MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
Two hundred and thirty-six years ago, when the 13 British North American colonies tried to separate from England and become their own United States, England deployed British ships, then the most powerful naval force known, to blockade colonial U.S. ports and terrorize seaside settlements.
The Continental Congress passed a resolution, which created the Continental Navy, to fight the British Navy. Samuel Chase, a Maryland delegate, said to build an American fleet was the maddest idea in the world.
The United States Navy was born Oct. 13, 1775 when the Continental Congress voted to arm two sailing vessels to challenge the British.
The ships were armed with 10 carriage and swivel guns and approximately 80 crewmembers.
By the end of the War for Independence, the Continental Navy sent out about 50 armed vessels and took over approximately 200 British ships.
The U.S. Navy has grown considerably since then, with nearly half a million personnel and more than 270 deployable battle force ships.
Station service members and residents attended the 2011 Navy Ball at the Club Iwakuni ballroom here, Oct. 14, to recognize, remember and pay tribute to236 years of brave sailors past and present.
“This is a tradition,” said Chief Petty Officer Franklin B. Dizon, 2011 Navy Ball vice chairman. “We celebrate it because it is our birthday. It is part of our identity as United States sailors.”
This year’s ball was set with a Japanese theme, which combined naval traditions with paying tribute to the station’s host nation.
“I am just awe-struck when I think of all the Navy has accomplished, it’s amazing to see where we’ve come from and where we are today as the strongest naval fighting force on Earth,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Chris A. Lang, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 medical department senior enlisted advisor and 2011 Navy Ball master of ceremonies. “With us being in Japan, we have the privilege and honor to work with the Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force sailors aboard the station. I think we grow as people and as sailors with the experience we gain working abroad.”
The explosions of battle, war cries of sailors long passed and cheers of victory seemed to echo through the ballroom as eight side boys took their place, and a boatswain’s mate trilled his pipe to signal the start of the Navy Ball’s opening ceremonies.
The personnel in attendance reminisced on the memories and traditions of the past 236 years of service as the traditional ringing of the bell introduced the official party and color guard with both the American and Japanese flags.
“It is important tonight that we pay homage and tribute to all the sailors who came before us and served,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Brenten Cole, 2011 Navy Ball chairman. “Many gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can live free, peaceful lives.”
Lt. Col. Michael R. Coletta, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron commanding officer, gave the opening remarks for the evening’s ceremony.
“This is a great way for everyone aboard station to break bread, throw some camaraderie around and toast to the great history the Navy and its sailors have made through 236 glorious years of service,” said Coletta. “The Navy and Marine Corps are a team. The Marines are present tonight to show support for our Navy brothers and sisters. Without them, we could not complete our mission and vice versa,” he added.
After dinner was served, a time-honored part of the ceremony took place: The cutting of the cake.
Cmdr. Sheri Coleman and Seaman Apprentice Estephani Torres, the oldest and youngest sailors in attendance both held the sword to cut the first slice of cake. As is tradition, Coleman handed the piece to Torres to take the first bite.
“The passing of the cake represents the older sailors passing down their knowledge and experience to younger sailors,” Lang said. “We don’t last forever. It’s important to teach the young pups everything we can.”
After the cake-cutting ceremony, the Japanese ceremonial tradition of opening a sake barrel was performed. Following the opening of the sake barrel a rousing rendition of Anchors Aweigh was played as many sang along. Once the song was over, tables cleared as attendees headed to the dance floor.
Two hundred and thirty-six years have passed since the U.S. Navy first set sail. Today, the inheritors of that legacy celebrated at the Navy Ball.