You've probably heard a lot about Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, because of suspected terrorists who are held there. 13News Now traveled to the base and learned it is about much more than what you might think in this five-part series.
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - The blue Caribbean Sea on the southwestern tip of Cuba looks more tourist destination than the polarizing detention center that overlooks it and houses dozens of suspected terrorists.
But to think only detention center for high-value prisoners is to know only part of what happens at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay.
The journey to the base for thousands service members starts inside the Air Mobile Command Center of Naval Station Norfolk. Sailor Jason Roman is relocating to the base with his wife, two children and the family dog.
"We have troopers, they're great," said wife Cynthia Roman, speaking about the children.
Chief Petty Officer Jason Ramon said, "So the excitement is going to warmer weather."
Once he arrives at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, he will work as Operations Section Chief, a job that means he will provide leadership within the Naval Security Forces Operations Division.
Naval Station Norfolk is where most families begin their journey to the base, with a stop in Jacksonville first.
From the aircraft, the Naval Base comes into view and it is clear that this part of Cuba isn't as tropical as you might think. The land is mostly brown, and there are patches of green trees. It hardly rains at Guantanamo, but those stationed here told 13News Now that the slightest sprinkle will cause the plants to spring back to life.
After landing, the family is ushered into a small airport terminal, which unlike a commercial airport, houses only a few check-in counters, which was packed with service members heading back to Jacksonville or Norfolk.
"No complaints… good travels," Roman told us before heading off to start his new life, which will span 30 months on the base.
Previously serving at a Naval Base in Italy, he understands what to expect during his time here.
But we were also introduced to a new recruit, who until now, had never even left the country before arriving at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in late September.
"I'm nervous wondering what's in store for me here," said Ali Muhammad.
Before he begins work as quarter deck watchman, the operational Specialist Seaman Recruit goes through a two week check-in process that includes a drug screening and security clearance check.
Unlike Roman, the 18-year-old does not have a family. The car that he had shipped will provide a comfort of home.
"This is a 1996 Pontiac Grand Am…. same year I was born," he told us. "It feels like a part I left behind came with me."
While the base does have free busses to shuttle everyone around the 45-square mile base, many chose to have their vehicles shipped to Guantanamo Bay.
Many assume that the base is only home to the detention center, which houses 61 suspected terrorists, including a 9/11 co-conspirator and the Yemeni suspected of organizing the 2012 bombing of the USS Cole, in which 12 sailors were killed.
But Muhammad and Roman will soon learn that that the base, which protects U.S. interests in the Caribbean, is much more that what is often portrayed to the public.