Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Gitmo and Guantanamo Bay - Why all the fuss?

Guantanamo Bay [GTMO] "GITMO"

U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay is the oldest U.S. base overseas and the only one in a Communist country.

Located on the southeast corner of Cuba, in the Oriente Province, the base is about 400 air miles from Miami, Florida. The terrain and climate of Guantanamo Bay make it a haven for iguanas and banana rats.  

In December 1903, the United States leased the 45 square miles of land and water for use as a coaling station. A treaty reaffirmed the lease in 1934 granting Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, payment of $2,000 in gold per year, equating to $4,085 today, and a requirement that both the U.S. and Cuba must mutually consent to terminate the lease.

U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba were cut on
January 3, 1961 by President Dwight Eisenhower; shortly prior to John F. Kennedy's inauguration on January 20, 1961. At that time, many Cubans sought refuge on the base.

U.S. Marines and Cuban militiamen began patrolling opposite sides of the base's 17.4 mile fenceline. Today, U.S. Marines and Cuba's "Frontier Brigade" still man fenceline posts 24 hours a day.

In October 1962, family members of service people stationed here and many base employees were evacuated to the United States as President John F. Kennedy announced the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

This was the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis which resulted in a naval quarantine of the island until the Soviet Union removed the missiles. The evacuees were allowed to return to the base by Christmas 1962.

Another crisis arose just 14 months later on Feb. 6, 1964, when Castro cut off water and supplies to the base in retaliation for several incidents in which Cuban fishermen were fined by the U.S. 'government' for fishing in Florida waters. Since then, Guantanamo Bay has been self-sufficient and the Naval Base desalination plant produces 3.4 million gallons of water and more than 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity daily.

The base is divided into two distinct areas by the 2 1/2 mile-wide Guantanamo Bay. The airfield is located on the Leeward side and the main base is on the Windward side.

Ferry service provides transportation across the bay. The primary mission of Guantanamo Bay is to serve as a strategic logistics base for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet and to support counter drug operations in the Caribbean.

In 1991, the naval base's mission expanded as some 34,000 Haitian refugees passed through Guantanamo Bay. The refugees fled Haiti after a violent coup brought on by political and social upheaval in their country. The naval base received the Navy Unit Commendation and Joint Meritorious Unit Award for its effort.

In May 1994, Operation Sea Signal began and the naval base was tasked to support Joint Task Force 160, here providing humanitarian assistance to thousands of Haitian and Cuban migrants.

In late August and early September 1994, 2,200 family members and civilian employees were evacuated from the base as the migrant population climbed to more than 45,000 and the Pentagon began preparing to house up to 60,000 migrants on the base.

The last Haitian migrants departed here Nov. 1, 1995.

The last of the Cuban migrants left the base Jan. 31, 1996.

In October 1995, family members were authorized to return, marking an end to family separations.

An immediate effort began to restore base facilities for family use, including a child development center, a youth center, two schools and Sunday school.

Additionally, the revitalization of Boy and Girl Scout Camps and the Guantanamo Bay Youth Activities (a free sports program for children) was enacted.

During the Haitian migrant operation "Operation Sea Signal" at Guantanamo Bay, a number of migrant camps were set-up at "Radio Range" the site of the Naval Base's radio antennas on the south side of the base, and the future site of the more permanent detainee facility. To identify the camps, a name was designated to each to correspond with the phonetic alphabet used for official military "radio" communication (Camp Alpha, Camp Bravo up to Camp Golf).

When additional sites were established on the north side of the base, camp names were designated using the opposite end of the alphabet, to include Camp X-Ray. Camp X-Ray is the only camp site on the northern side of the base and is currently used as a temporary detention facility.

Since Sea Signal, Guantanamo Bay has retained migrant operations mission with an ongoing steady state migrant population of approximately 40. The base has also conducted two contingency migrant operations: 

Operation Marathon in October 1996 and Present Haven in February 1997. Both of these short-fused events involved the interception of Chinese migrants being smuggled into the United States.

After 52 years of service, Guantanamo's Fleet Training Group relocated to Mayport, Florida, in July 1995. One month later, the naval base lost another major tenant command when the base's Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity disestablished after 92 years of service.

On 13 June 2003 Brown & Root Services, a division of Kellogg Brown & Root, Arlington, Va. was awarded a $12,495,601 modification to Task Order 0038 at under a cost-reimbursement, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity construction contract for various facilities, Radio Range, U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay.

The work to be performed included new facilities for traffic control checkpoints (main and secondary checkpoints), troop bed-down facility, troop dining facility and destructive weather improvements to detention facility structures. The project was to also include site work, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical work, as required for the various facilities.

Work was to be performed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was expected to be completed by June 2004. Contract funds would not expire at the end of the fiscal year. The basic contract was competitively procured with 44 proposals solicited, three offers received and award made on June 29, 2000. The total contract amount was not to exceed $300,000,000, which included the base period and four option years.

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic Division, Norfolk, Va., was the contracting activity (N62470-00-D-0005).  The Naval Base includes, as separate commands, a Naval Hospital and Branch Dental Clinic, detachments of the Personnel Support Activity, Naval Atlantic Meteorologic and Oceanographic Command, Naval Media Center, Naval Communications Station, Department of Defense Dependent Schools and a Navy Brig.

Directly supporting the base as departments of Naval Station are Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Resident Officer in Charge of Construction, Human Resources Office, Family Support and Service Center, Red Cross, Security and Navy Exchange/Commissary.

Guantanamo Bay, located on the southeast coast of the island of Cuba about 500 statute miles southeast of Miami, Florida, is approached via the Windward Passage from the north or the Caribbean Sea from the south.

Guantanamo Bay is the largest bay on the extreme south coast of Cuba, and affords anchorage for deep-draft ships. The bay is a pouch-shaped indentation about 12 miles long in a northeast-southwest direction and about 6 miles across at its greatest width.

Guantanamo Valley, a low, hilly district, extends westward from the bay along the Sierra Maestra. The deep bay is sheltered by the nearby Cuzco Hills (elevations to 495 ft) to the south and east and by mountains to the north.

Entrance into the bay, between Leeward Point and Windward Point, is made through a 1 1/4 mile-wide channel with 42 ft least dredged depth up to a point westward of Fisherman Point. From there to a point southwestward of Caravela Point, the least dredged depth is 32 ft.

The bay complex is divided into an Outer Harbor and an Inner Harbor. The Outer Harbor stretches from the entrance to the Naval Reservation Boundary about 5 miles northeastward. The channel narrows to 250 yards here at Palma Point, then widens into two separate bays whose total width is about 5 miles.  The upper half, known as Ensenada de Joa, forms the Inner Harbor in which commercial ports are located. The naval base and the main anchorage area are contained within the Outer Harbor area.

The naval complex is located on the east side of the harbor between Fisherman Point (1 3/4 miles north of Windward Point) and Granadillo Point, abut 2 3/4 miles northeastward. The area contains many coves and peninsulas and a few islands. Much of the land here is elevated well above water level. The western side of Guantanamo Bay, generally low and mangrove-covered, contains many mud flats.

The more important coves, located between Corinaso Point and Deer Point, contain the pier and wharf facilities of the naval base. The land is lower and flatter here for a few hundred yards inland.

Two airfields are located within the naval complex: McCalla Airfield, on the east side of the harbor entrance, is inactive; Leeward Point Field on the west side is an active naval air station.

Water depths vary from about 60 ft just inside the harbor entrance to approximately 30 ft in Granadillo Bay (on the east side of the Outer Harbor) and at the entrance to Eagle Channel. Many of the coves are only 25 ft deep.

The mean tide range is 1.0 ft and the spring tide range is 1.3 ft. Periodic tidal variations as great as 4-5 ft have been observed, but these probably were meteorological versus astronomical phenomena. Harbor tidal currents in Guantanamo Bay are estimated to be about .25 kt on the flood to .50 kt on the ebb.

Locally at the river mouth, stronger currents are observed periodically. Swells ranging 3-5 ft are common during the afternoons and nights, extending upbay from the harbor entrance to Fisherman Point. During an extended period of fresh southerly winds from a recent winter storm on the Gulf of Mexico (Apr 83), waves up to 10-12 ft were observed in the outer harbor.  These disrupted the lifeline ferry service from Leeward Point for two days.

At Guantanamo Bay, the Outer Harbor is used by the US Navy and the Inner Harbor serves as a commercial (Cuban) port. This evaluation deals with the facilities of the Outer Harbor only, although the climatology section is appropriate for both harbors. The Outer Harbor includes that portion of Guantanamo Bay from the entrance north to Palma Point (approximately 19° 58' 24"N).

The major naval facilities are contained within Corinaso Cove from Corinaso Point to Radio Point. There are five piers available, varying in length from 180-900 ft with depths alongside from 20 to 35 ft. Three wharves provide accommodations up to 1065 ft with depths to 38 ft. Piers and wharves range from 6 to 10 ft in height above MSL. It should be noted that dredge depths decrease along some piers (see Pier B) and also that dredge width may be minimal and maneuvering is consequently difficult. Berths and anchorages in Guantanamo Bay are assigned by the Port Services Officer.

The naval anchorage areas for deep-draft vessels are in the Outer Harbor. Pilots are available and required for ships engaged in commercial trade, but are not compulsory for ships of the US Navy. Tugs (normally two available) and other harbor services may be arranged through Port Control. Emergency harbor services are available 24 hours a day.

In early 2005, four white wind turbines began operating John Paul Jones Hill, the base's highest point, named after the Revolutionary War naval hero. The turbines, standing at 80 meters (262 feet) high, feature three-blade turbines. The four turbines were estimated to provide as much as a quarter of the base's power generation during the high-wind months of late summer and fall; an appreciable fact given that Guantanamo Bay is completely self-sustaining, generating its own power and water without having to rely on Cuban municipal sources.

In addition to generating power, the turbines have significantly cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases created through burning diesel fuel. Black clouds containing carbon dioxide can routinely be seen pouring from the diesel generators supplying power to the base's energy grid. Each turbine is anchored in a giant block of concrete, through which 22 soil anchors are drilled into the mountain to a depth of 30 to 40 feet deep. These are then sealed with grout. The automated turbines are rated to withstand winds of up to 140 miles per hour.

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