Guantánamo

Gitmo troopers get tattoos as off-duty diversion

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tameka Jones, a Navy cop from Rocky Mount, N.C., gets a tattoo above her tush on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 from Worcester, Mass., tattoo artist Rich Green, 44, who has arrived with a team of four inkers to provide the off-duty diversion to U.S. troops and others at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba. Jones, a mother of three who is technically called a Master at Arms, is not currently assigned to guard terror suspects at the prison camps here.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Tameka Jones, a Navy cop from Rocky Mount, N.C., gets a tattoo above her tush on Wednesday, June 18, 2008 from Worcester, Mass., tattoo artist Rich Green, 44, who has arrived with a team of four inkers to provide the off-duty diversion to U.S. troops and others at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba. Jones, a mother of three who is technically called a Master at Arms, is not currently assigned to guard terror suspects at the prison camps here. crosenberg@miamiherald.com

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Tired of guarding terror suspects in the scorching Caribbean sun? Looking for a change from the routine of squiring dignitaries around this remote Navy base that's been in the news lately?

Get a tattoo.

Four tattoo artists opened a 10-day body art parlor above an Irish bar near the base bowling alley Wednesday, open day and night to U.S. service members and Department of Defense contractors willing to pay on the spot.

''I'm kind of addicted to this right now,'' said Petty Officer 3rd Class Tameka Jones, 32, as she winced her way through inked ''tribal lines'' -- just above her tush.

A Navy cop on the base, and mother of three from Rocky Mount, N.C., Jones said the latest was her seventh tattoo.

It was applied by Rich Green, 44, of Worcester, Mass., who arrived a day earlier to set up shop with three fellow tattoo artists and sported his own advertisement -- a blue inked GTMO INK -- just above his elbow. GTMO is the military's acronym for this offshore outpost that is home to 7,500 sailors, other U.S. forces, Defense Department contractors, families and, of course, 270 suspected terrorists.

Officially, Green's kid brother Tyler, 38, got the contract to bring the staff of five aboard a military charter -- his fourth such pilgrimage here.

The off-duty distraction is the latest recreational offering brough to this 45-square-mile base, whose prison camps website boasts, 'Sun, sand and a close knit community make the naval station one of the finest `gated communities' in the Caribbean.''

On Memorial Day weekend, alternative rock band Everclear played a concert for the troops on the ferry landing near the desalination plant, then took a tour of the prison camps.

Next, the first-run movie Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantánamo is due to arrive for screening at The Lyceum, an outdoor cinema across the street from a scuba supply shop.

Tyler Green, owner of the Port of Worcester tattoo parlor, predicted his team would ink up to 300 paying customers.

''It seems like there's an almost endless supply of people who want to get tattoos,'' he said, reporting brisk business that in the past has stretched from 8:30 a.m. until past midnight.

Back in 2005, when he first came, ``I really believed it was going to be anchors and bulldogs all day.''

Instead, he said, there were similar requests to back home, notably kids names and tribal art.

Also, one trooper with the Joint Task Force, which runs the prison camps, had a tattoo done with the JTF motto ``Honor Bound.''

It is Navy policy ''to try not to promote tattoos,'' said the base commander, Navy Capt. Mark Leary, with a sigh of acknowledgement that he was bowing to popular demand in sanctioning the special visit.

Sailors and other U.S. forces pay for the body art themselves, he said, noting there had been ''very good compliance'' in following regulations that forbid tattoos on portions of the body that can be seen while wearing an American military uniform.

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