Guantanamo

Iowa soldier dies swimming off Guantánamo base beach

Private First Class Matthew A. Cox, who joined the Army Oct. 11, 2017, was part of a Military Police company at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Private First Class Matthew A. Cox, who joined the Army Oct. 11, 2017, was part of a Military Police company at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Iowa National Guard

An Iowa soldier assigned to the Guantánamo Bay terror prison drowned after being caught up in a strong current while swimming off a beach at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, the U.S. military said Thursday.

Army Private First Class Matthew A. Cox, 19, of Leon, Iowa, got to Guantánamo in July for a nine-month tour as a Military Policeman. He joined the Iowa National Guard on Oct. 11, 2017 and completed MP training June 7, a guard statement said.

Prison troops, Navy base sailors as well as the Coast Guard and base firefighters mounted an air, land and sea search after Cox “was overpowered by the strong current” while swimming with four fellow service members off Cable Beach on Tuesday, the statement said. His body was found Wednesday. None of the other troops were harmed.

Base spokesman J. Overton called it “a tragic loss for the entire Guantánamo Bay family,” a reference to the estimated 5,500 to 6,000 U.S. forces and civilians who live on the 45-square-mile base, 1,800 of them assigned to the wartime prison of 40 captives.

Swimming, diving and fishing off the base’s beaches are popular pastimes among off-duty Army troops on temporary, deployment at Guantánamo. Cable Beach is known for its fierce undertow. It was closed following the tragedy, Overton said.

Most people think of Guantánamo as one gigantic prison. But there are many things you probably didn’t known about the U.S. Navy base in Cuba that makes the place feel like a small town in America.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg
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