A pair of Navy cops set up a checkpoint for speeders near a mini-mart and ticketed two drivers for exceeding the 10-mile-per-hour limit approaching it.
Filipino contract workers served sailors and soldiers in the cafeteria, while Jamaican maids changed sheets at officers' guest quarters.
Navy engineers, Seabees, were building a bridge over the Guantánamo River for Marines who patrol the fence that separates the base from the rest of Cuba.
And Desiree Rivers, a Navy petty officer who works as a career counselor, reenlisted on a bluff overlooking that bay. Her husband, a Marine on temporary duty, wore his dress blues and later produced a saber to slice the celebratory cake.
EVOLUTION OF IMAGE
But absent a new assignment, long-timers imagine a return to the quiet days of downsizing and anonymity that ended when the first 20 men arrived on Jan. 11, 2002 -- to give Guantánamo the at-times unwanted international spotlight.
''It's the kind of place that will be easily forgotten, and easily ignored,'' says Johnston. "Until it's desperately needed again.''
Over time, many came to see Guantánamo as something sinister, especially after the Defense Department distributed early images from Camp X-Ray showing captives in orange jumpsuits -- in shackles on their knees.
''Camp X-Ray is like Kryptonite,'' says Johnston, the public works officer.
Even if a judge eventually allows the Pentagon to dismantle the camps, he says, and "put an orphanage there, everything that happened at that site will cripple it.''
The Pentagon is still offering tours of the camps.
Florida National Guard Lt. Cody Starken, now in charge, read aloud during a slideshow for two visiting photographers recently, reciting talking points fine-tuned through the years. The military spends $3.1 million a year -- $8,500 daily -- to feed 240 or so detainees at ''the most transparent facility in the world,'' he said.
Still off-limits to media: Camp 7, built in secret for former CIA captives who were waterboarded and arrived here more than two years ago.
Since no one is allowed to talk about it, commanders here decline to say what could be its use once the White House moves confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other 15 ''high-value detainees'' elsewhere.
Even with the camps' closure on the horizon, the choreography of bitter acrimony continues.
Detainees use their pro-bono lawyers to accuse the guards of continuing abusive behavior, of provoking the prisoners through gratuitous cell shakedowns, or roughly moving hunger strikers to tube-feedings. The Pentagon flatly denies the allegations.
Any notion that guards are getting in their last licks is ''absolutely, unequivocally false,'' says Rear Adm. Dave Thomas, who is leaving to command a Carrier Strike Group before the camps close. "There could not possibly be a more scrutinized performance . . . than my guard and the medical folks go through.''
He swats aside discussion of what the Pentagon might do with the sprawling infrastructure -- cells, trailer parks, snoop-proof command headquarters, wooden cottages -- built for millions of dollars through war on terror funding.
Make it a training center for future detainee operations? Turn it over to the Navy's new Fourth Fleet? Level it? See what the Marines would make of it?
''We still have detainees here. That's the focus,'' says Thomas, who calls the ongoing expansion of prison camp recreation yards and diversions part of "getting it right. Until the last detainee's gone, my focus is on the safe, humane and transparent custody.''