By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Christian Caldwell
DIEGO GARCIA, British Indian Ocean Territory – The 2012 Navy Ball commemorated the Bi-centennial of the War of 1812. During the war, the U.S. was in great conflict with the British. However, this is no longer true, the U.K. has become one of our strongest allies.
“Diego Garcia is a unique base,” said Cmdr. Christopher Atkinson, Executive Officer of U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia (NAVSUPPFAC). “This installation is not enclosed on foreign soil and we are intertwined with those who own the territory.”
The Navy Ball, hosted by NAVSUPPFAC Diego Garcia, was a great success but, this was no ordinary Navy Ball. Sailors representing the Royal Navy attended along with Royal Marines.
The British presence at this Navy Ball symbolizes our nation’s strong bond with the U.K. and how far we have come this past 200 years.
“We must work together with the British Forces to meet our national interests and strategic goals,” said Atkinson.
Many Royal Sailors, Royal Marines and British Soldiers attended this year’s Navy Ball. They enjoyed dinner, drinks and dancing together as partners and friends.
Sgt. Jim Robinson, a Communications Engineer at Diego Garcia, was one of those representing the British Forces at the Navy Ball.
“It was a very well organized event. It was a great deal of fun and I enjoyed the meal and drinks,” said Robinson.
The British service members were welcomed with open arms by the U.S. Sailors at the event. Every service member, American or British, raised their glass to toast the President, the Queen and everyone in-between.
“It was great experience to have such camaraderie with the British,” said Yeoman 2nd Class Heather Seaward, administrative clerk at U.S. Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia.
“Their interests mirror ours and we work together to work towards a common goal,” said Atkinson.
Many of the British Forces on the island work with U.S. Sailors on a day-to-day basis. This type of work environment has allowed them to foster a greater friendship than ever before.
“We work exceptionally well together,” Atkinson said. “The British forces here are in charge and we support them. When we have a vital national interest here, they support us. It is a mutual working relationship that is beneficial and strategic in nature.”
“We offer a robust military infrastructure with great command control and a lot of forces that can assist them in meeting their national interests which parallel ours,” said Atkinson.
“200 years ago the British were denying out right to trade on the seas, but now they are a vital partner,” said Atkinson. “We work together to ensure there is free trade and free navigation throughout the seas.”
Although both nations were at war 200 years ago, events such as the Navy Ball on Diego Garcia have shown that the U.S. and U.K. have become very strong partners and allies.
“British and Americans have joined together here as sea-faring nations to celebrate our countries’ right to navigate the world’s oceans and that is what makes Diego Garcia unique from the rest of the fleet,” said Atkinson.
We work together as a cohesive unit, which creates a pleasant work environment for both of our nation’s forces, said Seaward.
“There has been a great bond that has been forged between our countries,” said Royal Navy Cmdr. Richard Marshall, British Representative at Diego Garcia.
“Each opportunity to share each other’s customs and traditions is most welcome and reminds us that we are all Sailors first and members of our respective navies second,” said Marshall.
This was the second Navy Ball that Marshall had attended. Marshall said he had the pleasure of attending last year’s Navy Ball.
“We have so many shared experiences between the U.S. Navy and U.K. Navy that it was a natural extension to what we already share,” he said.
Marshall said that he was impressed with the commitment to success that U.S. Sailors have shown with organizing the Navy Ball, as well as the commitment to success for most anything U.S. Sailors do.
“The pride members of the United States Navy have for their own service is very nice to see,” said Marshall. “We enjoy that U.S. Sailors have a love for traditions and heritage as much as we do.”