Archive for Sunday, May 4, 2008

A day in the life of a Guantanamo guard

May 4, 2008


— Their average age is 23. Most are on their first military assignment. They wake up at 0430, clean up, throw on a fresh uniform and are standing in formation at 0500. They silently file on to a bus that takes them to the camps. They get off the bus and again stand in formation as the First Sergeant barks out the orders for the day.

They move into the camps and do the requisite shift change duties. They take their posts at 0600. They then "walk the blocks," placing their eyes on their assigned detainees every three minutes for 12 hours. They walk eight to 11 miles during their shift.

At 1800 they get back on the bus, go back to their rooms and change into their exercise clothes. After a short formation, they do at least one hour of PT (physical training). They then clean up, grab a quick dinner, and fall into bed.

And so it goes, four days on, two days off.

While that may be the schedule, it does not tell the full story of a guard's day at Guantanamo Bay. To do that requires an understanding of something called the Battle Update Brief, better known as the BUB. The reason the word battle is used is because the detainees see the camps as an extension of the battlefield.

So do the guards.

The BUB is a daily briefing. It takes place in a room that is way too small, with no windows, and occasionally smells bad. There is a u-shaped table where the staff sits along the sides. At the end of the table sit the Joint Task Force Commander and Deputy Commander along with the Camp Commander and the Command Sergeant Major. One by one the cell block Navy Chiefs and Army Sergeants stand up and give a very clinical re-cap of the previous 24 hours. The detainees are referred to by number and their picture flashes on a screen as they are referenced.

What follows is a typical morning report at the BUB. Real names and real detainee numbers are not used. The term "rec" is short for recreation.

"Good morning sir, Chief Simmons Camp 6. We have 112 assigned, 112 present. Last night detainee 765 requested onions and parsley on his salad and requested to see the camp commander regarding his request. 844 wants a better detainee newsletter and 632 has requested a Bowflex machine because he says he is not getting enough of an upper body work out.

"We had 3 significant activities last night: 601 balled up feces and threw it at the guard hitting him in the chest saying next time he would hit him in the mouth. Next, as 155 was being taken to rec, he bit a guard on the arm until it bled. Detainee was not allowed rec and had comfort items removed. When asked why he did it, 155 just laughed. The guard was sent to medical where he is being evaluated. Finally, 767 yelled at female guard saying, 'I am going to rape you. I am going to rape you. And when I get out of here I am going to kill you and your family.' Sir, barring any questions, that concludes my report."

Many may believe the above BUB report is exaggerated or hyperbole. It is not. It could have just as easily been a detainee demanding a lighter gray shirt because the dark gray shirt "hurts his gall bladder." Or a detainee smearing feces on the walls of his cell. The guards refer to these detainees as "painters" or "poo-cassos."

What occurs daily inside the wire is a bizarre mixture of the dangerous, the disgusting, and the absurd. And, despite urban legends and misperceptions, any mistreatment or abuse that goes on inside the camps is that of detainee-on-guard, not the reverse.

Here is the aftermath of the BUB.

Detainee 632 did not get his Bowflex machine. The guard who was bitten is fine. We are working on the parsley and onions request, but not too hard. The feces battles never end. In fact, the latest detainee tactic is to grow their fingernails long, put feces underneath the nails and then try to scratch a guard's face.

Meanwhile, I happen to know the female guard who was verbally abused. Coincidentally we both went to Valley High in Albuquerque, N.M., albeit about 30 years apart. Still, we are both Vikings.

After the briefing, I saw this young soldier and said, "Hey Viking, I heard you had quite a night last night : are you OK?" She said, "Yes sir, I'm fine."

I looked at her with some skepticism to see if what she was saying were true. What I saw in her eyes surprised me, but shouldn't have. She really was fine. That detainee's comments did not bother her in the least.

She is more than he will ever be and she is not alone. Rest assured if the guards at GTMO are any indication, the generation that is now coming of age will do its duty; they will defend our nation with courage, honor, and integrity. So don't elevate the detainees to sainthood and don't talk to me about unprofessional behavior, mistreatment or abuse at GTMO, because, frankly, I am more than a little sick of it.

- Brig. Gen. Gregory Zanetti is deputy commander of the Joint Task Force-GTMO.


Jean1183 10 years, 1 month ago

Of course they are all upstanding members of reason for them to be there at all. The right to a speedy trial is due citizens and legal foreign visitors; NOT war criminals. We are such a bad country. No one should even try to come here.

repaste 10 years, 1 month ago

"only abuse is detainee on guard" Absurd - caged in a chainlink dog pen with no finding of guilt or hope of ever leaving, most may be guilty of something, but how about some trails. America was founded to protect us from secret prisons.

Speakout 10 years, 1 month ago

Well, Jean1183, How do you know if they are war criminals or not since they haven't had due process of law? We saw them at the scene of the crime and they look guilty, but are they? Only a trial with a judge and sometimes a jury can assess guilt, not the military police or any police. If you know anything about police, they think everyone is guilty. Same case here. Some of these guys were in their own country and we invaded them and some of them were in the USA Legally. Lets sort them out with a system and close that place.

Speakout 10 years, 1 month ago

Although it was back in the late 60's, my tour of duty as a soldier, not a prison guard, was very similar. We had briefings and problems with many things. I can't seem to get why this commander thinks this is bizarre duty. The military is like this and it is good that they are. Of course when these prisoners in GITMO get the right to have a hearing, we may find that some of them are not guilty of a crime at all. Without "due process" how can we know and why would we detain a prisoner for years without knowing? Where is the fiscal responsibility there, not to mention the deprivation of his right to a speedy trial.

repaste 10 years, 1 month ago

shooting back = war criminal crazy land

Navymom 10 years, 1 month ago

My son is at GETMO right now, What Gen. Zanetti says here is true. All ya'll bleeding hearts need to go over and get "painted" or pissed on, maybe have your family threatened. Some of these "detainees" are living and eating better now than they were before. How can we give them a trial when none of them tell the truth and if they were so proud of what they were doing, and so willing to die for their god and be set free for his glory, why don't they just stand up, tell the "gods" only truth and get this ball rolling? If they are so brave then the guilty one's should admit what they are, and the rest can go home. I would love to have my son home, but someone has to protect YOUR RIGHT to talk crap about America!

Brent Garner 10 years, 1 month ago

I am amazed at the ignorance of so many as regards to both history, particularly that of past wars, and as to the Laws of War. As I have stated here before, for a "combatant" to enjoy the full protections of the Laws of War they must operate as a cohesive unit, wear some kind of distinctive garb so that they are distinguishable from noncombatants, and they must represent a legal state, although there is also some provision for those engaged in civil war. It is highly doubtful that any of those held at GITMO meet any of the above qualifications. In fact, if these individuals had engaged in these actions during say WW2, they would have been executed almost immediately. They are being treated far better than any requirement can level. Further, there is no requirement in the Laws of War to "charge" an individual with a crime. Those who engage in combat can be held for as long as the conflict lasts. There were numerous prisoners of European militaries, i.e., Holland, Belgium, France, etc., held by the Germans from 1940 until the war ended in 1945. Had the Germans not been defeated in 1945, those individuals could have still been held until that conflict was resolved.

Brent Garner 10 years, 1 month ago

I would also further note that during my training while I was a member of the US Armed Forces we were told that should we be captured we were bound by certain rules. One of those rules, which I am sure that many will find odd, is that attacking a guard at any facility we were being held at or during any transport would remove any protections that the Laws of War afforded us and we could be tried in any court or criminal proceeding that the detaining power wished to convene. Therefore, even if we afford those held at GITMO the status of POW, which they are not entitled to as they have not complied with the provisions of the Laws of War concerning combatants, then they have still violated the Laws of War by throwing feces, urine, and other objects at the guards, and by verbally threatening them. Additionally, you may find of interest, if a "combatant" is paroled (released) that individual, under the Laws of War, is not supposed to again engage in combat against the authority that had detained him/her and released him/her. Thus, in WW2, any parolees from Europe, and there were a few, were not returned to combat in Europe, but were transferred to the Pacific theater. This also often was applied to any POWs who managed to escape and return to Allied control. There have been individuals who have been released from GITMO who have subsequently again been detained on the battlefield operating against US forces. These individuals have lost any and all protections afforded by the Laws of War.

Jean1183 10 years, 1 month ago

If it looks like a skunk, smells like a skunk, then it must be a ??????Navymom, tell your son "Thanks". Not all of us in Lawrence are bleeding heart liberals.

sandio 10 years, 1 month ago

My son is currently a guard with the JTF, 189th MP Company. he has been assaulted, had vile things thrown at him, hears stories from these detained about how many people they've killed with pride and has nightmares about them coming to kill his family. he is 19 and all i want is for him to come home. think of all that liberal crap while you're sitting in your easy chair at home with your kids within calling distance while other people's sons and daughters are helping to preserve your liberty, following the orders that are given them each day and trying to preserve their sanity.

MarkInIrvine 9 years, 10 months ago

The people detained in Gitmo should be tried. If the US can prove their guilt, so much the better: try them and punish them if guilty. If the US CAN'T prove their guilt, let them go. Bin Laden's driver was recently convicted of ... being his driver. I'll bet that the conviction is overturned, because driving a car is not a crime as far as I know. I agree with one commenter above that "... the servicemen are doing an outstanding job, [but that] it's just one that if we [knew what we are doing there, they] wouldn't have to ... [do]."The administration has got us all scared and cowering that the detainees are terrorists, but the administration either refuses to take any of them to trial or is unable to convict them of any crime. This country was founded on the idea of due process, justice for all and freedom from governmental tyranny. We're being put to the ultimate test in the GWOT, and IMHO seem to be failing, because the system handling the detainees is really not much better (in its aim and effect) than what Saddam Hussein had in his own political prisons.

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