In 2002-2003 he was the Superintendent of the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There he designed supervised construction of several state-of-art facilities, namely Camp Delta, to house and maintain over 680 terrorists from forty-four different countries. CSM VanNatta was personally requested by name to visit Iraq twice to consult on prison operations there. Following this tour of duty the Secretary of Defense awarded VanNatta the Defense Superior Service Medal.
John VanNatta's civilian career is equally impressive. He started in education teaching at the high school level and taught at the university level in Indiana. He entered law enforcement in Edinburg, Texas, and was promoted up through the ranks. He started his career with the Indiana Department of Corrections as the Assistant Chief of Internal Affairs. He served in various key leadership positions and earned both his Masters and Doctorate degrees in prison operations. He served as superintendent for several prisons in Indiana, most recently as the superintendent of one of Indiana's largest prisons located in Miami County, Indiana. In 1979 Mr. VanNatta was presented the Governors Commendation by then Governor Otis Bowen. In 1991 he received the state wide Employee of the Month award from former Governor Evan Bayh, and then in March 2006 Mr. VanNatta was presented the Distinguished Hoosier Award by Governor Mitch Daniels for his exceptional service to the state of Indiana and the Department of Corrections.
Currently Mr. VanNatta is still servicing our country overseas in the War on Terror. He is with MPRI serving in Afghanistan. Mr. VanNatta is the Director of Detainee Operations for the United State Government in Afghanistan. In his current role he works directly with the United States Military, Department of Defense, and Department of State, and with the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Justice and the Afghan military. He designed and implemented an extensive training program for the Afghan military in prison operations that enables them to operate prisons that met international standards. Their operation is now the benchmark for all prisons both military and civilian in the country.
Mr. VanNatta intends to return to Indiana when this mission for the government is completed. This Distinguished Hoosier hopes to continue to serve the citizens of Indiana while enjoying Indiana countryside.
The Legion of Merit (photo left) is one of the United States military's most prestigious awards.
It is one of only three United States decorations to be issued as a neck award (worn around the neck), or worn pinned. The others are the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidents Medal of Freedom.
It is awarded for exceptionally outstanding service in performance of meritorious service to the United States. The performance must merit recognition by individuals in a key position which was performed in a clearly exceptional manner.
The Legion of Merit is worn after the Defense Superior Service Medal and before the Distinguished Flying Cross.