News: Welcome aboard
Story by Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Joint Task Force Guantanamo welcomed new commander, Navy Rear Adm. Thomas "Tom" Copeman III, and said goodbye to Rear Adm. Dave Thomas during a change of command ceremony, June 19, at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Glenn F. Spears, deputy combatant commander for U.S. Southern Command, spoke during the ceremony.
Thomas took command of the JTF in May 2008 and, through his leadership, helped to further the JTF mission of safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees.
During his tenure, Thomas helped to develop and implement security for military commissions, ensured the safe conduct of multiple detainee movement operations, enhanced overall detention operations, as well as support the Office of Military Commissions and improve the international image of the detention facilities. He also designed an effective strategic communications plan, personally engaging audiences, influencing opinions and dispelling myths.
Rear Adm. Thomas possesses many personal and professional strengths and qualities, gained throughout his career, which show in his quality and style of leadership.
Thomas has a family tradition of naval service. He, his father and three brothers all graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. In 1999, as commander of USS Ross, Thomas participated in the first combat mission in NATO history, conducting Tomahawk missile strikes in support of Operation Allied Force in Kosovo.
Thomas was working in the Pentagon on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the building.
When describing Thomas' trademark humility, Spears said, "Without thought for his personal well-being, he ran to the sound of the fury, he ran to the sound of his shipmates, he ran to do all he possibly could to pull survivors from the scene."
These are some of the defining events in Thomas' life which have made him the leader he is today.
"Your unwavering standards, ethical fortitude, your guts, your integrity have served you well and served all those under you well," Spears said.
Standards and values such as these and many others have been important to sustaining the professional image of the JTF. Thomas held Troopers and himself to the highest standards of excellence and professionalism in accomplishing the JTF mission.
"In the Navy, we define core values as courage, honor and commitment," Thomas said. "In my long career, I've seen people perform courageously, I've seen people serve with honor and I've seen people demonstrate commitment. But never, ever, have I seen such performance to the extent and degree that I've seen here in the last 13 months."
It is in keeping with these high standards that Thomas thanked the service members of the JTF during his speech.
"I'd like to thank the extraordinary men and women of Joint Task Force Guantanamo for providing the safe, humane, care and custody that I'm so proud to show the world," Thomas said.
Spears reiterated that appreciation for the professional mission the service members of the JTF perform each and every day.
"Let me assure you that our nation knows of your great efforts and appreciates your many sacrifices," Spears said.
Rear Adm. Copeman takes command of the JTF as it prepares to support additional military commissions and legal processes for the detainees, the continued release and repatriation of detainees who have been cleared for release and the ordered closing of the detention facility at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
Copeman left one island for another in coming to Cuba from his previous assignment in Hawaii as deputy chief of staff for operations and training for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Copeman has 27 years of service in the Navy and deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom as the commander of Destroyer Squadron 28 in the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.
"Today, I relinquish command to Rear Adm. Tom Copeman, a professional and personal friend of long standing," said Thomas. "He's a tremendous leader and you will be extraordinarily well-served."