An Oasis in the Desert – Bahrain – Brief Article

Dennis Merkel

Picture this: A desert island in the middle of the Persian Gulf, palm trees sway in the breeze, the setting sun highlights camels on the horizon. All around are Bedouin tents, belly dancers, gold, intricately woven carpets, and the wafting, warming scents of exotic foods.

It may sound too good to be true, but this is just another day for the U.S. Navy Bahrain Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department, whose programs provide a, welcome oasis for U.S. military personnel. As the only U.S. military base in the Central Command Area of Responsibility (AOR), comprising more than 20 countries, the Naval Support Activity Bahrain staff provides true “Arabian

Nights” hospitality for personnel of all branches of the U.S. military service who are stationed at or visit Bahrain, a 231-square-mile archipelago in the Persian Gulf.

Located 20 miles north of the Saudi Arabian coast, MWR at NSA SWA Bahrain provides the leisure facilities, activities, programs, and support required by U.S. military forces serving in this country that claimed its independence only 28 years ago. The recent introduction of new programs and facility improvements at NSA Bahrain has greatly enhanced the overall quality of life for service members and their families.

In the past few years, the MWR Special Events, Clubs, Food and Beverage, Athletics and Aquatics, and Recreation and Youth Activities branches in Bahrain have expanded programs to meet the needs of visting U.S. military personnel and staff and their families. Included in the expansion were Fleet Recreation and Single Military activities, each with their own requirements. Individual program budgets were established in order to meet the needs of visiting ships’ personnel.

Examples of support included catering for parties, contracting for additional food vendors, arranging Local tour packages, and providing exercise-equipment repair services. Activities for single and unaccompanied military personnel emphasized special events, fishing trips, desert camping and biking, dinner outings, golf, horseback riding, Laser tag, Eve music, and free bus runs to major beaches, resorts, and marinas on the island of Bahrain.

Last year’s events were organized to support a much Larger audience, which included the permanent base community as well as visiting ships’ personnel and temporary units. MWR organized, or assisted in organizing, events such as the 223rd Navy Birthday Ball, unit changes of command and receptions, numerous holiday celebrations, and outrageous dinner parties. Entertainment programs featured welt-known bands and individuals from the United States. MWR also sponsored several entertainment celebrity shows with guests such as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Hootie and the Blowfish.

Celebrate Good Times

The MWR Food and Beverage branch provided staffing, facility support, and catering for a number of events including Fine Dining Night, Italian and Mexican food festivals, Burn Your Own Steak Night, Chili Night, and Mongolian BBQ Night. The MWR Fleet Recreation branch provided complete leisure support services for aircraft-carrier and Amphibious Ready Group visits. MWR arranged parties and celebrations for both afloat and ashore personnel MWR Fleet Recreation, Special Events, Athletics and Aquatics, Clubs, and Publicity branches combined resources to bring together entire day and night events during large-scale port visits. In addition to live entertainment, local crafts, and a plethora of food, sports tournaments were arranged between local and ship teams.

The MWR Department at Bahrain had much to celebrate in 1998. A new fitness center was opened, an Internet cafe was established, and several new classes and programs, including tae kwon do, fitness training, aqua-aerobics, and ballet, were initiated. Youth activities, including an end-of-summer carnival, youth campout, and Christmas celebration, were planned to include the whole family. MWR received a grant from the Lyman Trust to renovate its Teen Room. Special events for teens included a weekend getaway, dinner and movie parties, and trips to the local amusement park.

The Bahrain File

Population: 586,000

Official language: Arabic

Capital: Manama

Nearest neighbors: Saudi Arabia

to west, Qatar

to east

1992 GDP: $4.3 billion

Life expectancy (yrs): 71, male;

76, female

COPYRIGHT 1999 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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