George's (N7TQZ) Adventures in GTMO

My license for GTMO

In November 1991, I went to Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba, with the 504th MP Bn. I had taken a Galaxy II, a converted radio for ten meters, and a two meter handheld radio. I was a Technician - we didn't have no-code Techs or Tech Plus at that time. On December 3, I was issued the call of KG4QZ. I was surprised to learn that I now had Extra class privileges. I was pretty disappointed that I didn't take my Collins KWM-2A. I joined the GARC (Guantanamo Amateur Radio Club) and had access to a Kenwood TS-530SP Radio.
I set up my station in the hurricane shelters we were staying in. The hurricane shelter is like an oversized Quonset hut with no windows and covered with dirt. I had my antenna, a small ground plane vertical, on the ground directly above me. The rest of my station consisted of my Galaxy II, a MFJ-900 Econo Tuner, a Pyramid Phase III 12 VDC power supply, and a Zegati SWR meter, My first day of contacts, was quite a rush. As I got started that day, there was a couple people from my unit watching me set up. As I started making contacts, I noticed more people coming in to watch. I had worked a few people in the states, when I heard Japan coming in. I made a couple of contacts in Japan and then the band really got busy. I was now in the middle of a pile-up. There was a female voice that came in louder than anyone else. I was prompted by my audience to get her. As I was talking to her, I was asked to ask her how old she was. I asked the crowd standing there, about twenty or so, what they thought. Most responses were that she was in her late teens to early twenties. She announced that she was nine years old. You should have seen the jaws drop in the room.

Conditions was very good on 10 meters and I was able to keep in contact with my friends at Fort Lewis and W2USA. I met a lot of people on the radio and there was a few that I kept in contact with during my stay in GTMO. I pretty much worked 10 meters from my bunk, and when time allowed, I went to the radio club to work 20 meters. I had bragging rights as I was the only active duty Army ham on the island at the time.

After about two months of working the bands, my commander asked me how many states and countries I had worked. I was pretty close to working all states and I had a few countries as well. I decided to try to work all of the states. I was addicted to the pile-ups. It seemed as though I had a real following. I was on a lot of DX clusters around the country. I caused a pile-up one day as I was talking to some school kids in Maryland - they had a ham showing them about amateur radio. It was a thrill to talk to these kids.When I was done, I moved to another frequency, and worked quite a few stations.

I was glad to get off of switchboard watch so I could hit the radio. I did spend time playing volleyball at the beach, as well as playing cards, but I was real happy to get on the radio. My last state for working all states was South Dakota. I made that contact one day before we had to pack up and return to Fort Lewis. I worked all 50 states and 22 other countries. The radio club gave me a stack of QSL cards so I could send out cards to those that sent me one. I made little stickers with my callsign to put on the cards. A bit tacky, but it worked for me.

When I returned back to Fort Lewis in March 1992, there was a huge stack of QSL cards waiting for me. It took me three weeks to get through it all. It was worth it. On my wall in my ham shack is a card from each state and a few of the countries that I had worked. That trip to GTMO also made me want to upgrade as soon as possible. And upgrade I did! I miss the thrill of being the one causing a DX pile-up.

I still have not counted the actual number of contacts to this day.

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My station sign

N7TQZ / KG4QZ operating from the hurricane shelter

N7TQZ / KG4QZ operating from the hurricane shelter

Pulling switchboard watch

My QSL Card Courtesy of KG4AN

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