NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba —
Army Col. Steven G. Yamashita assumed command of the Joint Detention Group from Army Col. Stephen E. Gabavics in a ceremony at the Naval Station Chapel, June 27.
Serving as the JDG commander for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay the past two years, Gabavics reflected on his time conducting safe, humane and legal detention operations for Law of Armed Conflict detainees.
“Having had the opportunity to lead and work with some of the greatest men and women our country has ever produced has been incredible,” Gabavics said. “There is no way our operations could succeed without their professionalism, skill, ingenuity, and drive.”
JTF GTMO Commander, Navy Rear Adm. John C. Ring acknowledged the work Gabavics has performed, given the high visibility and broad scope of the JTF GTMO mission.
“Col. Gabavics did an outstanding job of navigating both the strategic and operational landscape, and succeeded in a very challenging environment,” Ring said. “Simply put, there is no bigger challenge for a brigade commander.”
That challenging environment of JTF GTMO has been an ever-changing dynamic in Gabavics’ tenure. Upon his arrival, there were 79 detainees and administration policy was to close down JTF GTMO operations. As of today, there are 40 detainees, and the new administration intends to continue to use the detention center for an enduring mission.
Gabavics spoke to the adversity and obstacles that the JDG leadership and guard force face.
“What these great Americans put up with every day is amazing, ranging from insults, to verbal attacks, non-compliance and even physical altercations,” Gabavics said. “In spite of this, these Soldiers and Sailors are so professional, they never retaliate and they continue to be great professionals and continue to treat everyone with dignity and respect; they are my heroes.”
Yamashita spoke of taking on the challenges and global spotlight GTMO brings, noting that it is a privilege and honor to carry out the JTF GTMO mission.
“Sacrifice, dedication to duty, and professionalism in accomplishing our mission are critical in our country's war on terror,” he said. “We will continue to conduct the best safe, humane and legal detention operations to protect the United States and its interests.”
Yamashita previously served as Chief, Detainee Affairs Division, Joint Staff, J-37 Deputy Directorate for Special Operations, Counterterrorism and Detainee Affairs.
As for Gabavics’ next assignment, he will be deploying to Afghanistan as the National Security Justice Development Director in Afghanistan.