GITMO Bound: 150 National Guardsmen Destined for NSGB

A sign is posted in front of the war crimes court at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Oct. 14, 2012.

Approximately 150 members of the Minnesota National Guard deployed with destination Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to provide base security in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo.

They shipped out on Sunday, according to Minneapolis ABC News affiliate KSTP.

The 34th Military Police Company will stop at Ft. Bliss, in Texas, for specialized training before making the trip GITMO.

The base has been enlarged and modernized, with its expansion nearly complete, including space for more prisoners, including senior citizens requiring geriatric care, and additional staff quarters.

The 34th received the Major General Harry H. Bandholtz Award which recognizes the top military police units in the U.S. Army. The company also responded to the civil unrest in the Twin Cities metro area at the end of May.

They will be replacing an equal-sized National Guard contingent that is returning to Wisconsin after their tour of duty at GITMO.

While former U.S. President Barack Obama wanted the installation closed but could not get Congressional support to close it, current President Donald J. Trump ordered Guantanamo Bay to remain open in 2018 and to be upgraded in 2019. 

President Trump has so far allowed only one prisoner to leave: a Saudi who was transferred to his homeland to serve out the rest of his sentence as part of a plea deal.

The jail has been contentious, but perhaps its future use will vindicate those who fought to keep it open, staffed and at the ready.

Upon opening in January 2002, under President George W. Bush, GITMO was originally designed as a makeshift place to hold and interrogate people suspected of involvement with al-Qaida and the Taliban. 

Global outrage erupted over the treatment of prisoners which led to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that anyone held there was entitled to challenge their detention in American courts, eliminating one of the main rationales for using Guantanamo in the first place.

President Bush eventually said the jail should close and release more than 500 prisoners. 

Obama followed suit and said the facility was damaging U.S. relations around the world and was a waste of money, costing more than $400 million a year to operate, and he ordered it closed shortly upon taking office.

Congress blocked closure and passed legislation that barred any of the men held there from being transferred to U.S. soil, even for criminal trials. The Obama administration still transferred 242 prisoners out of Guantanamo.

In 2018, as staffing was drastically reduced, officials at the detention center said they could take in about 40 more male detainees without any changes to staff levels and about 200 if additional guards were brought in. 

At that time, no request for additional staffing had come from the (Trump) administration, said Adm. John Ring, commander of the task force that runs the jail. Ring added that he had been asked “some hypothetical questions” about capacity back then.

“We are not imminently expecting any new guests if you will,” Ring had said at the time

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