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Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Active November 2002 - present
Country United States
Branch Joint
Part of United States Southern Command
Garrison/HQ Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Motto(s) Honor Bound to Defend Freedom[1]
Rear Admiral John W. Smith Jr.

Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) is a U.S. military joint task force based at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on the southeastern end of the island. JTF-GTMO falls under US Southern Command. Since January 2002 the command has operated the Guantanamo Bay detention camps Camp X-Ray and its successors Camp Delta, Camp V, and Camp Echo, where detained prisoners are held who have been captured in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks. The unit is currently under the command of Rear Admiral David B. Woods, who replaced Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson in August 2011. Previous commanders have included Army Major General Geoffrey D. Miller, who took command in November 2002.

History[edit | edit source]

In 1992, the United States established Operation Sea Signal to prepare for a mass migration of refugees from Haiti and Cuba.[2] In 1994, Operation Sea Signal led to the creation of Joint Task Force 160. JTF 160 was responsible for housing and processing more than 40,000 migrants awaiting repatriation or parole to the United States. Camp X-Ray was established to segregate migrants who had committed crimes, such as theft, assault and battery, prostitution and black-market activities, from other migrants and from U.S. civilians and military service members at Guantanamo. In 1996, Operation Sea Signal came to an end and the military abandoned Camp X-Ray.

In December 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the United States intervention in Afghanistan, Joint Task Force 160 was reactivated. Camp X-Ray was prepared as a temporary location for the detention of people captured in Afghanistan who were believed to be part of the Taliban or al-Qaeda, neither of which the United States recognized as legal governments. In January 2002, the first detainees were transferred to Guantanamo Bay and housed in Camp X-Ray. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had its first visit to the facility six days later. The ICRC has continued quarterly visits up to 2010.

Status of detainees[edit | edit source]

The status of these detainees is disputed. The United States government defines them as enemy combatants, claiming their status was not that of a prisoner of war as recognized under the Geneva Conventions (due to not being affiliated with any government, being alleged members of Al Qaida or groups affiliated with them).

In Rasul v Bush (2004), the Supreme Court held that the detainees had the right to counsel and to challenge their detentions at an impartial tribunal, according to habeas corpus. On June 29, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that they had the minimal protection of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in that detainees must be housed and treated humanely, and that they had the right to an impartial tribunal to hear charges against them. It said the military tribunals as established by the Dept. of Defense did not have sufficient authority, and Congress needed to authorize any system outside the established US civil and military justice systems. In Boumediene v. Bush (2008), the Supreme Court held that the detainees' right to habeas corpus could not be taken away by the Military Commission Act of 2006, which they ruled was unconstitutional. In addition, the Supreme Court held that detainees had the right to access federal courts to hear their habeas corpus challenges. Some of the cases are proceeding through the federal court system.

Intelligence task forces[edit | edit source]

In February 2002, Joint Task Force 170 was created as the intelligence task force to work side by side with Joint Task Force 160.[citation needed] In April 2002, construction of the new 410-bed Camp Delta (Camps 1, 2, 3) was completed. The detainees were moved from Camp X-Ray to Camp Delta that month. In November 2002, Joint Task Force 160 and 170 were merged to create Joint Task Force Guantanamo.[citation needed]

The Joint Detention Group is one of the components of the Task Force. It is the organization assigned to guarding the captives, and maintaining camp security.[3] The guards within the Joint Detention Group come from the United States Army, United States Navy, and other United States Armed Services.

In 2009, guards outnumbered prisoners in Guantanamo by more than five to one.

The officers commanding the Joint Detention Group have included:

Living quarters[edit | edit source]

Enlisted personnel live in pre-fabicated quarters, similar to shipping containers.[5] Each prefab unit houses four to six personnel. Each prefab unit ships with a toilet and sink, but no internal partitions. Occupants are allowed to erect curtains to make temporary partitions, for privacy. Occupants share communal showers, shared between prefab quarters.

Officers and senior non-commissioned officers typically share cottages left over from family residences that were constructed when the base had a larger permanent population.[6][7] Four occupants share a two-bedroom cottage.

According to Commander Daniel Jones, JTF-GTMO's Staff Judge Advocate,:[7]

"The chow here is probably the best I’ve had and a mainstay of each day’s activities. A "surf and turf" and special birthday meal are served at least once a month. By the end of your tour in GTMO you’ll either weigh 300 pounds or be able to bench press 300 pounds. Nevertheless, you can look forward to a farewell BBQ and presentation of the highly coveted GTMO Bar Association Certificate."

Task Force motto[edit | edit source]

"Contractors at Guatanamo Bay recently painted 'Honor Bound.' The full motto "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" was established during the command of Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who served here from late 2002 to early 2004) (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Carlos "C-LO Sancho" Sanchez)"

Joint Task Force Guantánamo's motto is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom."

Representation in culture[edit | edit source]

  • Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom is the title of a 2004 book by Victoria Brittain (a former Guardian foreign editor) and novelist Gillian Slovo (ISBN 1-84002-474-7).
  • Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom is the title of a 2004 play, based upon interviews with the families of men detained in Guantanamo Bay, by the same authors. It premiered at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2004 and transferred to Off Broadway.[8]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Carlos "C-LO" Sanchez (January 17, 2008). "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". The Wire (JTF-GTMO). pp. 15. http://www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil/wire/WirePDF/issue47v8.pdf#15. Retrieved 2008-02-10. [dead link]
  2. JTF-GTMO, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Timeline, accessed May 2010
  3. "Detainee operations". Joint Task Force Guantanamo. 2009. http://www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil/index/JTFGBrochurePg6.pdf. Retrieved 2010-01-22. 
  4. Dan Fesperman (2003-09-14). "Detainees in Cuba get appetizing incentives". Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2003/09/14/detainees_in_cuba_get_appetizing_incentives/. "Prison officials say that in the maximum-security wings there are still plenty of inmates who clam up or act up. Some throw food, toothpaste, or urine at guards, according to Colonel Adolph McQueen, the joint detention group commander." 
  5. Kathleen T. Rhem (February 25, 2005). "Guantanamo Troops Deployed in Unusual Surroundings". American Forces Press Service. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=25798. Retrieved 2008-01-25. "Living conditions vary considerably within the JTF. Enlisted servicemembers generally live in prefabricated individual buildings, which they call "houses" with a touch of cynicism. The shipping-container-like quarters each house four to six servicemembers. The troops typically divide the space as evenly as possible and then partition "rooms" by hanging blankets and shower curtains." 
  6. Kathleen T. Rhem (February 25, 2005). "Guantanamo Troops Deployed in Unusual Surroundings". American Forces Press Service. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=25798. Retrieved 2008-01-25. "Senior enlisted members and officers generally live in converted Navy family housing left over from when the base housed a larger population of permanent-party personnel. For instance, one two-bedroom apartment might be assigned to four junior officers." 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Commander Daniel Jones (Winter 2007). "IA: Life at Guantanamo Bay" (PDF). Jag Mag. http://www.jag.navy.mil/news/jag_mag/archive/2007_Winter/2007_Winter_JAGMAG.pdf. Retrieved 2008-02-15. "Housing is also an interesting topic here. Get used to a loss of privacy and the idea of having a roommate, several in fact. Just hearken back to your childhood and/or college days when you shared everything, labeled your food with your initials, and waited in line to use the bathroom." 
  8. "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". Timeline Theatre. http://www.timelinetheatre.com/guantanamo/index.htm. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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