Puerto Rico National Guard leader recognizes excellence in Guantanamo Bay

Story by Army Staff Sgt. Paul Meeker
JTF Guantanamo Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Nov. 22, 2007 – The adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard joined service members of the Puerto Rico National Guard on Thanksgiving Day for a special “town hall” meeting at Joint Task Force Guantanamo headquarters and a holiday reception and lunch with the Puerto Rican Troopers at the Seaside Galley.
Army Col. David Carrion Baralt, adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard, shares Thanksgiving greetings with Sgt. Luis Jimenez who is working traffic duty. Carrion spent Thanksgiving Day with members of the Puerto Rico National Guard visiting them at their duty stations, fielding their questions at a "town hall" meeting, and dining with them over lunch. (JTF Guantanamo photo by Army Sgt. Joseph Scozzari)

Col. David Carrion Baralt, accompanied by his staff and members of the Puerto Rican press, flew to Guantanamo Bay on Nov. 22 to pay special recognition to the approximately 300 Puerto Rico National Guard service members serving a year-long deployment with the Joint Task Force.

According to Carrion’s chief of staff, Col. Isabelo Rivera, one of the Carrion’s main reasons for spending time with the Troopers is to emphasize to the Troopers the critical value of their work in the JTF as it relates to the Global War on Terror. Rivera also noted that Carrion wants the Puerto Rican press to give the Troopers here the hometown media exposure that their important work warrants.

After a few opening remarks at the town hall meeting, a clearly relaxed Carrion solicited questions from the assembled Troopers. The Troopers sat respectfully silent at first, prompting Carrion to call on several by their first names. Immediately smiles appeared and hands were raised by Troopers eager to air their questions and concerns.

Carrion fielded questions regarding quality of life issues such as base housing, medical and insurance services and space available travel between Guantanamo Bay and Puerto Rico. He made a point of acknowledging issues raised by directing his chief of staff, Col. Isabelo Rivera, and his senior enlisted leader, Command Sergeant Major Gilbert Arocho, to pay particular attention to key concerns.
Army Col. David Carrion Baralt, adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard, shares Thanksgiving greetings with Staff Sgt. Luis Ortiz. Carrion spent Thanksgiving Day with members of the Puerto Rico National Guard by visiting them at their duty stations, fielding their questions at a "town hall" meeting, and dining with them over lunch. (JTF Guantanamo photo by Army Sgt. Joseph Scozzari)

The adjutant general also listened intently as several officers and senior enlisted Soldiers detailed the significant accomplishments of the Troopers serving in their respective commands. He expressed admiration and appreciation as they noted excellence in weapons qualification, safety practices, force protection and detainee operations.

Carrion made a special effort to share with the Troopers information regarding the significant transformations occurring in the overall U.S. Guard mission and what that might look like for the Puerto Rico National Guard. “The Puerto Rico Guard, both Army and Air, is undergoing extensive transformation. We’re going from being a strategic reserve to an operational force, at the same time that we’re transforming from mostly combat to combat support and combat service support. What we’re going to find is that we’re not going to have the same kind of training that we used to have in old days fighting the cold war. What we’re going to find is more training fixed on the threats we’re dealing with currently,” said Carrion.

One question from the JTF deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Cameron Crawford, drew a large smile from Carrion. The question, delivered in Spanish, “When will you have a star pinned to your uniform?” – drew a quick response. “Next month, on Dec. 6, if all goes well,” he answered.

Col. David Carrion Baralt was named the Adjutant General of Puerto Rico on Jan. 1, 2007. He commands a force of over 10,000 citizen soldiers and airmen under authority vested in him by Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila of Puerto Rico. Previously, he served in the Puerto Rico National Guard as Staff Judge Advocate and U.S. Property and Fiscal Officer for Puerto Rico.