I’m Always Going Somewhere

Time for a book review. In fact, this review is long overdue. I’ve mentioned before in this blog that the history of the Inter-American Geodetic Survey (IAGS) is poorly documented. As far as I know its parent agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, has never published a comprehensive general history of the organization and its achievements. But then, the modern Corps of Engineers has never been particularly interested in celebrating its topographic history and lineage (yes, that’s a dig).

Earlier this year I was contacted by an IAGS alum, Paul Hauser, who was putting together a book on his personal experiences while working as a geodesist for the IAGS from 1968 to 1970. He was incorporating experiences from other IAGS alumni and contacted me for permission to use some of the material I’ve posted on this blog and website.

A few months ago Paul’s book was published and he graciously provided me a copy to read and review. The book, titled I’m Always Going Somewhere, is less a history of the IAGS than a collection of personal experiences that detail what it was like to work as part of the field parties that the IAGS deployed all across Central and South America. But in these stories you get a real sense of how the IAGS accomplished its mapping and surveying missions in some of the most remote (and dangerous) areas of the world and in an era before GPS, high resolution satellite imagery, smartphones, tablets, laptop computers and GIS software.

I'm Always Going Somewhere

Paul and his contributors Roald Bendixen and Carol Ann Skillern have put together a remarkable and important collection of their personal experiences while working in the IAGS. If you have any interest in the IAGS or the history of mapping and surveying I strongly encourage you to get a copy of this book.

My hope is that this book will encourage other IAGS alumni and the family members of alumni to come forward with their stories so we can start to build a more complete history of this fine agency.

I’m Always Going Somewhere is available from Amazon in both print and Kindle editions


13 thoughts on “I’m Always Going Somewhere

  1. My dad Stephen E. Patchett recently passed away at the age of 93. He worked for IAGS from 1950 until 1979. When he retired he was the station chief in Panama. Dad always talked about his life with IAGS and we shared a lot of it as I was born in Lima, Peru in 1957 and all my brothers and sisters were born in the Panama Canal Zone. In going thru dads office I have found lots of photos and IAGS related items. I have just purchased Paur Hausers book and look forward to reading it. Dad gave talks and showed slides of his experiences with IAGS at our local library. He was proud of his years of service with them. I am going to fix his projector and start going thru all of his slides. Thanks for your site! I look forward to learning more about IAGS and enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. Looking at the dates I am sure dad knew many of these guys.
    Best wishes,

    • I believe I may have met your Dad, in the 1968-70 time frame….the last name is very familiar to me, and I was with the Aviation unit supporting IAGS…flew from Ecuador all the way north to Guatemala….but also lots in Panama, out of Albrook / Fort Clayton.

      Will be watching for your release of any narratives/pictures of IAGS as you share them!

      Pete McHugh, Hampton, VA

  2. Ordered the book! Looking forward to it! Has anyone, this site, thought to, or started a list of IAGS Alumni, with contact information…would really be great to test the water for some sort of reunion…and a great opportunity for potential authors to gather material????

    • Pete, a listing of IAGS alumni with contact info or ‘where are they now’ or ‘what ever happened to’ info is a great idea. I would be happy to host the page if someone wanted to take on the task of putting the information together.


      • I just received and read, with great emotion, Paul’s excellent account of his and other experiences at IAGS…what a shame more of us have not aggressively contributed to filling in historical and humorous “blanks” in the history of a great little unit…

        I’m happy to be the loci for collecting names, addresses and creating an alumni roster…and to share that with permission of contributors, with other members of our little band.

        Tell me how you think that should begin?

        Pete McHugh, IAGS 68-70

      • Pete,

        My suggestion would be as simple as starting a Facebook page – an IAGS Alumni site – and through the few contacts you already have encourage other IAGS alumni or close family members of alumni to join the page. I’ve seen this work well for a number of military organizations. I’d recommend you create it as a ‘closed’ group to prevent a lot of the open group silliness that is seen on so many other Facebook sites (folks with no association with the group signing up and trying to sell things, that sort of stuff). Once you did that I’ll be happy to announce it’s formation on this blog, which should help a little with getting the word out.

        – Brian

    • Peter,

      In early 1970 I drove to Panama along the Pan American Highway, a memorable trip, and on arrival was offered the option of flying for either the IAGS, or the newly forming 206th Aviation. I was told by Mrs Sears at personnel that IAGS was shutting down so I would not be with them long;I opted for Jim Lee’s 206 and was shortly up in El Salvador flying the OAS mission. There I came to know Al Holbert, the IAGS rep there who once lent me a vehicle and an adventure. Al died a year ago and while pulling on those old threads ran across Paul Hauser’s book. So while I crossed your trail briefly in 1970 did not get to know you. Some old names I remember from the 352nd were Bob Sword and a couple of others Smith and Lewis both warrants and I do not recall their first names. I actually flew one of your old Otters with Lewis in the right seat going into Toncotin. Later in early 1971 as I recall, I did fly an IAGS mission out of Turbo Columbia but by then the IAGS aviation section had been folded into the 352nd or 206th, later the 114th aviation company

      I did run across you in Heidelberg while working at AFOD and my son was on the Swim team there which I believe you coached. My wife and I presently live in Vermont. The little guy you coached went to medical school and is the residency director for family practice docs in upstate New York. I do stay in touch with Chet Dubberly, who was kind enough to invite me to one of your 207th reunions but had a conflict as I was visiting family in Spain that year.

      Jose Lopez aka Tony

      • Tony,
        Great to get your comment, and amazed by your excellent memory of both the IAGS and later the Heidelberg periods…my wife and I were the first (we think) US Military (enlisted) to PCS from the CZ to CONUS (Ft Ord) via POV (1963 Ford Falcon Convertible) in 1966. Took us 11 days and much of the InterAmerican Hwy in Costa Rica was not complete yet. I did the drive solo again when I left IAGS enroute to Rucker for RW school (1970).

        I remember Smith vaguely (and not his first name)…

        Congratulations on your son’s success…I was a poor substitute for a coach, when the real leader of that effort, “Fish” DEROS’d to the States and left the team… taking those great kids, and your son, to Brussels, Berlin, and other posts, camps and stations was a very rewarding experience…hope that he has very happy memories of the time, though I remember being pretty touch on some of the kids….learned a lot from them!

        Drop me a line….biappete@yahoo.com when you have a moment?

  3. Hi Brian, Roald,
    I have a 14 page document entitled, Inter American Geodetic Survey Briefing, dated 20 March, 1968. It came from the Department of the Army, Headquarters Inter American Geodetic Survey, Fort Clayton, Canal Zone. One of the paragraphs reads: “IAGS is responsible to the Commander, U.S. Army Forces Southern Command, and in turn, to the United States Southern Command, then to the Department of Defense. Since mapping operations are generally considered an intelligence function, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) serves as the program manager for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and mapping activities are normally handled through intelligence offices of intermediate commands, such as J2, USSOUTHCOM. J-2 publishes an annual Operation Plan for the Inter American Mapping and Charting Program (MAPPLAN), which is the primary directive for operations conducted by IAGS.”

    • Paul,

      Congratulations on a great publication recounting the extraordinary experiences you and other cartographers had in IAGS service….thanks so much for honoring me with a mention in your account….Steve Sullivan let me know you had published, and I couldn’t wait to get and read a copy….it was a very pleasant trip into memories of those great times in Central and South America and the great people who worked to “Map the Americas”!!!!!

      I am excited by the idea that your work was a beginning of a larger collection of memories and history of the IAGS…and wonder if you’d permit me to begin to collect additional material and accounts to take next steps, beyond “…always going somewhere” perhaps to collaborate?

      Could we connect directly to discuss, and perhaps share ideas?

      Pete McHugh, IAGS 68-70

  4. Hi Brian. Thanks for the great review. One point though. IAGS’s parent organization was the Army Map Service, and later, the Defense Mapping Agency. I understand that now, all US military mapping organizations are under some parent name that has “Geospacial” in its title.
    I enjoy reading your blog and discussing your capabilities with my good friend, Paul Hauser. Thanks. Roald Bendixen. IAGS 1966-1970

    • Roald, thanks for the reply! As far as I can figure out, the IAGS was a direct activity of the Army Corps of Engineers, but had very close ties to the Army Map Service. The Army Map Service was dis-established back in 1972 with the creation of the US Army Topographic Command. I think at that time the IAGS mission was folded into TOPOCOM. In 1977 TOPOCOM and all mapping, charting and survey activities of all the services were folded into the new Defense Mapping Agency (DMA). At that time the IAGS became the International Division of the DMA and the IAGS went away. Today there are no more topographers in the US military. Everybody is now some form of ‘Geospatial Engineer’ or ‘Geospatial Intelligence Analyst’.

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