By Staff Sgt. Benjamin CosselMarch 22, 2011
Hailing from all over their island, members of the Puerto Rico National Guard came together under the standard of Company B, 1-296 Infantry to augment the 525th Military Police Battalion supporting operations at Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
"We are responsible for area security for the entire JTF," said Army Capt. Roberto Dekony, company commander.
"Bravo, 1-296 Infantry is the first line of defense for the JTF," Lt. Col. Christopher Wynder, 525th MP Battalion commander explained further. "They provide guards at access control points for the roads leading into Camp America, personnel access to camps perimeter security and area security of the surrounding areas of the Joint Task Force."
Dekony said nearly 70 percent of his Soldiers are MPs by military occupational specialty as well as members of the Puerto Rico National Guard's 240th Military Police Company.
"The mighty 240th deployed to Iraq in 2006-2007," the captain said. "When the Puerto Rico Guard submitted the unit for mobilization [to JTF Guantanamo], the 240th couldn't be mobilized due to dwell time requirements."
Looking to fill a unit to deploy, Dekony said the Puerto Rico Guard tasked Bravo Company to fill the open slot. But another problem arose during the mobilization.
"Most of the infantry Soldiers didn't have security clearances and there wasn't enough time to get them," he said. "So they took all the leadership and MP Soldiers they could from the 240th MP Company and put them under the 1-296 Infantry colors."
While the captain noted the unit's overall mission, the company's first sergeant explained the amount of effort required to bring the group together.
"The first time we were all together was during our initial mobilization training at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico," said 1st Sgt. Melvin Torres.
While at Camp Santiago, the Soldiers sharpened their MP skills learning tactics such as managing entry control points, searching vehicles and the Joint Task Force Guantanamo's rules of engagement.
"I'm very proud of all of my Soldiers - they act like they've been working together all their lives," said Dekony.
From Camp Santiago, Troopers traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas where a mock-up of the Guantanamo Bay facilities furthered the groups understanding of the environment they were about to enter.
"Everything has to be taken into consideration here," Torres said. "This is the place everyone is looking at; we certainly don't want to be responsible for an international incident."
To that end, Dekony said prior to arriving on Guantanamo Bay, he spelled out his expectations to his Troopers.
"We are going to raise the bar here," Dekony told them. "Bravo Company will set the standard by which all other National Guard units coming here will be judged against."
In addition to providing security for the JTF Guantanamo compound, Bravo Company Troopers serve as the camp's quick reaction force and provide security during the highly visible military commissions proceedings.
Both Torres and Dekony have deployed to Guantanamo Bay in the past and said the living and working situation improves more and more each time.
"Our offices used to be in old sea huts," Dekony said. "We actually have an office space this time and the living conditions for the Troopers have improved dramatically as well."
Along with the better environment, Torres said there is much more for his Troopers to do in their off-time.
"Keeping them involved and engaged when they aren't working is very important,"
Torres said explaining with Guantanamo Bay's isolation, keeping his Troopers active helps them stay out of trouble.
"We help organize 5k runs, play team sports and many of our Soldiers have taken on several volunteer projects earning hours toward their volunteer service medal," the first sergeant said.
Whether coming together to form a winning softball team or executing their mission, Dekony said the continuing hallmark of his Troopers is the high level of excellence they bring to the fight.
"Their commitment to be the best in everything continues to impress me," he said. "They are all extremely professional and there is no obstacle they can't overcome."
The company's battalion commander echoed Dekony's words.
"They understand the importance of the Profession of Arms," said Wynder. "That mind set starts with Captain Dekony and First Sergeant Torres and resonates down to the most junior Soldiers in the unit. The level of unit pride and camaraderie that is displayed daily is unmatched."