More than 120 of Minnesota's National Guard soldiers will be headed to serve at Guantanamo Bay.
The Monticello-based 257th Military Police Company will be headed to the Cuban military facility to assist in Joint Task Force Guantanamo – an effort between military branches to conduct "safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees, including those convicted by military commission," according to its website.
It's the first time the Minnesota National Guard will be in Guantanamo Bay.
"Our unit is trained and ready to professionally carry out this very important mission," Capt. Jon Schliesing, commander of the 257th Military Police Company, said in a news release.
Before heading out, they'll get specialized training based on operating procedures at the facility. The 257th Military Police Company was in Iraq from 2004-05 and Afghanistan from 2012-13, where they were responsible for coaching, teaching and mentoring Afghan National Army members.
There's a deployment ceremony 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, at Monticello High School.
Background on Guantanamo Bay
Joint Task Force Guantanamo was created after detainees from the War on Terror arrived at the base in 2002.
Military personnel that are part of the task force manage the detention facility, and serve varying tour lengths, the American Forces Press Service says.
"The 2,200 JTF personnel live alongside the roughly 9,000 permanent-party sailors, family members, U.S. government civilians and contractors, and third-country nationals who reside and work here," according to the story.
The site itself has been mired in controversy, including claims of abuse and mistreatment. Gitmo has also persisted as a legal quagmire, The Independent explains.
Though the military has argued that's a misinformed image. In this lengthy 2006 National Guard story, soldiers explain the hard work they put in to care for the detainees there – as well as what they put up with.
"There’s the misperception that you see on television of Camp X-Ray," Rear Adm. Harry Harris Jr., JTF-GTMO commander, said in the story. "That’s the guys outside in orange jumpsuits. Camp X-Ray was only open for four months in 2002, and then it was closed, and then we moved folks into Camp Delta."
The Joint Task Force also notes more than 3,400 news media representatives have visited the site since 2002.
What's going on there now
There are now just 41 detainees at the U.S. military prison on the base, the New York Times says. Roughly 780 people have been sent there since 2002. Former President Barack Obama had whittled down that figure since taking office in 2009, from 242 detainees to the current number – that's after releasing some to Oman in the waning days of his administration, NPR reported.
He did not fulfill a campaign promise to close the prison, which houses foreign suspects in the War on Terror – many have been deemed too dangerous to let go, but there isn't enough evidence to convict them in court, The Economist explained.
New President Donald Trump has called for an end to the releases, and on the campaign trail promised to "load it up with some bad dudes," as NPR reported.
Recent figures show, of the 693 detainees released since 2002, 122 have been confirmed to have re-engaged in terrorism, Politifact said. Another 86 are suspected of having done so.