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(well... at least a virtual facsimile.)

I was stationed at the Naval Security Group Activity Galeta Island, Republic of Panama, from August of 1994 until April of 1995. The command has since been decomissioned along with a number of other US Military bases in Central America. Overall, my experiences in Panama were positive. The weather was either hot and humid or hot and rainy but once you got used to the initial shock of the atmosphere, it really wasn't that bad. I lived on the atlantic side of the Canal Zone near the Gatun Locks of the Panama Canal.

The main administrative location of the Naval Security Group Activity (right) was located in a single building on the Ft. Davis Army Base. The building served both as NSGA Headquarters and enlisted batchelor quarters. The rooms were small and about half of them didn't even have windows. When one was shift working, it could get pretty confusing. There's nothing more disorienting than waking up and not being able to tell if your clock is saying six AM or six PM. When I first got to the command we were two to a room but for the last few months I was there all senior enlisted personnel were moved into base housing leaving enough room in the barracks for everyone to have their own room. That's really easy to get used to.

The operations site for the command was located approximately 12 miles away on Galeta Island. We all traveled there on a bus owned by the Navy. The roads were a long string of pot holes held together by intermittent pieces of asphalt. If you ever managed to catch a nap on the way home from work it was usually one minute before we hit a huge metal plate in the road before we got back to Ft. Davis. Adreniline doesn't do too well as a sleeping aid.

Here, we see my friend Dan "The Dream" Weaver modeling for us in front of the Ft. Davis gym where we all went for our physical training. PT consisted of calisthenics and running. We could also play basketball, weight train and use nautilus equipment. PT was mandatory three times a week.

UH-60 Blackhawk

I took this picture across the street from my barracks... Awesome!

Here's a picture of me mingling with a couple of parrots I met my first weekend in Panama. We were never really without much to do. The partying place was Colon City but it wasn't exactly my kind of town. There were always taxis and shuttles available to take you wherever you needed to go. The first time I ever golfed was at Howard Air Force Base on the Pacific side of the Canal Zone. One of my many adventures (and I use the term loosely) in the Republic of Panama. Be sure to check out our brave excursion to "Isla Grande."

Fort San Lorenzo

This is a picture I took in the Ft. Davis Community Park. It served as a "Frisbee Golf Course" but I never saw anyone actually playing with a frisbee there. Anyway, it was pretty and nice to walk around in.

This is the chapel for the Cardenas Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The only English speaking ward in Panama. Unfortunately, Cardenas is located on the Pacific side of the Canal Zone and I was stationed on the Atlantic side without a car. I was only able to make it to church a few times while I was in Panama, but I was called as a home teacher. My primary person to look after: Mike Heisenbuttle, the only other active member of the Church at our command. ;-]

I took this picture to show how people value things in different cultures. You might notice a grayish mist on the surrounding plantlife. That's dust from this cement factory. I doubt we would see this sort of thing in the States, but I wouldn't put it past some people. What really surprised me, though, wasn't this sort of obvious disregard for the environment--it wasn't unusal to see people dump their refuse on the side of any road--but what went on in the rainforrests of Panama. They're cutting them down, just like the rain forrests of South America. We all know that that's a terrible thing, but the Panamanians that are doing it are overlooking something rather crucial to their country. The water that is used to fill the locks of the Panama Canal. It doesn't come from the oceans... it comes from the rain forrests in Panama. Slash and burn the rain forrest, no more rain. No more rain, no more water for the locks. No water for the locks, no more canal. No canal... It's a going to be a long trip for merchant and military vessels that need to get between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Speaking of refuse on the sides of the roads in Panama. How about an abandoned bus? That's my friend Mike on the right and Cotton (yes, that's his name) on the left.

Welcome to the Gatun Locks on the Atlantic end of the Panama Canal. When I arrived in Panama, we went on a tour of the Gatun Locks as part of our Command Indoctrination.

Here you can see the water level on the left higher than that on the right. A ship waiting to transit the canal (see below) would pass the large gates you see here when the water is at the same level. After the gates are closed, the lock now holding the ship is filled with water supplied by the Panamanian rain forrests and then continues on through the canal.

When in the locks, ships do not travel under their own propulsion but are towed by small vehicles on tracks parallel to the locks.

When you are stationed in a foreign country, as a military member, you are treated to either the Armed Forces Network or the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. (AFRTS or, as we preferred to call it, "A-Farts.") Every friday they showed people from different commands in the area saying in unison, "Have a nice weekend!" Well, we all thought it was dumb and made fun of all the people that got suckered into it... Then word got out that Galeta Island was closing. Sure enough, A-Farts showed up with a camera crew and lined us all up in front of our building to say that infamous "Have a nice weekend!" (You'll note that I was not in the group... Sure I may have missed my chance to be on TV in Panama, but It's no big loss to me. Besides, I was taking this picture.)

I left Panama on April 3, 1995. I left behind some friends that I still keep in touch with. My last weekend there was absolutely the greatest. So great, in fact, that I didn't want to leave despite some of the tough times I went through while I was there. This is a picture of Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean.

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