By Emily Russell
Joint Task Force Guantanamo
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – It's not every day a trooper receives a phone call from President George W. Bush. For Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Neil Ambrose, however, Dec. 24, was that day.
"It was an honor," said Ambrose of speaking with President Bush. "I was shocked that I was selected out of hundreds of thousands of deployed members."
"At first he called me by my name," he continued. "He said, 'Neil, this is President Bush, how are you today?'"
Ambrose replied that he was fine, and thanked President Bush for "all he's done for the Coast Guard and military members over the past eight years."
Ambrose chatted with the president, with Bush asking, "How's the weather down there?"
"It's warm," Ambrose replied. "How would you like to join us?"
The call lasted a moment longer before President Bush delivered his traditional Christmas message.
According to Ambrose, President Bush said, "On behalf of Laura and myself, I want you to pass along to other deployed members that we appreciate your service and wish you a Merry Christmas, especially to the Mighty Coast Guard."
"I specifically remember him saying, 'the mighty Coast Guard,'" Ambrose said, smiling.
The Christmas Eve phone call has become a tradition for President Bush. Each year, he calls ten service members from all branches of the armed forces around the world to thank them for their service and pass on holiday wishes.
"Ambrose was selected above his peers because he's a high performer and the right one to be chosen to receive a call from the president," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Steven H. Pope, commanding officer of Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Port Security Unit 305.
"I submitted his packet in October of this year," Pope continued. "[It] had all the information that made him competitive to be selected out of all the other Coast Guard members."
This isn't the first time Coast Guard Port Security Unit 305 has answered the call. In 2005, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Johnston was one of the lucky service members selected to speak to the president.
Pope was not the commanding officer of PSU 305 when the last presidential call to Guantanamo was received. However, he was thrilled to learn they were selected again.
"It's a high honor to receive a call from the president," said Pope. "Our unit is a tight family, and we're all very proud and very happy that Petty Officer Ambrose was selected."