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South Carolina Army National Guard deploys to Guantanamo

By Ismael Ortega December 16, 2016

FORT BLISS, Texas -- Soldiers assigned to the 131st Military Police Company, South Carolina Army National Guard, deployed to Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, from the Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group here Nov. 29, to conduct detainee operations. This will be the first time the unit has supported a mission such as this, but after completing training with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security the Soldiers feel prepared.

"Prior to us coming here we had a lot of the standard Army Warrior tasks, battle drills and when we arrived on the ground we focused more on the operational and non-lethal training which (the Soldiers have) done in the past but really honed their skills here," said 1st Lt. Katherine Weatherly, commander, 131st MP Co. "We also worked with really for the first time, knowledgeable (internment/resettlement specialist) instructors that taught detainee operations."

The 131st MP Co. was assembled by servicemen and servicewomen who volunteered from sister companies and other units within the Palmetto State to go on this deployment.

"We've been lucky with our state to be able to pull from other units and not hurt (their deployment cycle) to have this 100 percent volunteer mission," Weatherly said. "I'm very proud of everybody and I wouldn't trade them for anyone else. We are ready to go and mission ready."

More than half the unit is deploying for the first time and many hope to better themselves by gaining valuable leadership skills. Soldiers such as Evans and Sgt. Austin Rogers, team leader, use what they learn in their military career such as managing personnel and interacting with different personalities in the civilian sector.

"In the military you have to learn to be patient. You deal with a lot of different people that you probably wouldn't on a regular basis so that definitely helps a lot in the real world," said Evans.

Others will use their time at the naval base to attend the Basic Leadership course to prepare for higher rank or take advantage of the Morale, Welfare and Recreational opportunities. Overall the unit's goal is to have a 100 percent pass rate on the Army Physical Fitness test and have all Soldiers complete their structured self-development.

Mentorship has also helped prepare the unit members. Rogers credits his promotion to a noncommissioned officer to his squad leaders' and platoon sergeant. Evans sees Staff Sgt. Alycia Bradshaw as an example to follow.

"(Bradshaw) is the top female noncommissioned officer and definitely handles her business," said Evans. "She's good at (physical training) and very knowledgeable … I want to move up in rank and be like her."

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