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Joint Team Builds up Base in Cuba

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080710-15
Release Date: 7/10/2008 9:47:00 PM

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nat Moger, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- There are more than 2,000 Joint Task Force (JTF)Guantanamo troopers.

This means there are 2,000 beds. Nearly as many refrigerators. Hopefully as many bathrooms. And, it being the 21st century, thousands of Internet connections.

However, no one sleeps, drinks a cold soda, takes a shower or checks their e-mail without a roof over their head, electricity flowing through sockets, water passing through pipes or bytes of information flashing in and out of copper wiring.

The construction and maintenance of the physical structure that allows the joint task force to exist comes from the cooperation between the JTF engineers and U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay's Department of Public Works (DPW).

"JTF engineers support the JTF in the areas of detainee ops, intelligence gathering, the operations of the Office of Military Commissions and migrant ops," said Navy Capt. Greg Rismiller, JTF's engineer. "All of the work getting done gets contracted out by the DPW. It helps that we're in the same building."

Despite the fact that DPW is part of the naval station and not the JTF, they are the mechanism through which a project progresses from inception to execution.

"I've only got a small construction force of six to eight Seabees at any given time to swing hammers, so we rely on contracts," said Navy Cmdr. Jeff Johnston, public works officer. "We look at what needs to get done and decide what type of contract needs to be drawn up: planning, service, design, construction."

Prospective construction ideas that begin in the JTF make their way through a number of construction professionals before turning into brick and mortar to ensure that the highest level of quality is being maintained.

"Say the Joint Detention Group has an idea," said Rismiller. "They come to us with a request. We write up the work request and it goes to me.

"We'll build a project package and come up with an initial take on what type of contract we want to use. Then we'll send it back to JTF with an estimate."

At that point, Rismiller's team finds money for the project.

"We send it back to DPW with money attached," said Rismiller.

Johnston's Seabees then typically contract the project out to companies.

"After that, we monitor the quality, safety and schedule and provide updates to JTF," said Johnston. "If things change, then we have to juggle."

This juggling act requires managerial dexterity uncommon in some professional arenas. Even with all the different service and construction entities on the island, there are still limitations.

"At any given time we've only got 'X' number of hammer swingers," said Johnston. "Each day, decisions will be made as to which projects will move forward and which won't. We have to understand what each project means to the overall mission."

It falls back upon JTF engineers to make some of these qualifying decisions. Not a soul in either office pretends that the JTF operates in a political vacuum. Times change, personnel change and so do mission goals.

"Because people in the JTF rotate through so often, there's always someone who wants to change projects," said Rismiller. "I have to make sure these changes happen for a legitimate reason."

Communication has been the key to making so many different moving parts operate on a small naval station with big plans for the future.

"In the last two years, the naval station and JTF have rewritten their master plans. The plans were developed separately, but coordinated," said Johnston. "These two plans fit together in a seamless, fenceline-to-fenceline picture."

Recent and future developments resulting from the master plans include the new Cuzco phase III trailers, a sewage treatment plant on Leeward and the Bay Hill living area for senior enlisted JTF troopers.

"About 15 to 20 million dollars a year comes from the JTF," said Johnston. "That's about half of the whole naval station construction budget."

DPW has a concrete reason to make sure the quality of JTF structures is of the highest degree – one day everything will belong to the naval station. This encourages different organizations to chip in to build structures that benefit everyone.

"Take the new terminal annex," said Johnston of the new rotator check-in station across from the Navy Exchange. "Naval station paid for some; JTF paid for some, and Air Mobility Command paid for some. When the opportunity exists to help each other out, we take it."

For more news from Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit

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