What It's Like Getting To Guantanamo Bay, The Most Controversial Military Base In The World


Photo: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Treadwell

Guantanamo Bay.The name of the U.S. Naval Base located on a small sliver of Cuba likely brings up many different associations: A relic of the Cold War, or a military prison for suspected terrorists.

And for some in a post-9/11 world, it’s a symbol of torture.

But for the military personnel stationed here — mostly sailors and Marines, it’s just Gitmo. It’s a tougher duty station than most. Unlike other places in the U.S. military, troops don’t get to venture out in town, and guards in the detention facility often endure 12-hour shifts for four days straight, with two days off.

Robert Johnson, our own Military & defence Editor, recently visited the base.

Just getting there was a challenge.

Finding the charter flight to Guantanamo Bay is not easy. Turns out it's here, the last gate at the Fort Lauderdale airport, under the overpass: at arrivals.

Every other gate had destinations. Ours had only this.

Aside from that, everything else around the gate was Florida airport normal.

This is the last photo I took before getting yelled at to stop.

The flight over the Caribbean to America's least understood military base was a picturesque 90-minute ride.

The jet comes in low over the bay, and it's immediately clear how large the base is.

Guard towers dot the hilltops along the perimeter fence.

This is processing right off the runway. Inside here are signs all over prohibiting photographs.

I have two escorts, and we stop at the mini mart for some water. The store overlooks this vintage clinic.

The base is divided into several sections, and the first divide is leeward and windward. The ferry takes us all from one side to the other.

The line for the ferry gets long. The civilian contractors come up with ways to ensure they don't miss their ride.

There is no 3:00 pm ferry, but like clockwork, the ship pulls into view at 4.

No sooner has the ferry docked than its current riders quickly move off.

And the haphazard rows waiting for a ride squeeze on.

The ride to the main part of the base is about 30 minutes, and the ferry docks here next to this public beach.

Cutting it short since there is an upload limit, this is where they've put me up for four days.

It's meant for two visiting contractors to share.

There's even a couple of complimentary Guantanamo bottles of water. It's 87 degrees Fahrenheit when I check in at 5 pm.

This is where the public Internet spot is I'll be uploading from for the next few days, right of housekeeping. In here are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and a bathroom. It's not dial-up slow, but it's not broadband either.

You've seen how to get to Gitmo ...

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