Debate Doesn’t Affect Guantanamo Mission, Commander Says
By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2008 The ongoing debate about the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and criticism of military operations there don’t affect the troops who serve there, who know how important their mission is, the commander of the detention task force said today.
In a conference call with representatives from veterans service organizations, Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said that while discussion and debate are part of a healthy democracy, he makes sure his troops stay focused on their mission, which is to humanely care for unlawful enemy combatants.
“What I tell them when I go around and talk to them all the time is that our mission is a very dangerous one, and we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball for one second,” Buzby said. “Our mission is here; it’s real; it’s happening every single day. All the discussions and everything else, that’s part of our democratic process.”
Buzby said that he tours the detention camps at least once a week, making sure to check on every detainee and talk to every guard on duty. Troops understand that debate about Guantanamo is occurring in the United States and elsewhere, he said, but they aren’t concerned about a lack of support for their mission.
“They understand that the mission is important, and that someday Guantanamo will close,” he said. “Who knows when that’s going to be? Someday it will. But until then, they’ve got a job to do.”
Buzby praised the performance of troops at Guantanamo, emphasizing that everything they do is straightforward and transparent.
“I like to tell people that we have two things that are kind of our foundation, our bedrock down in Guantanamo: the truth and our troopers. There’s nothing to hide,” he said.
The soldiers and sailors who make up the detainee guard force do their jobs under trying conditions, often putting up with attacks from inmates ranging from verbal assaults to having “cocktails” of bodily fluids thrown at them, Buzby said. Even through these indignities, the troops maintain their composure and continue with the mission, he said.
“That level of self-control and putting up with that hostile work environment for a long period of time, without their families there, to me is unbelievable. I’m not sure whether I could do it at their age,” he said. “It’s just a continued source of immense pride that I have in just how professional they are and how wonderful a job they do.”