Guards Leave Personal Feelings Outside the Gate at Camp Delta
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, June 26, 2002 When Army Staff Sgt. Ted R. Rogers walks through the gate at Camp Delta here, he doesn't dwell on the fact that some of the captured enemy combatants would kill him if they got a chance.
However, Rogers said, "I don't dwell on that fact and don't allow myself or the people that work for me on the block to become complacent to give the detainees an opportunity to pose a threat to us."
He said he tries to keep his feelings out of it when he's dealing with the detainees. "When I walk through the gate to go to work every day, my mission is to take care of these individuals," said Rogers of the National Guard's 114th Military Police Company from Clinton, Miss. "I respect their culture, their religion and I don't let politics enter my mind. They're human beings and our mission is to provide for their needs."
A probation parole officer for the state of Mississippi and part-time Clinton police officer, Rogers said, "My responsibility is to care for the detainees and make them as comfortable as possible. We provide for their personal hygiene needs, medical care and feed them. I also do any other things I can within the guidelines to make their stay with us more comfortable, such as providing them reading material in their native language."
Calling the medical care for detainees superb, Rogers said, "If they have an acute emergency, they can go to the hospital. If they have a headache, stomachache -- the same things that ail you and I periodically -- a medic will come to the unit to take care of them."
For safety and security reasons, detainees are not fed on metal trays or given eating utensils made of material that can be used as weapons, the sergeant noted. "Everything we give them is accounted for," Rogers said. "They're fed on (plastic) plates with plastic knives, folks and spoons. We don't want to give them anything that could potentially become a weapon. And we're very aware of what goes in the housing areas and make sure that what goes in, comes out. The standard operating procedures dictate what they're allowed to have in their housing areas."
Each 8-foot by 6-foot, 8-inch unit is outfitted with a floor-style flushable toilet, a metal bed frame and a sink with running water.
"They can brush their teeth, take showers and we afford them privacy to do what they need to do in their housing units," Rogers said. "We usually take them out to take showers after their recreation because they sweat during their exercise."
Noting that he has five years' experience, Rogers said handling the detainees is not unlike any other prison he have worked in. "Here, we take care of the detainees, there they're called inmates," he said. "Working here is exactly the same as working in a prison in the states. We're in an outdoor environment, that's unique, but just like in the civilian world, there are language barriers. In American prisons, we need interpreters for the Hispanic and Asian populations just like we need them here. But it's on a larger scale here."
Some detainees use sign language to communicate their needs, and Rogers said there are always several detainees on a block that help guards figure out what other detainees are trying to convey. "But the translators are always at our disposal and they do an outstanding job," said Rogers, who has been an MP for five years. He spent 14 years on active duty in the Navy.
Sgt. Elder D. Williams said, "You can't take your feelings into that camp, if you do, you're going to wind up possibly getting hurt or not taking care of the detainees as you should. We all have our personal feelings, but the mission comes first. Whatever it takes to get through the day to take care of the detainees, that's what you've got to do."
A swimming pool builder in and around Bentonia, Miss., Williams said when he was told he was coming to Guantanamo Bay to guard detainees, "I was proud to be able to serve my country and represent my state. A mission is a mission, it doesn't matter what you're doing. Our job as soldiers is to follow orders and drive on and take care of business."
Williams said he doesn't have any fear of caring for the detainees. "I feel comfortable in doing my job," said Williams, who has been an MP for 10 years. "I'm doing what I was trained to do and I don't have any fear whatsoever."