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    20 years later: Remembering Operation Sea Signal

    20 years later: Remembering Operation Sea Signal

    Photo By Staff Sgt. David Kirtland | A personal photo taken at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay during Operation Sea Signal...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. David Kirtland 

    Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs

    GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - In 1994, the United States put Operation Sea Signal into action in response to a mass migration of Cuban and Haitian refugees attempting to gain asylum in the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy personnel rescued the migrants from the waters and brought them to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.

    Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Poll, a specialist at the time, was serving with the 571st Military Police Company out of Fort Lewis, Washington. Although he was a young Soldier, he had deployed multiple times for a variety of missions.

    “I had been to Japan, Somalia and even deployed to Los Angeles during the Rodney King Riots,” Poll said. Operation Sea Signal was very different for him. His mission in Japan was as a military policeman and he conducted mostly route reconnaissance in Somalia. “This was my first time dealing with a refugee or resettlement camp,” said Poll.

    Between August 1994 and February 1996, Joint Task Force 160 was responsible for caring for more than 50,000 individuals. Refugees were assigned to specific camps for several different reasons.

    Cuban and Haitian migrants were kept in separate camps. There were specific camps for intact families, single men and unaccompanied minors.

    Poll worked in Camp Mike, which housed five camps within it. Poll felt a connection with the people under his care.

    “These people were trying to escape a tyrant. I thought about what I would do in their situation if I knew just 90 miles north I could have freedom,” Poll said. “They were confined to their camp, which made life difficult for the refugees. A lot of them had families and kids.”

    During the operation, Camp X-Ray was built to segregate dangerous refugees who had committed crimes while at Guantanamo Bay.

    “Fidel Castro had released a lot of his prisoners. There were incidents of various assaults within the camps. That’s why Camp X-Ray was built,” said Poll.

    He also personally brought some of its first residents who had committed offenses to Camp X-Ray.

    “There were some families who were allowed into the U.S. A lot of families from Camp Mike did, but many were repatriated back to Cuba or Haiti,” said Poll. He actually kept in contact with one family that had moved to Miami but lost touch over the years.

    “I didn’t quite understand just how dire it was for them until it sank in later in life. I started looking back at my life, the things I was able to do in the Army,” said Poll.



    Date Taken: 10.24.2014
    Date Posted: 10.24.2014 11:38
    Story ID: 145976
    Location: GUANTANAMO BAY, CU 

    Web Views: 2,770
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