National Guard headed to Guantanamo Bay

A Center Grove couple knew that an Indiana National Guard deployment was ahead, but preparing to be apart for the first time during their marriage was still a challenge.

Sgt. Nick Bryant is one of about 120 members of the Indiana National Guard who is deploying with the 387th Military Police Company to serve in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During the nine-month deployment, the group will be responsible for guarding detainees held at the U.S. military base there. The company, which is based at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, will be led by Capt. Melissa Gordon of Indianapolis and 1st Sgt. Johnathan Wilson of New Albany.

Nick and Danyel Bryant have been married about two years, and this will be the first deployment during their relationship. Nick Bryant’s previous deployment to Afghanistan in 2013 was before they started dating.

Given her husband’s plans to continue serving in the National Guard, this was a situation Danyel Bryant expected, but that doesn’t make her any less nervous as she is preparing for almost a year of separation. They’ve had to sort out household logistics, such as managing the bills, but also figuring out how to stay in touch.

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She is grateful that a deployment to Cuba means they can talk by cellphone much easier than if he had been sent to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Serving in the military has been a family tradition, as both his grandfather and cousin were in the military, Nick Bryant said.

He graduated from Edinburgh High School in 2010, and lived only a couple of miles away from Camp Atterbury, where he had his first high school job as a cook on base.

At a departure ceremony on Saturday morning at Camp Attebury, the National Guard members and hundreds of friends and relatives met to hear some final advice from their commanders.

Speaking to the guardsmen, Major Gen. Courtney Carr reminded the soldiers of the value of their mission, which he described as being essential to the U.S. strategic goals. The mission is one with global consequences, which makes it ever more necessary that they rely on their training and values, he said.

Gordan, the captain of the company, thanked the families of the National Guard members for their support.

“Your commitment and sacrifice is highly regarded and appreciated,” she said.

Once the 387th Military Police Company leaves Indiana, the guardsmen will spend 25 days in Fort Bliss, Texas, for detainee operations training. The company will spend nine months in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and return to Indiana in August, Capt. Jesse Bien said.

This deployment will be the third for Staff Sgt. Tyler Dewar, and he hopes he can use his experiences serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to help mentor fellow guardsmen getting deployed for the first time. This will also be a change of pace for him, as both previous deployments focused on combat support, he said.

For specialist Mike Proctor, a four-year veteran of the National Guard, who had previously been deployed to Korea, getting another opportunity to serve his county meant a lot, he said.

Serving in Guantanamo will be a challenge, but one he is looking forward to, Proctor said.

Training began in September, and since then the guardsmen have worked to get up to speed on topics such as law of war, suicide awareness and prevention, resiliency training, weapons qualification and non-lethal weapons training, Bien said.

Training included getting sprayed directly in the eyes with pepper spray and then going through a drill where the guardsmen had to physically subdue three people, Bien said.

Of the 120 guardsmen being deployed, 44 have served on previous deployments, including six to Guantanamo Bay, Bien said.

Being deployed to Cuba is an experience few soldiers get, and it’s one Bryant expects will be memorable.

“I’m a little nervous, but in a good way,” he said.