The boat people trying to reach U.S. soil are imaginary and so is the Caribbean nation in crisis. But the Army general who flew in from Texas to take charge is the real deal for hundreds of troops rehearsing to get ready for a humanitarian crisis.
Guantánamo’s airstrip was abuzz this weekend as about 500 troops descended for an every-other-year drill whose name reflects how little the military wants to draw attention to it — Exercise Integrated Advance.
For a week, soldiers, sailors and Homeland Security officials are rehearsing how to manage an imaginary humanitarian-relief crisis inspired by the tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans who overwhelmed this base in the 1990s.
But the exact nature of the scenario — how many migrants flood the base, whether there’s unrest, disease, spies in the tent camps — is all classified. Only Pentagon-approved photos of the exercise will be released, and the people involved in acting out the episode from here to Miami to Washington, D.C., are sworn to secrecy.
That’s because nobody wants news about it to touch off a real, live Caribbean exodus. The intent, say organizers, is not to encourage anyone in the Caribbean to get on rafts to reach this Navy base in southeast Cuba, but to be ready in case it happens.