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Return after 6 months in Cuba members of the Coast Guard's Port Security
The unit's 83 members conducted anti-terrorism and force protection missions as part of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. The maritime squads crewed 25-foot speedboats around the clock, patrolling from the outer harbor to the edge of the 3 -mile exclusionary zone.

Petty Officer 1st Class David Shearman, a reservist from Chesapeake, said his crew stopped a number of vessels and escorted them out. Many were sailboats that had strayed unknowingly into the zone or mistook the naval station for the nearby port of Santiago. Some were local. "A Cuban gun boat would come out and play little games with us, see what our force protection was like," he said recently.

Shearman never got involved in anything hairy but said that approaching an unknown vessel caused the same trepidation he felt during his years as a police officer when he would approach a vehicle at a traffic stop.

The unit also worked with Coast Guard ships doing anti-drug patrols in the Caribbean and gave rides across the bay to military and political VIPs who were visiting Guantanamo.

Chief Petty Officer Donald Wassler, who oversaw the unit's waterside operations, is from Kill Devil Hills. He served 12 years active duty in the Coast Guard, most of which was spent doing search-and-rescue work at Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks.

Wassler said one of the big eye-openers for him was getting to see the prison operation in person. "From what you see on TV, it doesn't really do it justice," he said. "It's a very professionally run prison and island.... It's very transparent, safe and humane."

Petty Officer 3rd Class James Moore of Chesapeake got an even closer look by providing security at the detainees' legal hearings. A reservist for the past three years, he was on his first deployment.

Before heading to Cuba, he read everything he could find about Guantanamo's prison and commissions. He arrived to find that a lot more goes into the operation than might be apparent to the outsider. "Mainly due to media, everything we do is trained to the highest degree and is as professional as possible," he said. "There is no way anyone can construe any mistreatment on any grounds."

In his civilian life, Moore is a film student at Tidewater Community College and hopes to transfer to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. His work at Guantanamo has made him more certain of his career path, yet altered his focus.

"I'm generally interested in doing fiction. But that's changed a bit," he said. "I used to not have much of an attention span for documentary-like films. Now it intrigues me when I see things on the news channel here.... It's made me more aware."

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