U.S. Army Col. David Heath gives his final speech as the Joint Detention Group commander for Joint Task Force Guantanamo at the change of command ceremony June 23, 2016 at the Naval Station Chapel on U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Col Heath took command of the JDG in June 2014.(Photo by Army Sgt. Chelsea Garcia Released) (Photo by Army Sgt. Chelsea Garcia)
Joint Task Force Guantanamo —
More than 200 Troopers assigned to Joint Task Force Guantanamo and distinguished guests attended the Joint Detention Group’s change of command ceremony June 23 at the Naval Station Chapel on U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
After serving as the JDG commander for two years, U.S. Army Col. David Heath turned over responsibility of the JDG to U.S. Army Col. Stephen Gabavics, incoming JDG commander.
“My time in command has been an awesome experience,” Heath said. “Due to the joint, interagency and high visibility nature of our mission, I’ve learned more and experienced more with regard to our sister services, the government, the law and the media than I have in any other assignment in my 26 years of active service.”
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, JTF GTMO commander, spoke about working with Heath and Heath’s accomplishments during his time as the JDG commander.
Under Heath’s leadership, detainee compliance significantly improved; to the JDG achieved the highest level of detainee compliance in the 14-year history of the group, said Clarke.
“The list of significant and lasting positive contributions Col. Heath has made during his tenure as the Joint Detention Group commander is too extensive to cover here,” Clarke said. “His emphasis on consistency starts by ensuring that the standard operating procedures are followed correctly every single time. Consistency in the camps ensures the humane care and custody of the detainees and keeps the guard force safe.”
Heath attributed his success to the Troopers who work internal and external security throughout JTF GTMO.
“Since June 2014, 41 units from all three Army components have rotated through the JDG,” said Heath. “That’s almost 4,000 Soldiers who have been shaped and have shaped the mission in some way. I truly owe all of my success to them and the rest of my team.”
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Hummel, JDG command sergeant major, said he learned a lot serving as Heath’s command sergeant major and feels honored to have served under his command.
“Col. Heath set the bar very high and has a legacy of fairness and respect from everyone in the JDG,” Hummel said. “He made a positive impact and created an environment of guard force safety in detention operations on a level that hasn’t been seen before in the JDG.”
Heath gave Troopers assigned to JTF GTMO some words of advice.
“Be a leader of character at all times,” Heath said. “Do the right thing even when no one is watching. Do your mission here with honor, and go home with your head held high. Be proud to tell your friends, family and fellow citizens the way in which you served your country here.”
“There is no greater honor for a military officer than to be entrusted with command,” he continued. “It has truly been a privilege to lead the outstanding men and women of this Joint Detention Group over the past two years. I will miss all of you, and wish you great success for the future.”
Gabavics promised to complete the JTF GTMO mission, which is providing safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody to the detainees.
“I stand before you, humbled to have been afforded this opportunity and privileged to assume command of this incredible unit,” Gabavics said. “The bottom line is this is all about the importance we have in the mission we do, and you Soldiers, Sailors Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Airmen, you Troopers stand in the front lines helping to ensure the security and the welfare of the citizenry of the United States.”