The 1,800 battle-clad Marines due here in about 10 days will headquarter at a forlorn-looking base called Camp Buckley -- an unlikely locale for President Carter's stand against communists in the Western Hemisphere.
The base was built during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and looks as if it hasn't been used since. Grass is growing through the floors of the buildings, ripped screens flap in the breeze and suggestions of what to do with the place are painted in black on the sides of buildings.
"Burn!" suggested an unknown Marine or sailor on one building after another around the camp.
Guantanomo has been an American installation since 1903 and a persistent irritant to Cuban President Fidel Castro. Now President Carter has chosen the 45-square-mile bastion as the setting for his show of "resolve" against the presence of Soviet troops on this communist island.
But the people at Guantanamo are exhibiting no sense of alarm or even much interest in this international gamesmanship.
Two swimmers paddled serenely today in the blue water off Windmill Beach, a 500-yard-wide stretch of black sand and broken coral where the Marines will land. And the most military-looking structures in sight were yellow, blue and gray cabanas used by the families of the serviceman stationed here.
"Business as usual," said Navy Capt. John H. Fetterman Jr., who commands Guantanoma, in talking with the 60 reporters flown to the base today in a Navy plane.
Fetterman said he knew that the Soviet had troops on Cuba when he took over the U.S. base eight months ago. Nothing special has been done in response, he said, except for intensifying intelligence surveillance of the area around the base.
Col. Mark P. Fennessy, commander of the 420 Marines charged with defending the base, said the upcoming military exercise would be little different than one conducted here in 1975.
"A classic Marine amphibious effort," said Fennessy, adding that the only difference in the upcoming exercise is that the Marines will remain on Guantanamo for about a month to train. In 1975 they departed shortly after landing.
Asked if the presence of the Soviet troops on the island had prompted him to take any precautionary measures to protect the $100 million Navy base, he said, "I've seen nothing to make me go to my base commander and make recommendations."
The Marines who will land here shortly will not even get their feet wet coming ashore nor fire anything but blanks from their M16 rifles.
Instead of wading ashore, some of the 1,800 servicemen will drive off their amphibious ships and onto the beach in tracked vehicles, and the others will fly here in helicopters.
Cubans who man watchtowers outside the fence enclosing the U.S. base will watch the operation and presumably report to Castro in Havanna 600 miles away.
It is possible that some of the Soviet troops also will watch the maneuver.
Fennessy said the Marines will do a variety of tactical exercises during their month's stay, including maneuvering tanks and firing artillery on the ranges.
Navy officials said they flew 60 media people here today because of numerous press requests. The trip turned into something of a media circus.
Right after landing about 9:15 a.m., the Navy gave the reporters and camera crews a choice of four bus tours with military escorts. A news conference was held by Fetterman and Fennessy after the tours.
Then the visitors were taken by bus to the Navy airstrip on the base, leaving around 1:15 p.m. The Navy said in one of the press kits it distributed that the upcoming Marine exercise will "demonstrate U.S. capability and resolve to defend the naval base."
Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering Guantanamo Bay in 1494, but apparently he did not stay long after searching vainly for gold and water.
The Marines first landed at Guantanamo in 1893 to establish a naval base for the campaign against Santiago de Cuba.
The United States leased the base from the Republic of Cuba in 1903 with the idea of using it as a coaling station for warships. A treaty negotiated in 1934 gave the United States a perpetual lease on the base.
Although Castro is paid $4,000 a year for its use, Navy officials said he has cashed only one of those annual checks.
One of the military escort officers present today, Marvin Coyner, said he could not figure what all the fuss about Cuba is about.
"My sister-in-law from Warwick, R.I., called the other night and asked if we were all right because she had heard all the talk about Russians in Cuba.
"'Are you people being attacked?' she asked.
"I said, 'No, we're going swimming.'"