it is not a substitute for the chain of command.
"We're always going to ask if [the service member] has gone through the chain of command first," said Army Col. Doris Acevedo, the JTF command IG. "However, if going through the chain of command hasn't worked, or the service member doesn't think the chain of command will help them, they can feel free to come to us."
Service members are guaranteed confidentiality when they talk to the IG. However, some problems may require a service member to be identified to address the problem. In these cases, the IG will not proceed unless the service member gives permission for their identity to be disclosed.
Most cases that the JTF IG office, and IG offices worldwide, handle, are assistance cases. Approximately 80 percent of IG cases are assistance cases where the IG assists by intervening in a situation, giving advice or pointing a service member in the right direction. Investigation cases are less frequent, but often more challenging, requiring time to research and acquire information.
"In everything we do, whether assisting or investigating, teaching and training is always there," said Acevedo. "The goal is not to punish people, but to have people learn the right way to do things."
Not every complaint should go to the IG's office, however. The IG bases findings on existing standards, regulations and policies. If a complaint violates a standard, regulation or policy, changes can be made, however, if a complaint doesn't violate a standard, the IG office is limited in what can be done.
"Our responses are not always what people want to hear," said Acevedo. "Depending on the issue, we may have to refer the service member back to the chain of command."
When used properly, the IG's office can be a useful tool for service members seeking assistance.
"In my experience here, we've been able to help many [service members] solve many problems," said Acevedo.
With an office at a location away from the JTF headquarters, Acevedo hopes that service members feel comfortable coming to her office without fear of reprisal. She encourages service members to seek the IG office for assistance, even if it's only for an answer to a question.
"If [a service member] has doubts about whether their problem is an IG case or not, they should feel free to come in and ask," said Acevedo. "We're here to serve."
For more information about Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit the Web site at www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil