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    Our Mission Remains the Same

    Our Mission Remains the Same

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Thompson | Official Photo of Navy Rear Adm. David M. Thomas, Jr., commander of Joint Task Force...... read more read more

    From Joint Task Force - Guantanamo

    GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – The incoming administration promised to close down Joint Task Force Guantanamo's detainee operations during its presidential campaign, and news outlets regularly report about how those plans are proceeding and what changes may be required.

    As the transition of White House policies commences, the commander of the JTF urged troopers here to focus on the mission at hand and not on speculation.

    "There's a lot of uncertainty about the future," acknowledged Navy Rear Adm. David M. Thomas, Jr. "That can be cancerous to our organization."

    He allowed that the detainee camps will close – someday.

    "Of course we're going to close detainee operations," Thomas said. "Both [presidential] candidates said we would. The challenge is how.

    "I'm on two-year orders, and I'm six months into them," he continued. "People who show up here will do their full tours – that would be my bet."

    As part of a presentation the admiral plans to give to every JTF trooper in the coming days, Thomas dispelled common myths about the mission here – and quelled the rumors about the future of Guantanamo Bay.

    "There's a whole lot more to Guantanamo than JTF," he said, noting that this is the longest-serving overseas U.S. Naval base.

    Thomas also responded to questions of legality – for example, a recent New York Times editorial referred to detainee operations here as an "outlaw prison" – by stating that the mission here is in accordance with international law, U.S. law and Department of Defense policies.

    Part of the JTF mission is to support the military commissions.

    "We don't run those procedures," he admitted. "Love 'em or hate 'em, it's part of a broader policy. It's the right discussion to be having."

    Claims from detainees of medical abuse? "Nothing could be further from the truth," the admiral said. "You could not buy the quality of health care given to detainees."

    Thomas showed an image of Camp X-Ray, where detained enemy combatants were initially held in 2002 during a four-month period while permanent facilities were constructed.

    "These are not the conditions today," he stressed. "We have world-class facilities, and we continue to refine them."

    The approximately 250 detainees here today are housed in modern facilities based on federal Bureau of Prisons standards, Thomas explained.

    "It's just as you would expect from your government," he said.

    Thomas devoted much time and energy dispelling the myth of improper detainee treatment, and he praised the integrity of the guards here. He noted that guards interact with detainees on a regular basis.

    "There is no remote-control activity here," he said. "It's person-to-person, and it's stressful."

    The JTF commander said that guards perform their duties flawlessly, even without constant direct supervision.

    "These are your kids – they're my kids," Thomas said of the guards, who average between 18 and 24 years in age. "They're your neighbors' kids, just doing their job here at Gitmo. People doing a very difficult job under extraordinary circumstances, and doing it well."



    Date Taken: 11.28.2008
    Date Posted: 12.01.2008 10:29
    Story ID: 27015

    Web Views: 221
    Downloads: 214