The U.S. Naval Security Group Activity (NSGA), Galeta Island, Republic of Panama dates to 1925 when the Department of the Navy and the Panama Canal Company (PCC) jointly developed a radio compass station to provide lines of bearing to commercial and naval ships approaching the Atlantic terminus of the Panama Canal.
The selected site was Toro Point on the approaches to the western breakwater of Limon Ba, then controlled by the PCC, now within the confines of Fort Sherman. A radio compass house, barracks, married quarters for the Chief-in-Charge and a concrete seawall were constructed and the station was commissioned on May 18, 1925.
In December of 1952, Toro Point Statin was changed to Naval Communication Unit Number 33 and was moved to Galeta Point, where an operations building was built and a GRD-6 direction finding antenna system was installed. In December 1958, the station was designed U.S. Naval Security Group Activity, Galeta Island and established as a separate activity under the control of the Commandant, Fifteenth Naval District.
In May 1962, the PCC began site clearing and fill for a new radio facility one mile west of the Galeta Point site. The prime contractor began work on the new operations building and Circular Disposed Antenna Array (CDAA) in October 1962, but work was not completed until 1965. Equipment installation within the new building was completed in October, and on 23 October 1965, the new operations site became fully operational. In March 1966, the activity was redesignated as a command under a Commanding Officer, CDR K. L. Robinson. The Coco Solo Annex of the U.S. Naval Station Panama Canal was transferred to NSGA Galeta Island on July 1, 1968. The Coco Solo Annex had been maintained in a caretaker status by Rodman since the closing of the closing of the Coco Solo Naval Air Station in 1958. Many of the Annex facilities were used by NSGA Galeta since 1952, under an inter-service support agreement.
On November 20, 1968, the station gained the capability under Project Bullseye for fully computerized and semiautomatic high frequency direction finding (HFDF) operation; hence, NSGA Galeta Island became a dual net HFDF station through its capability participate in both the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic and Pacific HFDF nets. Over the next several years, the activity was assigned an ever increasing cryptologic mission. By October 1973, the station personnel complement included 15 officers, 238 enlisted and 51 civilians.
It was the largest Navy command in the Canal Zone; however, because of fiscal constraints imposed during FY 1974 NSGA Galeta Island underwent a severe decrement, reducing station mission and manpower allowance drastically, to 35 military and civilian billets. The Coco Solo support base was transferred to U.S. Army control on July 1, 1974. Inter-service support agreements were negotiated with the U.S. Army, the PCC, the U.S. Naval Station Panama Canal and several other agencies to ensure continued support for the Navy contingent remaining at Galeta Island.
Under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977 under President Jimmy Carter, Galeta Island has been designated a DoD contractor site for the length of the treaty, allowing continuous support to the fleet and to the nation until December 31, 1999.
NSGA Galeta Island has since enjoyed a rebirth. The total military and civilian personnel presence at Galeta Island includes three tenants: the 747th Military Intelligence Battalion, Company d Marine Support Battalion and the Marine Corps Security Force Company Panama, Atlantic Platoon. Additionally, Galeta Island has been host to a field laboratory of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute since 1967. The command is now headquartered in Building 17 Fort Davis. The facilities at Coco Solo were turned over to the government of Panama in September of 1990. NSGA Galeta Island was officially decommissioned June 30, 1995.
The Last Commanding Officer of NSGA Galeta Island Republic of Panama:
Commander Peyronel, USN
NSGA Galeta Island Republic of Panama
Commander Peyronel attended California State University at Sacramento, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish in 1974.
Commissioned in December 1974, through Officer Candidate School, her first duty station was the Naval Security Group Activity Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico, where she served as the Non-Morse Signals Collection Division Officer. She transferred to the Naval Security Group Activity Northwest, Virginia in January 1977. While at Northwest, Commander Peyronel served as the Technical Processing and Reporting Unit Branch Officer, NCO LANT Division Officer and Communications Officer.
She was redesignated as Special Duty Officer (Cryptology) in March 1977. Her next duty station was the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where she earned a Master of Science Degree in Telecommunications Systems Management. In March 1981, she was assigned to Headquarters, Naval Security Group Command in Washington, D.C., where she worked in the Telecommunications and ADP Department, initially assigned to Current Operations Division and later as a project officer for several fleet communications projects. In May 1984, she assumed command of Naval Security Group Activity Terceira, Azores. Commander Peyronel reported to CINCLANTFLT in February 1986 and served as Fleet Communications Officer. She was assigned as NSGD Guam Department Head in April 1989 and assumed duties as NAVCAMS WESTPAC Executive Officer in July 1990. Transferring to the Bureau of Naval Personnel in August 1991, she served as the CT/IS Enlisted Community Manager and Navy Foreign Language Program Manager. She then served as Commanding Officer of NSGA Galeta Island, Republic of Panama from July 1994 to its decommissioning date in July 1995.
Commander Peyronel’s awards include the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (two awards) and the National Defense Service Medal (two awards).
Source: U.S. Naval Security Group Activity Galeta Island Republic of Panama Decommissioning Ceremony Booklet, March 31, 1995