Air Force Senior Master Sgt.
474th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron
The year was 1775, and America was at war with
Great Britain. It was June 14 and more than 2,000 British
Soldiers were in Boston, marching toward Bunker Hill.
With the men off to war and their families left at home to
defend themselves and look after the farm, the sacrifices
made were enormous. Crops destroyed, homes burned, and
family members killed these were some of the hardships
endured by military families.
August 1914 to November 1918 was the time of the
First World War. During this time 65 million men were
mobilized, more than 10 million were killed, and over 20
During World War II September 1939 to September
1945 -100 million people were mobilized. Approximately
70 million people the majority of them civilians were
killed, making it the deadliest conflict in history.
The Korean War, 1950 to 1953, gave the United
States more than 54,000 casualties, 103,000 wounded,
and 8,196 missing in action. Total enemy casualties
exceeded 1.5 million. Even now nobody really knows
the number of civilian causalities.
The Vietnam War, or conflict, lasted from 1959
to April 1975. Fatalities included between 3 and 4
million Vietnamese from both sides, 1.5 to 2 million
Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 United States
As you can see with all of the casualties and
sacrifices made from past wars, millions of families
have endured great suffering. Grandparents lost
grandchildren, fathers and mothers lost sons and
daughters, husbands and wives lost their spouses,
children lost their parents. There is no greater
sacrifice than Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Marines
giving their lives for their country, but parents should
never have to bury their own children, no children
should have to grow up not knowing their father or
mother, and no spouse should be left alone to raise the
family they began together.
However, we know too often this does occur. Being
military personnel and a part of the military family, we
should all be aware of these realities.
While we are deployed, we know the problems that
occur back home cars breaking down, roofs leaking,
children getting into trouble at school, loved ones getting
hurt or seriously sick.
Just remember that as your spouses and family members
are following their normal day-to-day routines, they are also
trying to fill your shoes.
At times, they are getting a bit frustrated, angry, lonely,
and scared. These are all normal reactions, and most can be
smoothed over by keeping the communication lines open. As
much as you need air and water, you need to hear from your
spouse and they need to hear from you.
After your deployment is over and you're returning home
to the hero's welcome you deserve, with everyone telling you
how proud they are of you and the job you did, enjoy it. As the
dust settles and things start to get back to normal, gather the
family together and let them know what a great job they did
while you where gone. Share with them how important
the role they played to make the deployment/mission
a success. Let them know we are a team. Tell them
how proud you are of them. Because no one can,
nor ever will, deliver this message like you. O
PAGE 2 I THE WIRE
TROOPER-TO-TROOPER I FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
Puerto Rico takes over HHC
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
With the change of a year comes changes
for Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Now, the
JTF's Headquarters, Headquarters Company
is handled by a different unit new to the
island and the Army.
The 191st Regional Support Group of the
Puerto Rico Army National Guard deployed
approximately 100 of its 1100 Soldiers to
the JTF, replacing Soldiers from the New
Mexico Army National Guard to take over
operations of the Camp America HHC.
"We'll be here taking charge
of the logistical side of the house,
and be here making sure the whole
mission runs smoothly," said Army
Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Bonilla, the
new first sergeant of the HHC.
Though the JTF already has
Puerto Rico Guardsmen serving
as gate and area security, the
191st RSG has never before sent
personnel here or anywhere else
for that matter.
The 191st has only been in
existence since 2008, when it
was stood up during an overall
transformation of the PRNG.
As a regional support group,
the 191st "provides command and
control structure for non-major
combat operations, and assists
[active and reserve] units in meeting
training, readiness and deployment
requirement," said Army Lt. Col.
Millie Rosa with the PRNG.
The 191"t's deployment to the JTF is the
first mobilization in the unit's brief history.
Bonilla marks his unit's Guantanamo
mission as an important milestone, saying
they are "making history in the unit itself."
As the new first sergeant of the HHC,
Bonilla commands 30 years of military
experience with multiple backgrounds. He
spent 12 years on active duty, with about
half that time in Germany and half in the
U.S., with another 18 years with the Guard.
Bonilla was previously activated for
nine months as a platoon sergeant with a
military police unit to Fort Buchanan, San
Juan, Puerto Rico, after the terror attacks of
Sept. 11, 2001. He also holds a background
in field artillery and is currently classified as
"We have high-experienced personnel
in all areas," Bonilla said of his company.
"My Troopers are all highly motivated, and
they're looking forward to completing all
the assigned tasks to them to the best of their
ability. So I don't have any doubt that we'll
be able to comply with the mission and be
successful in ours."
Bonilla closed with a few words of
encouragement for all his Soldiers, as well as
all JTF personnel: "Give your best, live the
values, and always put the nation first." Q
Soldiers with the 191st Regional Support Group
of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard, above,
exit the Leeward Air Terminal Sunday, marking
the beginning of their year-long deployment
with Joint Task Force Guantanamo. The...-
Soldiers will take over JTF's Headquarters,
Headquarters Company from the New Mexico
National Guard. JTF Guantanamo photo by
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Wolff
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009 | MISSION
THE WIRE I PAGE 3
Soldiers of the 111th Combat Support Brigade (Forward) stand by
their unit emblem, Oct. 21. JTF Guantanamo photo by Navy Petty
Officer 2nd Class Patrick Thompson
Second Cuba tour completed
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
As the new year begins, the Joint Task
Force will go through some changes as the
111t Combat Support Brigade (Forward) of
the New Mexico National Guard completes
their mission, and the Puerto Rico National
Guard returns for their fourth deployment.
This is the second time the New Mexico
National Guard has deployed to Cuba, their
first mission was quite different. It was in
1898 when the New Mexico Guardsmen
first served with Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough
Riders" and took part in the legendary
charge of San Juan Hill near Santiago,
More than 100 years later, in January
2008, the New Mexico National Guard
deployed to Guantanamo Bay to relieve
the Puerto Rico National Guard as the
Headquarters, Headquarters Company of
"We basically deployed to be the
command element of the JTF," said Army
Sgt. Maj. Matt Aragon. "The mission was
stressful at first, but we took charge and
have been doing an outstanding job ever
As the unit first arrived, everyone was
assigned to a specific mission that related to
their military occupational specialty. The
PAGE 4 I THE WIRE
different missions included: transportation,
military commissions, support
Headquarters of the HHC, engineering, the
Joint Detention Group, operations, supply,
security and administration.
"A majority came already knowing what
they needed to do and had prior training,"
said Aragon. "When we had to fill slots, we
tried to recruit Soldiers with the required
"A lot of the officers were assigned
different and unfamiliar jobs," Aragon
added, "but they soon learned and exceeded
in their work which demonstrated good
caliber of the officers."
This deployment was New Mexico's
first time working in a joint environment,
where different languages and styles of
work were put to the test.
"There was a noticeable change when
we got here, but everyone did their part and
performed their work to standard," said
Army Sgt. Griselda Holquin. "This all paid
off because we'll be leaving [the JTF] on a
"Everyone has developed in their
leadership and organization skills," Aragon
said, "and raised the bar of the standard
Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Zanetti,
ground forces commander of the New
Mexico National Guard, said that he was
also exceptionally proud of how the New
Mexico Soldiers performed at Guantanamo
"They are knowledgeable, professional,
and dedicated Soldiers, America's best,"
As the Puerto Rico National Guard
returns to Guantanamo Bay, Aragon had
some encouraging words and advice to
ease the transition.
"We're going to take advantage of the
time we're here together so [the Puerto
Rico National Guard] can ask us any
questions they might need to accomplish
the mission and to ease the transformation.
We're going to ensure they can do the best
job possible because they are the command
element and they have to set the standard
for the JTF."
"My advice to the Puerto Rico National
Guard is to stay flexible," added Zanetti.
"Much will be changing at Guantanamo
Bay in 2009 but, I know they will perform
the mission admirably." 0
MISSION I FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
JTF gets visit from Imam
Army Sgt. 1sf Class
Vaughn R. Larson
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
One of only two Muslim chaplains
in the U.S. Air Force paid a visit to the
naval station over the holidays.
Before Air Force Capt. Walid Habash
arrived in mid-December, it had been
about one and one-half years since the
last visit by a Muslim chaplain.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clint Pickett, the
Joint Task Force Guantanamo command
chaplain, said he hopes it doesn't take
another 18 months or so for a return visit.
"It's our goal to have one down here
twice a year," Pickett said.
There are an estimated 6,500 Muslims
in the U.S. armed forces, according to
Habash. While exact numbers were not
provided, Pickett said there are practicing
Muslims at Guantanamo Bay, in uniform
and out. It is these individuals Habash
came to see, not the approximately 250
However, Habash emphasized that he
is here to serve everyone regardless of
their particular faith.
"I function like every other chaplain
in the armed forces," he explained. "In
addition, I attend to Muslim needs."
Those needs include the five daily
prayers, Friday worship services and
Muslim holy days. He conducted the
Maghirb (sunset) and Isha (evening)
prayers Dec. 17 at the base mosque a
room across from the main chapel on
the naval station as well as Friday
Habash said he may also be asked to
provide briefings on the Islamic faith or
culture, depending on the situation.
Habash conducted his Masters
degree studies at the Graduate School
of Islamic Social Sciences in Leesburg,
Va. Following that, he spent two years
in clinical pastoral education at a
clinical hospital in Ohio. This provided
the civilian experience required by the
Department of Defense to become a
military chaplain. He has served as a
chaplain for more than five years and is
presently stationed at Ramstein Air Base,
Habash did not describe himself as
either a Sunni or a Shiite.
"I see myself as someone really
following the authentic teachings of
Islam without creating boundaries or
obstacles for either sect," he said. "The
prophet Mohammed was neither Sunni
or Shiite those things did not exist at
that time. The goal is to be obedient and
submissive to the almighty God."
Pickett acknowledged that all
chaplains experience misconceptions
about their faith to some degree. Habash
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009 I MISSION
Air Force Chaplain Capt. Walid
Habash speaks to Troopers
from the Joint Detention Group,
above, following a prayer
service Friday, Dec. 19. At
right, Habash speaks on values
prior to the call to prayer. JTF
Guantanamo photos by Army
Pfc. Eric Liesse
was philosophical about this.
"Life is a journey," he observed. "To
make this journey interesting, you must
have some bumps along the way. Being
a Muslim chaplain in the service, you
might get some of these."
Habash said he tries to educate
individuals and get past some issues,
but conceded that stereotyping can be a
"Allow yourself to be open-minded,"
he urged. "Search for the truth. Are there
differences? Most certainly, but it's not
the end if we allow ourselves to see
others as a human being that can share
certain things." 0
THE WIRE I PAGE 5
EMWR gears upfr a new
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class
JTF Guanta namo Public Affairs
Guantanamo Bay Morale Welfare and Recreation offered
many sporting events last year which provided Troopers
abundant opportunities for recreation, especially with the
opening of the new Cooper Field sports complex. Looking to 2009, MWR has planned another
assortment of sporting events.
"I just really want to increase participation," said Robert Neuman, MWR sports director.
The new year's events kick off with the New Year's bash, a one-pitch softball tournament
which starts Jan. 3 between 9 and 10 a.m., depending on the number of teams participating. The
tournament is an open recreation event meaning everyone can participate. Teams can be made
up of all men, all women, or a mixture of both.
The next event on the horizon is the start of Captain's Cup basketball league Jan. 7. As with
most Captain's Cup events, there will be a men's division as well as a women's division. This
will be followed by the winter softball league starting Jan. 12. Winter league will be open to
everyone, but it will follow men's slow-pitch softball rules.
Two more tournaments, a doubles racquetball tournament and a Martin Luther King basketball
tournament are scheduled for Jan. 17. The basketball tournament will be double elimination
and will run until Jan. 19. These events are open recreation events, with projected start times
between 10 and 11 a.m., depending on the number of teams that participate.
Guantanamo is an ideal place for sports because the weather is generally sunny and warm
giving Troopers a unique opportunity to play many sports outside of their regular seasons.
"I figure if you have the facilities, why not use them year round?" Neuman said.
All events will be well advertised via posters and flyers throughout the base. Troopers
can also find out about the upcoming events by visiting Denich gym or viewing the roller
on channel four.
If Troopers have any ideas for sporting events, they can contact Neuman at Denich
gym or any other MWR representatives. However, it should be noted that ideas should
also consist of ways to gather resources if they're not for the traditional sports. 0
PAGE 6 I THE WIRE LOCAL SPORTS | FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
*rm 1T i
Thii FiT ITiil rTuiiT
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
Originality in a story usually gets it
remembered. However, when a story
seen hundreds of times before is done
exceptionally well, it's usually far more
"Pride and Glory" written by Gavin
O'Connor and Joe Carnahan, and directed
by O'Connor centers on the all-too-
familiar story of corrupt cops in New York
City and the politicization of right and
wrong. O'Connor said in an interview that
he wrote the film as a fictionalized homage
to his father, who was a policeman, and the
celebration of honest cops. Thankfully, the
film does them justice.
Edward Norton, again with a goateed and
scarred face, drives the movie as Detective
Ray Tiemey, the son, younger brother and
brother-in-law, of a New York policemen.
Against his own disdain for the position, he
takes his father's request to join a task force
to investigate the killing of four policemen
found in a Brooklyn drug house.
The basic premise of the story is
nothing new, but the execution is what
shines. Norton plays off both Jon Voight
as his father and police chief, and Noah
Emmerich as his older brother and officer
in charge of the dead officers' 31 t Precinct.
Watching such talent sparring back and
forth over corruption and its public image
makes this movie work.
From the get-go, Ray feels something
is amiss after finding the suspected killer's
cell phone and tracing 911 calls to find the
junkies had been tipped off about the raid.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009 | MOVIE RECON
He finally starts seeing cracks in
the 31st when he finds the drug
den's tip came from another
Norton embodies the honest
cop trying not to throw his entire
family into a public fire, while
still pursuing the justice that his
father and brother sometimes
try to minimize. Ray's brother-
in-law, Sgt. Jimmy Egan
(predictably but well-played by
Colin Farrell), takes Ray's focus
as he begins to see that Jimmy
may have been dishing vigilante
justice for longer than anyone
The casting of such A+
dramatic talent as Norton -
whom I've yet to dislike in a
movie and Voight brings the
entire movie up. However,
the sordid look of the city
and its protectors is solidified
by the stellar camera work
that always directs the eye in
compelling ways. The editing
and sound design also shine
since the transitions of the
visuals and audio add a critical
feel of fluidity to a story that
otherwise would be jumping
between the multiple characters'
Though it took about eight years to
finally see the silver screen, O'Connor's
story of rooted-out corruption made its
mark, proving that just because a story
isn't new, doesn't mean it's not worth
2 hours, 10 minutes
THE WIRE I PAGE 7
l.to light Mer
ok place at
vith the liaht
he-'residence of Jef
leof thMir houses.
: Megan Burnham
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Joint Task Force deputy
commander thanks Troopers
for a job well done
Army Staff Sgt.
Emily J. Russell
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
Joint Task Force Guantanamo Deputy
Commander Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Zanetti
will soon say farewell after his year-long tour.
Between working in a joint environment
with all military services and the realization
of what Guantanamo is really like, Zanetti
considers this tour "mind expanding."
"I didn't know much about the place,"
Zanetti said. "Everything I read about
Guantanamo Bay was so negative. I think
the expectation was that we were coming to
close the place, because that's what was in the
Upon stepping into his role as JTF deputy
commander Zanetti realized the opposite was
"There were expectations that bad things
were happening here," he said. "All that
turned out to be false. I realized this is the
most American place on the planet. It's where
Americans are performing their best. Every
expectation I had was wrong."
Working closely with the Navy gave
Zanetti a different perspective to military
operations and the opportunity to understand
how different military forces work together.
"I had no idea there were so many moving
parts to this assignment and that there was such
attention to detail paid by so many people on so
many different levels," Zanetti said. "That was
the surprising part of this mission watching
all of it play out and performed professionally
and knowledgeably every day."
For Zanetti, things like guards exercising
judgment and keeping a situation under control
or military commissions attorneys persevering
through complicated proceedings is what gave
him "a feeling of trust that embodied the whole
command here, and makes the [JTF] work."
"You have to trust those who are working
with you," said Zanetti. "You have to trust
their judgment, you have to give them
freedom, ownership and responsibility and
let them take charge of what they know best.
Occasionally things will go wrong, and that's
okay you learn from your mistakes and
drive on. No one person can do this it's got
PAGE 101 THE WIRE
I realized this is the most
American place on the
planet. It's where Americans
are performing their best.
Army Brig. Gen Gregory Zanetti
to be a team effort."
Looking toward the future, Zanetti plans to
continue his service. "There are lots of ways
to serve [one's] country," he said. "It doesn't
always have to be in uniform."
Zanetti's command philosophy, which
embodies the Army values, challenges
Troopers to "go beyond the standards, do
your best and share your success with others."
These guides echo within his message to the
"Thank you. Thank you for what you do,
day in and day out," he said. "The nation really
needs you right now and your willingness to
step up and do this, is a testament to your honor,
integrity, your loyalty and commitment. I truly
believe the nation is in good hands because I
see it. This generation coming up is going to
serve better than we did." O
& INFORMATION I FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
Port Ca I
Army Staff Sgt.
Emily J. Russell
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs
It's not every day a Trooper
receives a phone call from President
George W. Bush. For Coast Guard
Petty Officer 2nd Class Neil Ambrose,
however, Dec. 24 was that day.
"It was an honor," said Ambrose
of speaking with President Bush. "I
was shocked that I was selected out
of hundreds of thousands of deployed
"At first he called me by my
name," he continued. "He said, 'Neil,
this is President Bush, how are you
Ambrose replied that he was fine, oa
and thanked President Bush for "all C
he's done for the Coast Guard and press
military members over the past eight was
Ambrose chatted with the
president, with Bush asking, "How's
the weather down there?"
"It's warm," Ambrose replied.
"How would you like to join us?"
The call lasted a moment longer
before President Bush delivered his
traditional Christmas message.
According to Ambrose, President Bush
said, "On behalf of Laura and myself, I
want you to pass along to other deployed
members that we appreciate your service
and wish you a Merry Christmas, especially
to the Mighty Coast Guard."
"I specifically remember him saying,
'the mighty Coast Guard,'" Ambrose said,
The Christmas Eve phone call has
become a tradition for President Bush. Each
year, he calls 10 service members from all
st Guara Petty tticer 2"" class Neil Ambrose, member or Port security unit u35
ently stationed here in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, received a
idential phone call Dec. 24th with holiday greetings from President Bush. Ambrose
selected as one of 10 military service members world-wide to receive the call.
m On behalf of my family, we wish to be selected out of all the other
Coast Guard members."
you and all deployed members This isn't the first time Coast
a Mrr histma Guard Port Security Unit 305 has
Serry Christmas. answered the call. In 2005, Coast
President George W. Bush Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class
Travis Johnston was one of the
branches of the armed forces around the
world to thank them for their service and
pass on holiday wishes.
"Ambrose was selected above his peers
because he's a high performer and the right
one to be chosen to receive a call from the
president," said Coast Guard Cmdr. Steven
H. Pope, commanding officer of Port
Security Unit 305.
"I submitted his packet in October of
this year," Pope continued. "[It] had all
the information that made him competitive
lucky service members selected to speak to
Pope was not the commanding officer
of PSU 305 when the last presidential call
to Guantanamo was received. However,
he was thrilled to learn they were selected
"It's a high honor to receive a call from
the president," said Pope. "Our unit is a
tight family, and we're all very proud and
very happy that Petty Officer Ambrose was
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009 I NEWS & INFORMATION
THE WIRE I PAGE 11
Jason Kies and Navy Chaplain Dave Mowbry load boxes of Christmas stockings on Christmas morning for those who
worked on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Churches across the United States donated items for the stockings,
which numbered close to 2,000, and families on base made cookies to be included. Stockings went to many third-
country nationals as well as the Coast Guard and Air Force Troopers at Camp Justice. JTF Guantanamo photo by
Army Sgt. 1st Class Vaughn R. Larson
( HOLD UPRIGHT, PULL RING (SAFETY) PIN
SSTART BACK 8-10 FEET
AIM AT BASE OF FIRE
SWEEP SIDE TO SIDE
-+ Familiarize yourself with the fire extinguisher operation and
locations around your home and work.
- Inappropriate use of fire extinguishers could be subject to
fine or penalties.
For more information, please email email@example.com
NEWS & INFORMATION I FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
PAGE 12 THE WIRE
This is the year
U Achieve your New Year's resolution (really)
Navy Lt. Cmdr.
JTF JSMART OIC
Jan. 1 is an exciting time of year. Everything is new and
fresh. It's time to change old habits, improve oneself and make
this year better than the last. By Feb. 1, our well-intentioned
ideas and promises often come to a screeching halt. They
tend to be replaced with frustration, anger, guilt and
remorse. We hear ourselves saying, "Next year will
be better." How can we make "next year" finally
become "this year?" Here are nine helpful
tips that could make all the difference:
Don't Make Too Many Resolutions
If you resolve to eat better, exercise
more, quit smoking, reduce stress, save
more money, give to charity, be nicer
to everyone, etc., you may be setting
yourself up for failure. Your stress
level and frustration will increase if
you have too many things going on at
once. Your goals may then be viewed as
aburden instead of something worthwhile.
Limit yourself to 3-5 goals.
Don't Make Absolute Resolutions
Keep the resolutions realistic. If you commit
to "never get upset again," you are setting
yourself up for failure that just won't happen.
Instead of making it absolute by using a word
like "never," resolve to "become angry less
Be Specific Just saying "I'm going to
exercise more," is too vague and gives you
too much wiggle room to drop the ball. It is
important to be specific how many times a
week are you going to exercise? How long are you going
to exercise? What exercises are you going to do?
MakeYour Own Resolution Honestly, how motivated
are we to do things because someone else wants us to do
them? We are much more likely to achieve a goal we
set for ourselves. Avoid the trap of making resolutions
someone else wants you to make.
Know Yourself Too often we forget this rule. If
you know that you like your sleep, don't make a
resolution that involves getting up an hour early
to exercise. The snooze bar will win every
Make it Public Tell others about your
plans. Friends can help keep you honest
and can provide positive peer pressure
to help you obtain that goal.
Forgive Yourself Trying something
new often means running into some
bumps along the way. When we
falter, we often think, "What's the
point now? I may as well give up."
Be kind to yourself and give yourself
a break if you go off track.
achievements with small rewards
along the way. Make sure the rewards
are productive to the goal. If your
goal is to lose weight, don't reward
yourself after a week of exercise
with a giant brownie sundae.
Have Fun It is important to
remember why you are setting goals
and resolutions you are trying to
improve. Enjoy the journey. You'll find
the scenery can be quite lovely. O
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009 I VOICE OF THE FORCE
THE WIRE I PAGE 13
Sunday: 7 a.m. Confession
Wednesday: 11 a.m. Mass
9II I 111 II 9 II 1111 Il l I P
Sunday: 9 a.m.
Spanish Protestant Worship
Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommy Benavidez,
the Joint Task Force motor pool non-
commissioned officer in charge, is known to
everyone at the motor pool as a hard-working
and easy-going Trooper, quick to smile and
laugh, and just as quick to tell you about his
latest fishing trip. What most people don't
know about him is that for eight years of
his life, Benavidez lived in an orphanage in
His father, native New Mexican Jose
Benavidez, was stationed at England's
Lakenheath Air Force Base. There Jose met
and married Joyce Last, an English citizen
residing in Brentwood. Benavidez was born
a year later in 1958, but his parents soon
divorced and his father returned to New
Mexico. His mother suffered a series of
seizures and developed a nervous disorder
that kept her from supporting and caring for
Believing his father had abandoned
him and his mother unable to care for him,
social workers placed Benavidez in foster
care. At age 8 he was placed in Harris
Lodge, an orphanage located in Rayleigh,
approximately 45 miles from London.
Harris Lodge was a three-story castle-
like building. An elderly English couple in
charge lived in an apartment located on the
top floor of the lodge, and mostly supervised
the lodge employees a cook, a cleaning
lady, and a large middle-aged man known
as "Uncle Ron." Uncle Ron lived on the
same floor as the residents and slept with his
bedroom door open a room strategically
located between the girls' open bay dorm and
the boys' open bay dorm. He was a tough but
fair disciplinarian who enforced all lodge
rules for the approximately 30 residents,
some of whom were true orphans.
Meals at the lodge were always the
highlight and lowlight of Benavidez's day.
Those who missed a meal did not eat until
the next meal was served. Uncle Ron would
walk around the tables and enforce the lodge
rule that everything served had to be eaten.
Once meal time was over, the cook locked
all food in a kitchen pantry.
Breakfast at the lodge was always the
same: porridge and boiled eggs. Lunch and
dinner consisted ofblandpot roasts, including
a dish called Toad in the Hole (a potato
pot roast with whole sausages),Yorkshire
pudding and occasionally lamb chops.
Residents would fight or barter for bread
edges to wipe the fat drippings from the
roasts or lamb chops. The only time they
drank anything besides water was at supper,
when a large hot pot of tea was served. At
no time at Harris Lodge was Benavidez ever
served snacks or fast food.
All residents were required to do chores -
primarily cleaning their dormitory, washing
dishes and shining shoes. Each resident
took a turn shining everyone else's school
uniform shoes. During the school year, they
were required to do their homework prior to
lights being turned off at 9 p.m.
There was one television, and Uncle Ron
picked the program that everyone would
When not wearing their school uniforms,
the residents wore hand-me-down clothing
donated to the lodge by various charities.
Residents were allowed to earn money by
doing work outside the lodge. Most earned
extra money working at a nearby farm
picking bushels of peas during harvest
To break up the monotony, or simply
for sheer adventure, Benavidez ran away
numerous times. He and a fellow resident
named Colin would typically sneak out their
dormitory window, go down the fire escape,
and ride the train into nearby London. They
would visit local bakeries and ask or beg
ArmySgt. 1st Class Tommy Benavidez,
the senior noncommissioned officer
of Joint Task Force Guantanamo's
motor pool, stands ready with part
of his fleet of full-size busses.
ct bread or other exotic aked goods
i i t the orphanage. They would
t en wander aimlessly around London
before hiking back, usually stopping to sleep
in an empty barn with a haystack. The next
day, the farmer would discover them, call the
police, and Benavidez and Colin would be
returned to the lodge. They would dutifully
accept their punishment for running away -
usually extra shoe-shining duty.
As he neared his 16th birthday, social
workers were determining where next to
place him as the orphanage age limit was
16. During a visit to his mother's house, a
social worker discovered a stack of letters
from Jose letters that his mother had
never let him see. The social workers helped
Benavidez contact his father, who agreed to
take immediate custody. A couple days later,
he was taken to Heathrow Airport on his way
to his new home in Albuquerque, N.M.
There, Benavidez experienced culture
shock. Speaking with a thick English accent,
his fellow students atRio Grande High School
laughed at him as he struggled to pronounce
his own Spanish surname. Football, baseball
and basketball were completely alien to him
he had grown up playing cricket, rugby
and soccer. The food in New Mexico was
different too he had never seen an avocado,
much less eaten guacamole.
In due course, he lost his English
accent, learned some Spanish and, despite
adjusting to a different country and culture,
he considers himself the luckiest person
in the world. Unlike many of his mates at
Harris Lodge, he experienced being part of a
family, living with his family, being hugged
and mentored by a parent.
When his JTF deployment ends,
Benavidez will return to his family in New
Mexico and spend every spare minute he
can with his wife, children and extended
family. Knowing what it's like to live in an
institution without any family, Benavidez
never takes his family for granted. 0
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009 I 15 MINUTES OF FAME
THE WIRE I PAGE 15
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2, 2009
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