Whidbey News-Times


Remember the War of 1812 at Navy Ball at NAS Whidbey Island

October 1, 2012 · Updated 3:41 PM

USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”), the oldest commissioned warship afloat, makes her annual Fourth of July “turnaround cruise” in Boston Harbor in 2002. The theme for this year’s Navy Ball, which celebrates the Navy’s 237th birthday, is the War of 1812. The USS Constitution is one of six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. The Constitution defeated five British warships during the War of 1812. / U.S. Navy photo by journalist Seaman Joe Burgess

It’s an event 200 years in the making.

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 will serve as the theme for this year’s Navy Ball, set to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 in the airplane wash rack (Bldg. 2903) on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

While the ball is a celebration of the Navy’s 237th birthday, there are a lot of firsts for this year’s celebration.

It’s the first time the Chief of Naval Operations has designated all Naval installations follow the same theme, which is the war of 1812; it’s the first time at NAS Whidbey Island a 3rd Class Petty Officer will act as the Master of Ceremonies; and it’s also the first time a 1st Class Petty Officer has chaired the Navy Ball planning committee. Organizers hope these firsts will lead to others — such as lots of first-time attendees.

“This is the only event all year that tries to pull together the whole base,” said Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 3rd Class Stephen Anderson, Fleet Readiness Center Northwest.

This is also the first time in recent memory the ball will not be held in the Officers’ Club. By holding the event in the wash rack, it means many more people can attend.

Typical attendance at the ball is about 400; this year’s organizers are hoping for at least 250 more. But the biggest problem, they say, is that there is a misconception that the Navy Ball is only for senior enlisted personnel and officers.

That’s just not true.

“Some younger sailors weren’t even aware of what the birthday ball is,” said AZ1 Patrisha Sillavan, the FRCNW planning committee chair.

“The ball is open to all Navy personnel and their families, from junior enlisted on up,” said Anderson.


Dignitaries are invited


Community dignitaries and other special guests, such as area Pearl Harbor survivors, are also asked to attend, typically by invitation. “I’ve never heard of anyone being turned away,” Anderson said.

“I hope after this year a lot more people will be aware of the Navy Ball,” Sillavan said. “We’re hoping to bring a lot more awareness and get a lot more people involved.”

The planning committee has come up with a week of activities to mark the birthday celebration.

There will be a 5K fun run on Oct. 6 and a golf tournament at Gallery Golf Course on Oct. 9.

In addition, the Skywarrior Theater on base will show a selection of World War II movies — there is a serious shortage of of movies on the War of 1812. But there will be a series of presentations about the War of 1812.

“It was a big war for the Navy,” said Anderson. “The British Royal Navy had 600 ships — we had 80, and that included our supply ships.”

A formal affair

The ball is a formal affair. Attire is Navy dress blues for military and formal for civilian guests.

That evening will honor tradition, as the birthday cake will be cut by the oldest and youngest sailors present. A scale model of the USS Constitution, the only ship from the war of 1812 still in operation today, will rest atop the cake. The model will be raffled off during the ball and proceeds will go into the planning fund for next year’s event. Seattle band Idol Eyez will be the musical entertainment.

Even the guest speaker for the event will be a heavy hitter — former catcher for the Seattle Mariners, Dan Wilson.

“His brother is an Army helicopter pilot and his father-in-law was an Air Force Captain,” Anderson said, saying a 2009 trip to Afghanistan proved to be a life-changing experience for Wilson.

“He said he was surprised at how scared he felt when he was there,” he said, “and how surprised he was at how willing those in the military were to be there.”


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