Alaska Army National Guard Troops based in Wasilla are preparing for a deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to work at the controversial detention facility often referred to as "Gitmo" that still houses 166 prisoners. It will be the first time an Alaska-based unit will be deployed to the camp.
According to a press release from the state's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, soldiers from the Alaska Army National Guard's 297th Military Police Company will make the trip in the fall. Maj. Bryan Perez of the 761st Military Police Battalion said that the troops will be deployed to Cuba for nine months.
In preparation for their departure, the troops turned their Wasilla armory into a makeshift prison camp earlier this month. Checkpoint security, combat patrols, outpost set-up and methods to remove detainees from their cells were all practiced, according to guard officials.
"Down in Guantanamo, soldiers are going to be expected to be detail oriented," Sgt. First Class Derrick Green, a military policeman with the unit, said in the release. "There are going to be a lot of eyes on us, so we have to enforce those standards here."
Guantanamo has been back in the news this month as a mass hunger strike by most camp prisoners drags into its second month. According to the latest numbers from the Department of Defense, 100 Gitmo prisoners are refusing to eat, with almost two dozen of those detainees force-fed each day through a tube in their throats.
Perez said that the Alaska-based troops will not initially have direct contact with the detainees.
Contact Sean Doogan at sean(at)alaskadispatch.com