GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Behavioral Science Consultation Team assists newcomers through realistic scenarios, ensuring strength through the ranks of the guards at Guantanamo Bay's detention facilities.
Loud bangs upon metallic gates, mumbled whispers and shouting echoed through a long walkway containing old detention cells.
“I need more water!” shouts one disdainful voice. “Do you see how hot it is, c’mon, more water?”
Another voice, this one laced with sarcasm, chimes in.
“Oh, you’re new! You’re new here!”
Guards donning a splash-resistant face shield paced up and down the hallway, ignoring the yelling as they peered into the cells. Each cell, painted sea foam green with a black stripe and a heavy gate, contained a metal block representing a bed, a water fountain and grounded toilet. One guard stops at a cell to check on its inhabitant and is suddenly caught off guard by a splash to the face, forcing him to leave the environment as other cell inhabitants cackle with laughter.
Thankfully for the guard, the questionable liquid he was splashed with was only water, and the cell inhabitants, only fellow Soldiers playing the role of disgruntled detainees. However, the situation is all too real for detention facility guards stationed at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The particular guards in this scenario went through a training exercise in preparation for their upcoming duties where they will be faced with many challenges.
The realistic training was facilitated by the Behavioral Science Consultation Team, a group that works with incoming Troopers who will have daily interactions with detainees held at the facilities. The new-to-the-island Guardsmen started with an extensive and informative slideshow detailing detainee interactions, and what to expect from their jobs. They learned how little actions could speak louder than words, and were reminded to incorporate their basic Army values when interacting with the detainees in the facilities. The later portion of the training put them in a true-to-life situation and prepared them for what they may face.
“There are a bunch of components we use as the BSCT,” said Army Sgt. Christopher Egan, the BSCT noncommissioned officer in charge. “We show them how to look at themselves, their values, how they interact with other individuals. Having good interpersonal communications skills can make your job a lot easier.
“This training was to give the new guards a taste of what it will be like and I think what they get the most out of is getting the experience in a safer environment,” Egan, a Fort Bragg, N.C., native, continued. “If they get confused or do not understand what is going on, it’s easier for them to react here.”
For Army 2nd Lt. Thelma Teal, the area officer in charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 525th Military Police Battalion, the training helped her grow as a leader by showing her how quickly situations requiring her involvement can arise.
“I have to be ready and I have to know the Standard Operating Procedures,” Teal, a Woodland, Texas, native, said. “SOPs are very important here especially because there’s certain ways to react to detainees. I have to know what actions to take once these incidents occur, and make sure that I choose decisions wisely and that I make them in a timely manner before any other issues arise.”
The purpose of the SOPs is to provide a safe and humane standard for these military policemen to follow when interacting with detainees. The SOPs also include standards for the guards to protect themselves from any harm. For Teal, safety is of upmost importance for her team members and the detainees.
“There are always procedures we can take to make it easier for them,” she said. “In the end we just have to follow them because it’s going to protect the soldiers from anything the detainees try to do.”
For Army Staff Sgt. Michael Chesney, the most unforgettable part of the training for him was getting splashed. He said that after taking his eyes off the cell inhabitant for one second and getting splashed took him off guard but was a beneficial part of the learning process.
“It’s good to have that type of experience on knowing how you’re going to take it and how you’re going to respond to it,” said Chesney, military police with 189th Military Police Company and a San Bernardino, Calif., native. “This put a realistic spin on what could possibly happen.”