Thursday, September 17, 2015

GTMO

We spent a few days in GTMO recently. For the uninitiated, we moored at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, lovingly shortened to GTMO, pronounced "git-mo," colloquially used as "It don't GTMO betta than this."

I have heard about GTMO my whole career, but visited for the first time last year about this time. Lots and lots and lots of Coast Guard ships have gone there, and will likely to continue to go there. It's convenient in the Caribbean, it has great logistical support, it's safe, it's cheap, it's American, phone cards home are cheap. And it gets a little boring after about the fifth time you've been there. 

A couple rules about GTMO I've picked up over the course of a few port calls there:
-- Don't mess with the iguanas. They're endangered and the Base personnel have the authority to mess with *you* if you mess with the iguanas. They're awesome creatures, though. I've seen ten cars stack up in each direction of traffic as a five-foot iguana takes his sweet time to cross the road. And they're fast! And they like Doritos.
-- Banana rats are not named after what they eat; they're named after the shape of their poop. They're largish rodents, about the size of a small possum, that have buck teeth, are nocturnal, and damn smelly. They travel in packs. I've ridden my bike through wooded areas that are skunky with their musky smell. There may have been a few treks out late at night to find banana rats in their natural habitat just so say we've seen some.
-- It is so freaking *HOT* in GTMO. I've never seen it rain there, though anvil clouds will billow up in the sky almost to the moon. You sweat just walking outside. They have these beautiful football, soccer, baseball, volleyball fields and courts that are completely deserted during the day, but come completely alive at night once the temperature drops below 95 degrees. Seriously, I was out and about one morning at 10 am, and the temperature on the "Welcome to NAVSTA GTMO" sign said 97 degrees.
-- Do not expect creative food. They have a handful of restaurants including McDonalds, Taco Bell, A&W, Pizza Hut, O'Kelley's - an "Irish" pub, The Jerk Shack - a Caribbean food place, and maybe a few others. But they all serve food straight off the supply barge. It's nice to be able to chose what to eat, sure, but it's lots of choices of not great food.
-- Don't take pictures where they tell you not to take pictures. 'Nuff said.

There are a few things I enjoy about GTMO:
-- The exchange and commissary are pretty robust. They have a good (not great) selection of what you might need to survive another 30 days on patrol. Surprisingly, their beer selection is satisfactory for my beer snob tastes...or at least good enough to find a cold sixer to share on the beach with some shipmates.
-- The beaches are accommodable. They're not particularly picturesque, but they have nice amenities, like lots of picnic tables under shade, volleyball courts, lounging chairs, clean water, blue skies, interesting rocks and coral bits, sea breezes and at least porta potties. Just watch out for the ankle breakers (aka shifty rocks and coral) on the way to and from taking a dip in the water.
-- Unlike foreign port calls, we don't have a buddy system when we go there. I can ride off on my bicycle by myself and enjoy some time away from folks on the ship -- who I like very well, but just need a little separation from every now and again.
-- The gym is great! Open 24 hours a day during the week, it's a/c'd and I've never had to wait for equipment. Not that I use a lot of equipment at the gym -- mostly just the treadmill, but it's there if I ever want it.

Delightfully, the wi-fi has improved significantly since the first time I visited. They upgraded recently, or so I've heard, and there's definitely a difference. Makes it much easier to check email and get some personal business done in the few days we're there. 

I went paintballing there once. I forgot to wear long pants and tore the crap out of my legs on the pebbly ground. Still had fun. Except when SN VD took me out with a head shot -- thank goodness for the helmets.

GTMO's not the best place for a port call, and it's certainly not the worst. And I'm sure, over the course of the next 10 months or so, we'll git mo' GTMO.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**



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