Joint Task Force Guantanamo

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Joint Task Force Guantanamo
Joint Task Force Guantanamo logo.png
ActiveNovember 2002 – present
Country United States of America
Part ofUnited States Southern Command
Garrison/HQGuantanamo Bay Naval Base
Motto(s)Honor Bound to Defend Freedom[1]
Brigadier General Lance A. Okamura

Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) is a U.S. military joint task force based at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on the southeastern end of the base. JTF-GTMO falls under US Southern Command. Since January 2002 the command has operated the Guantanamo Bay detention camps Camp X-Ray and its successors Camp Delta, Camp V, and Camp Echo, where detained prisoners are held who have been captured in the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere since the September 11, 2001 attacks. From the command's founding in 2002 to early 2022, the detainee population has been reduced from 779 to 37.[2] As of June 2021, the unit is under the command of U.S. Army Brigadier General Lance A. Okamura.[3]


In 1992, the United States established Operation Sea Signal to prepare for a mass migration of refugees from Haiti and Cuba.[4] In 1994, Operation Sea Signal led to the creation of Joint Task Force 160. JTF 160 was responsible for housing and processing more than 40,000 migrants awaiting repatriation or parole to the United States. Camp X-Ray was established to segregate migrants who had committed crimes, such as theft, assault and battery, prostitution and black-market activities, from other migrants and from U.S. civilians and military personnel at Guantanamo. In 1996, Operation Sea Signal came to an end and the military abandoned Camp X-Ray.

In December 2001, after the September 11 terrorist attacks and the United States intervention in Afghanistan, Joint Task Force 160 was reactivated. Camp X-Ray was prepared as a temporary location for the detention of people captured in Afghanistan who were believed to be part of the Taliban or al-Qaeda, neither of which the United States recognized as legal governments. In January 2002, the first detainees were transferred to Guantanamo Bay and housed in Camp X-Ray. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had its first visit to the facility six days later. The ICRC has continued quarterly visits up to 2010.

Detention facilities[edit]

In April 2002, construction of the new 410-bed Camp Delta (Camps 1, 2, 3) was completed. The detainees were moved from Camp X-Ray to Camp Delta that month. In November 2002, Joint Task Force 160 and 170 were merged to create Joint Task Force Guantanamo.[citation needed]

By 2007 original Camp Delta compound was supplemented by Camps 4, 5 and 6.

Camp 4, opened in February 2003, featured communal style living areas, similar to a military barracks, and was used to house "compliant" detainees.[5]

Camp 5, opened in May 2004, had segregated housing units (i.e. solitary cells) for detainees who are uncompliant or who pose a threat to other detainees or Joint Task Force staff members. Camp 5 was closed in 2016 when the total detainee population was reduced to 61.[6]

Camp 6, opened in November 2006, is patterned after a medium security prison with "pods" housing 10 to 20 detainees with individual cells but sharing a common living area. Camp 6 houses the "general population".

As of late 2016, almost all detainees were housed in Camp 6.

Status of detainees[edit]

The status of these detainees is disputed. The United States government defines them as enemy combatants, claiming their status was not that of a prisoner of war as recognized under the Geneva Conventions (due to not being affiliated with any government, being alleged members of Al Qaida or groups affiliated with them).

In Rasul v Bush (2004), the Supreme Court held that the detainees had the right to counsel and to challenge their detentions at an impartial tribunal, according to habeas corpus. On June 29, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that they had the minimal protection of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in that detainees must be housed and treated humanely, and that they had the right to an impartial tribunal to hear charges against them. It said the military tribunals as established by the Dept. of Defense did not have sufficient authority, and Congress needed to authorize any system outside the established US civil and military justice systems. In Boumediene v. Bush (2008), the Supreme Court held that the detainees' right to habeas corpus could not be taken away by the Military Commission Act of 2006, which they ruled was unconstitutional. In addition, the Supreme Court held that detainees had the right to access federal courts to hear their habeas corpus challenges. Some of the cases are proceeding through the federal court system.

Intelligence task forces[edit]

In February 2002, Joint Task Force 170 was created as the intelligence task force to work side by side with Joint Task Force 160.[citation needed] At a later date, JTF 170 was re-designated as the Joint Intelligence Group and was assigned as a subordinate element of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. The other subordinate elements of JTF GTMO are the Joint Detention Group and the Joint Medical Group.

Joint Detention Group[edit]

The Joint Detention Group is one of the components of the Task Force. It is the organization assigned to guarding the captives, and maintaining camp security.[7] The guards within the Joint Detention Group come from the United States Army and the United States Navy.

In 2009, guards outnumbered prisoners in Guantanamo by more than five to one. With the acceleration of detainee releases from 2009 to the early 2010s, this ration increased greatly.

The officers commanding the Joint Detention Group, also known as the warden, have included:

Living quarters[edit]

Enlisted personnel live in pre-fabricated quarters, similar to shipping containers.[11] Each prefab unit houses four to six personnel. Each prefab unit ships with a toilet and sink, but no internal partitions. Occupants are allowed to erect curtains to make temporary partitions, for privacy. Occupants share communal showers, shared between prefab quarters.

Officers and senior non-commissioned officers typically share cottages left over from family residences that were constructed when the base had a larger permanent population.[12][13] Four occupants share a two-bedroom cottage.

According to Commander Daniel Jones, JTF-GTMO's Staff Judge Advocate:[13]

The chow here is probably the best I've had and a mainstay of each day's activities. A "surf and turf" and special birthday meal are served at least once a month. By the end of your tour in GTMO you'll either weigh 300 pounds or be able to bench press 300 pounds. Nevertheless, you can look forward to a farewell BBQ and presentation of the highly coveted GTMO Bar Association Certificate.

Commanding officers[edit]

The past commanders of JTF-GTMO:[14]

Task Force motto[edit]

The wall has been painted with part of the motto "Honor Bound."

Joint Task Force Guantánamo's motto is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" and it was established during the command of Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.

Representation in culture[edit]

  • Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom is the title of a 2004 book by Victoria Brittain (a former Guardian foreign editor) and novelist Gillian Slovo (ISBN 1-84002-474-7).
  • Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom is the title of a 2004 play, based upon interviews with the families of men detained in Guantanamo Bay, by the same authors. It premiered at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2004 and transferred to Off Broadway.[20]
  • Good Morning Gitmo is a one-act comedy written by Mishu Hilmy and Eric Simon in 2014. The play takes place decades into the future where the guards and staff have been forgotten at Camp Delta. It was originally produced by The Annoyance Theater in Chicago, Illinois.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carlos Sanchez (January 17, 2008). "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom" (PDF). The Wire (JTF-GTMO). p. 15. Retrieved 2008-02-10.[dead link]
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Carol (January 19, 2017). "Obama to leave with 41 captives still at Guantánamo, blames politics". Miami Herald. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  3. ^ "New Commander Takes Helm of Joint Task Force Guantanamo". Retrieved 2022-03-19.
  4. ^ JTF-GTMO, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Timeline Archived 2010-03-08 at the Wayback Machine, accessed May 2010
  5. ^ "Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo: II. The Range of Prison Facilities at Guantanamo".
  6. ^ "Guantánamo downsizes by closing one prison, cutting 400 troops". Miami Herald.
  7. ^ "Detainee operations" (PDF). Joint Task Force Guantanamo. 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  8. ^ Dan Fesperman (2003-09-14). "Detainees in Cuba get appetizing incentives". Boston Globe.
  9. ^ Lewis Hilburn (2012-06-02). "Warrior Six Signing Off". JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 2016-04-17.
  10. ^ Joint Detention Group Change of Command[permanent dead link] JTF GTMO Public Affairs. July 1, 2016
  11. ^ Kathleen T. Rhem (February 25, 2005). "Guantanamo Troops Deployed in Unusual Surroundings". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 2008-01-25. Living conditions vary considerably within the JTF. Enlisted service members generally live in prefabricated individual buildings, which they call "houses" with a touch of cynicism. The shipping-container-like quarters each house four to six servicemembers. The troops typically divide the space as evenly as possible and then partition "rooms" by hanging blankets and shower curtains.
  12. ^ Kathleen T. Rhem (February 25, 2005). "Guantanamo Troops Deployed in Unusual Surroundings". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 2008-01-25. Senior enlisted members and officers generally live in converted Navy family housing left over from when the base housed a larger population of permanent-party personnel. For instance, one two-bedroom apartment might be assigned to four junior officers.
  13. ^ a b Commander (Winter 2007). "IA: Life at Guantanamo Bay" (PDF). Jag Mag. Retrieved 2008-02-15. Housing is also an interesting topic here. Get used to a loss of privacy and the idea of having a roommate, several in fact. Just hearken back to your childhood and/or college days when you shared everything, labeled your food with your initials, and waited in line to use the bathroom.
  14. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2016-11-17). "Navy sending new commander to run President Trump's Guantánamo prison". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  15. ^ SOUTHCOM Public Affairs (April 29, 2019). "News Release: JTF-GTMO commanding officer relieved of duty". U.S. Southern Command. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  16. ^ JTF GTMO Public Affairs (April 17, 2018). "Joint Task Force Guantanamo Change of Command Ceremony". Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  17. ^ JTF GTMO Public Affairs (April 7, 2017). "Joint Task Force Guantanamo Welcomes New Commander". Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Archived from the original on January 29, 2018. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  18. ^ Joint Task Force Guantanamo Archived 2016-04-08 at the Wayback Machine Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs, Retrieved April 4, 2016
  19. ^ Buzby Assumes Command of JTF-Guantanamo Archived 2017-01-17 at the Wayback Machine US Navy
  20. ^ "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom". TimeLine Theatre Company. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  21. ^ Hayford, Justin, Review: Good Morning Gitmo. Chicago Reader. Retrieved on November 24, 2014.

External links[edit]

Media related to Joint Task Force Guantanamo at Wikimedia Commons