Isle Navy officer will head Gitmo


POSTED: Saturday, January 31, 2009

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico » A senior Navy officer based in Hawaii who once went to school with President Obama will be the next commander of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said yesterday.

; Rear Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III has been assigned as commander of the Joint Task Force that runs the U.S. offshore prison in Cuba, said Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations. Copeman is currently the deputy chief of staff for operations, training and readiness for the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

The Pentagon did not say when Copeman takes over at Guantanamo, but he will preside over a historic period. In one of his first acts as president, Obama ordered the detention center closed within a year. About 245 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban members and others are currently locked up at the U.S. Navy base in southeastern Cuba.

Obama and Copeman graduated from Punahou School in Hawaii two years apart. Copeman has said in previously published reports that he did not know Obama among the roughly 1,600 students at its high school. The two have since met.

Copeman is the son and grandson of Navy veterans, like Obama's rival for the White House, Republican nominee John McCain.

The current commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo is Navy Rear Adm. David Thomas. Military press officials at the Pentagon, Pearl Harbor and Guantanamo said they did not know when the change of command would occur.