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SD National Guard Unit to Deploy to Guantanamo Bay for One Year

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Staff Sgt. Austin Pearce
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235th Military Police Company of the SD National Guard training at West Camp Rapid this spring.

The South Dakota National Guard is deploying to Guantanamo Bay for the first time since the detention camp opened in 2002.  

About 115 soldiers from the 235th Military Police Company will begin a one-year deployment in January 2022.  

The unit is will be helping with detention operations at the U.S. military’s camp in Cuba, according to Lt. Col. Anthony Deiss, a spokesman with the National Guard.  

“The unit is capable of detainee or internment operations, internal (and) external security for facilities,” Deiss said.  

Deiss declined to share the exact assignment, whether the soldiers will be guarding the perimeter of the base, internal areas and/or the 39 detainees who remain on the island.  

President Joe Biden is hoping to close Guantanamo Bay, which has been criticized for torture, extraordinary renditions, indefinite detentions and jailing innocent people.  

Twenty-seven detainees aren’t charged with any crime. The 12 others are charged or have been convicted in special military trials. 

Deiss said this is the military police’s fourth federal deployment since 9/11. The unit has deployed once to Fort Carson and twice to Afghanistan.  

“We’re capable, ready, prepared to perform a variety of different missions,” he said. “And we just see this as another example of the Department of Defense, U.S. Army looking for to the South Dakota National Guard to fill in these different roles and capabilities and mission sets that are needed in these different areas across the world.”  

The soldiers will train for several weeks at Fort Bliss in Texas before heading to Guantanamo.