What it was like to be in Diego Garcia while stationed in the United States Navy
When I first came to Diego García, I didn’t know what country it really was. But, when I flew into his airport, he had his own one-man show. We had to wait for hours, for a guy to process a group of us. He had to do all the customs forms and verify all the proper paperwork, and he took it very seriously, and it took him many hours to get out of the building.
I had heard from other guys that Diego Garcia was one of the worst places you could be parked. He was considered a hard duty, and very isolated, and was counted toward some duty as twice, which meant it was such a bad duty that he was credited twice. That meant if he had 1 year of sea service, he could go here, and he would be considered to have served 2 years, and return to land service quicker. Everybody wants to be in ground duty. This island was a tropical island, but it was not a paradise island.
They were mostly military and military support personnel on the island. The island was known to be profoundly hot. It really was terribly hot, muggy and infested with sharks. When we got there, there was a group of six of us, all of us going on the same boat. We were headed to the USS DAVID R. RAY (DD-971), a Spruance-class destroyer. But right now, that ship was somewhere in the middle of the ocean, and we were trying to reach it.
It was amazing how we had to catch up. A couple of plane rides, two boat rides, one aboard a civilian ship, and then a helicopter ride, from one ship to another, in the middle of the ocean, and finally we reached it.
Back in Diego Garcia, after we were released from the customs office, we were taken to what appeared to be a small trailer park. It was small, with white rocks around it, like a small garden, and a screen door. It was a white booth like trailers that were in rows. Each one slept 6 men per unit and had its own bathroom. The six guys were on the same boat, so we stayed in the same unit.
We stayed in Diego Garcia for about three weeks. The morning after we were there, we all headed out to the main white building to see what the heck we were going to do for the day, where our ship was, and when we’d be on it.
The officer in charge saw one of the guys who was with us and noticed that he was wearing an earring. He got so mad that he reached over and ripped it out of the guy’s ear. I don’t remember what his name was, but he was like a shortstop or a Gunner’s assistant, and the guy who ripped off his earring, was the guy who assigned jobs while we were there, and told him he had a special job for him.
The guy with the earring got the job cutting down dead coconut trees in the jungle and dragging them back to camp. It was always over 100 degrees there, and that was the worst job the man in charge could think of for our friend. I ended up getting a job with air conditioning, at the local airport. I kept track of all their files and did clerical work for them, while I waited to get back on my way, as some days they said our destroyer was heading somewhere else, and then some days they said it would be at, but it was always changing. .
There was nowhere to do in Diego Garcia, it was more or less a military type island. It was isolated with sharks in the water, and there was nothing else to do on the island, and if you stayed out for too long, you’d fry to death. There are no bars, just dining rooms and an open-air cinema that shows movies at night. Almost every day, there was a warning not to go in the water, due to the large number of sharks. I had no intention of getting in the water there, because I had heard a lot from other guys that Diego Garcia has a lot of sharks, and even a single shark for me close up is too much.
Even to this day, I still don’t know much about Diego Garcia, I’ve been there, and aside from a lot of cash on delivery with planes always dropping off and picking things up and trips to the airport, I’m still not sure. What is Diego Garcia still about?