Retired Colonel Criticizes ‘Solitary Confinement’ of Quarantined Soldiers at Guantánamo

Eric Kerska, whose daughter was deployed to the base, said he was alarmed by the isolation of young soldiers on their first tour as a coronavirus precaution.

By Carol Rosenberg

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

WASHINGTON — A retired Minnesota National Guard colonel whose daughter recently deployed to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on her second tour is accusing the military of dangerously isolating a company of military police for 14 days to protect the base from the coronavirus.

The 150 members of the 34th Military Police Company arrived on Sept. 6 from Fort Bliss, Texas, where they were also quarantined, but collectively. Over the summer, the same soldiers were the first National Guard troops deployed to the streets of Minneapolis during the unrest after the police killing of George Floyd in May.

Now, according to Eric Kerska of Rochester, Minn., who served three deployments in Iraq and retired as a colonel in 2015, enlisted troops like his daughter, Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Kerska, have been confined individually inside 9-foot-by-12-foot containerized housing. They are given 7 a.m. temperature checks followed by three meals left at their door throughout the day by troops who knock and disappear.

“My complaint is about the solitary confinement,” Mr. Kerska said in interviews over the weekend. “Lack of human contact is dangerous. We all know that. Studies are clear.”

Sergeant Kerska is 28, has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice, and works in corrections as a civilian. She previously deployed to the wartime prison at Guantánamo in 2017 and is responsible for the welfare of 12 lower-ranking soldiers. Her father said they were concerned about the younger soldiers in the unit, “who never deployed before, have never been away from home before.” Men aged 18 to 24, he said, were statistically more susceptible to suicide.

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