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U.S. 5th Fleet Sailors Celebrate Navy’s 242nd Birthday

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian Morales, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs | October 14, 2017

MANAMA, Bahrain-- More than 500 service members and guests celebrated 242 years of American naval history and tradition during the Navy Birthday Ball at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Oct. 13.


With “Sea Power to Protect and Promote” as the theme for the Navy’s 242nd birthday, the celebration served as an opportunity to honor the proud history of the United States Navy that traces its origins to the Continental Navy and was established on October 13, 1775.  That service began when the continental Congress authorized the procurement, fitting out, manning and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America.


The U.S. 5th Fleet honors this tradition with the employment of dozens of ships in its area of operations on any given day. The Navy Birthday Ball was also an opportunity to honor the service of the men and women who make up the greater Navy family who with partners preserve the free flow of commerce throughout the region and provide maritime security.


The official events included a video birthday message from the Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, and the reading of the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s Navy Birthday Ball letter.


Glasses were charged and attendees rose for the ceremonial toasts, starting with a toast to the King of Bahrain, His Majesty the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The Kingdom of Bahrain and the United States Navy share a partnership that has endured for nearly 70 years, and is the host to the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters.


Much of the Navy’s history and culture involves relationships with foreign allies and the support of host nations like Bahrain. This teamwork has been critical to the Navy’s success in the region and globally, which was evident by the diversity of those in attendance.


Amongst the attendees were the Bahrain Minister for Defense Affairs Lt. Gen Al Jalahma, the Bahrain Minister of Foreign Affairs Assistant Undersecretary for GCC Affairs Amb. Dr. Alumran as well as the ambassadors to the Kingdom of Bahrain from the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany Japan, the Republic of Turkey, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of India, the Republic of the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Malaysia


Vice Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces welcomed guests and spoke briefly about the significance of honoring the profound history of the Navy before introducing his senior enlisted leader, the event’s guest speaker. 


U.S. 5th Fleet Master Chief James Honea welcomed all in attendance, and expressed how the Sailors and Marines of U.S. 5th Fleet exemplify service to the U.S. Navy and nation.


“This year’s Navy birthday theme is ‘Sea Power to Protect and Promote’ and that encompasses what I’ve learned many years ago,” said Honea. “Many would say that it was our equipment, our weapons systems and platforms that make our Navy great, and I would agree that these aspects give us an advantage, but at its core, what truly makes us great, is our people. Each and every one of you is what makes us great.”


While typical Navy Balls follow a format aligned with traditions from years prior, the Navy Ball in Bahrain offered some unique variations.


Following Honea’s remarks, Cmdr. Ron Kish, officer in charge of Norfolk Air Mobility Command terminal, reenlisted his nephew, Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Aaron Kish.


Not to be outdone, Engineman 2nd Class David Kaye made a special announcement via the DJ’s booth as he asked his girlfriend to the center of the dance floor to propose. She said yes.


The event could not have happened without the planning provided by the Navy Ball Committee. Working for months under the direction of Ross Sawtelle, the all-volunteer committee ensured that the attendees could celebrate the rich culture and traditions of the U.S. Navy into the late hours of the evening.


U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.