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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

New Commander Takes Charge of Task Force Guantanamo

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, March 31, 2006 A Navy admiral assumed command today of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, the force responsible for detainee operations and intelligence gathering here.

Navy Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris assumed command from Army Maj. Gen. Jay Hood, who has commanded the task force since March 2004.

Harris, who most recently had been the director of the information, plans and security division for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael G. Mullen at the Pentagon, said he is honored to take command of a force that plays such an important role in the war on terror.

"I'm very impressed by the people that work here," Harris said in an interview yesterday. "The dedication that I've seen with the military folks and the civilians that are here - I think they're doing a great job. I think their country is lucky to have them down here, and I'm very lucky and fortunate to be asked to take charge."

The mission of Joint Task Force Guantanamo is complex and challenging, but Harris is extraordinarily qualified, Army Gen. John Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said at the change of command ceremony. The chief of naval operations personally chose Harris, Craddock said, and the members of the task force are lucky to have him.

Hood, the outgoing commander, also expressed confidence in Harris's leadership. Harris's talents, coupled with the dedication of the servicemembers and civilians of the task force, will ensure the task force's mission continues at a high standard, Hood said.

"Our mission here at the joint task force is about protecting America from terrorists," Hood said to the task force members assembled at the ceremony. "(The terrorists) have underestimated your courage, your character, and your commitment to do what's right."

Harris said his goal is to maintain focus on the mission of providing safe and humane custody to detainees and continuing to gather intelligence valuable to the war on terror. The work of the task force is heavily scrutinized, he acknowledged, but he said he welcomes the scrutiny.

"The light of day is a useful thing," he said. "I hope that the American people will be given a chance to understand just how fortunate they are that young men and women in the armed services and the civilian agencies that are down here - that they're working their butts off in support of the American people."

Joint Task Force Guantanamo is vitally important to the war on terror, Harris said. To protect national security, America's enemies captured on the battlefield need to be detained somewhere, he noted.

"What we're about here on Guantanamo, is we are about defending our nation," he said. "We're doing it here in Guantanamo, because that's where our nation has called us to serve."

Hood moves on to be a special assistant to the commander of U.S. Forces Command at Fort Meade, Md.

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