South Dakota National Guard soldiers deploy for mission at Guantanamo detention facility
Over 100 South Dakota National Guard members are deploying to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for 10 months.
The group will provide support at the American military prison that opened two decades ago.
The Rapid City and Sioux Falls based unit will report to Fort Bliss in Texas, where the soldiers will remain until the first week of February. The unit will then depart for Cuba.
Captain Patrick Moran is the commander for the 235th Military Police Company.
“We’ll be taking care of the prisoners inside the facilities,” Moran said. “They have internal and external security. We will be the internal security, hands-on in taking care of the prisoners inside the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”
The company will return to Fort Bliss in October. Moran says the unit should be back in South Dakota by mid-November.
Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender attended the deployment ceremony. He said it’s a challenging day for military families.
“We’re torn, I think, as a community,” Allender said. “We’re proud of the National Guard. We are proud of our citizen soldiers, but to send them away for a year is a big bite. It’s hard to reconcile sometimes. I look in the eyes of family members here and they’re trying to keep a stiff upper lip. They’ve been conditioned for the last 16 months to be prepared for this day, but it’s still a tough day.”
The administration of President George W. Bush opened the Guantanamo Bay detention facility 20 years ago to hold terror suspects. The facility has been controversial ever since because of the long periods that suspects are held without trial, and because of allegations of inhumane interrogation techniques.
President Barack Obama promised to close the facility and did reduce the number of people held there, but the closure met opposition from Congress. President Trump signed an executive order to keep the facility open, and President Biden has said he intends to close it. But the facility remains open with 39 detainees.