News: Joint Task Force Guantanamo changes command
Story by Sgt. Saul Rosa
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - According to the old axiom, rain at a wedding ceremony brings good luck to the couple, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay experienced a little rain at the JTF commander’s change of command ceremony.
Rear Adm. David Woods transferred command of JTF Guantanamo Bay to Rear Adm. John Smith, June 25, before a full house at the Downtown Lyceum. Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, oversaw the ceremony.
“You may say his turnover was a little bit auspicious,” said Fraser. “There was a tropical storm that was threatening the region at the time, so I wasn’t able to make that ceremony.”
Woods’ time as Commander, JTF Guantanamo showed that a little rain can be a sign of good luck as Fraser stressed the successes of his tour.
“[Woods] has taken very important steps to improve the detention operations here at Guantanamo, enhancing the safe and humane treatment of the detainees,” said Fraser. “He took an in-depth look at the procedures and made sure they were standardized across the camps. He enhanced ongoing quarterly assessments to ensure compliance with international standards, ensuring people around the world understand the standard of humane detention here at Guantanamo.”
Fraser also complimented Woods’ focus on improving troopers’ quality of life.
“He has enacted numerous improvements to the facilities, he has focused on trooper housing, and he has advocated for personnel support programs,” said Fraser.
Before Woods took command of JTF Guantanamo last year, he sought the advice from two past commanders, Vice Adm. Harry Harris and Rear Adm. Thomas Copeman. Both commanders stressed two things to Woods.
“They talked to me about how operational and tactical this mission is; how the battle update brief every morning with the Joint Detention Group commander could be a battle update brief from anywhere around the world,” said Woods. “And both of them talked about the people engaged in this mission.”
Once Woods took command of the JTF, he soon realized that although he wasn’t commanding the same troopers as Harris and Copeman, there was still that the same level of commitment and professionalism amongst his troopers.
“What I found when I got here was that it’s the same people, just different name tags,” said Woods. “They’re all great Americans doing a tough job.”
Smith also relieved Woods from command in Iraq in 2008.
“As Gen. Fraser said, he’s relieved me twice,” said Woods “When he got off the airplane on the Leeward side, he said, ‘Woody, I’m always relieving you in someplace overseas and someplace hot.’”
Being the second aviation commander to lead Guantanamo Bay, Smith is ready to command the Troopers of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
“I am extremely honored and blessed to have the opportunity to continue to serve this great nation,” said Smith. “I will work and conduct myself in a manner to ensure that I secure the trust of the American public as well as that of the international community. But more importantly, I am humbled at the opportunity to lead the great men and women of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.”
With Tropical Storm Debby bringing a little rain and maybe a little luck to another change of command, it’s in the hands of Rear Adm. Smith to make his own luck and continue the success of the mission and the safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of the detainees at JTF Guantanamo.
“Rear Adm. Woods has provided me with a well-trained, knowledgeable, and extremely professional guard force as well as staff and civilian counterparts to accomplish the three pillars of our mission set,” said Smith. “So long as each and every one of us continues to wear the uniform, even those of us that do not, and we serve our respective services, we will do our utmost best to ensure that we sustain mission excellence.”