BY LT. NATHAN PECK, SC, USN, LT. PETER JACQUES, SC, USN; AND LT.J.G. JESSICA JIMENEZ, SC, USN
When the detailer proposes a tour in Bahrain, many of us immediately start to panic. We begin to fear the desert heat and the uncertainty of living in a foreign country with customs and traditions much different than our own. As we discuss the prospect with our colleagues, we quickly realize Bahrain has many opportunities for us and our families. Bahrain suddenly becomes much more enticing the more we hear about the quality of life, travel opportunities and job satisfaction. Bahrain is different than what most Americans are accustomed to, however, the country’s rich culture and diversity are what make Bahrain so fascinating.
Bahrain is a 5,000-year-old economic hub of the Middle East that dates back to the ancient Dilmun Civilization. Bahrain’s early inhabitants came from Babylon, Greece, Rome and Persia. This has made the island one of the most culturally diverse countries in the Middle East. To add to the diversity, Bahrain was a British territory until 1971, which is one of the reasons for a strong Western culture not seen in any of the surrounding countries. Bahrain is a progressive state for religious and personal freedoms. Islam is the national religion, but many others are openly practiced including Catholicism, Protestantism, Syrian Orthodox Christianity and Buddhism.
Many families shy away from overseas tours due to concerns about educational systems abroad and childcare. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain provides information and contacts to a strong educational system. Bahrain ES/HS is part of the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity school system and serves children kindergarten through 12th grade. It also functions as an important diplomatic gesture to Bahrain. Children have an opportunity to learn alongside classmates from all over the world and gain a global perspective. Families attest that the Bahrain School provides a high quality educational program for children, supplemented by rich cultural events throughout the year. Navy Child and Youth Programs (CYP) are nationally accredited and NSA Bahrain has excellent programs for children of all ages. NSA Bahrain has the Child Development Center, the School-Age Care Program, and the Teen Center to provide care for and develop partnerships with children 6-weeks old to 18 years old. CYP also offers sports programs and camps year round.
Whether assigned to Bahrain for one year unaccompanied or for two years with dependents, there are plenty of great activities to keep you and a family busy. Bahrain tours are a great way to increase your knowledge as a supply officer and offer a wide range of experiences. Families may take advantage of the rotator to travel to Italy, Spain, and Greece for free. Dubai, Oman and many other fascinating destinations are a short flight away. During a long, three-day weekend, book a hot air balloon ride and capture the sand dunes and mountains during a sunrise in Dubai followed by a dip in the pool at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai. Travel to Muscat, Oman and dive into the Wadi Shab, where you can find vivid emerald green pools surrounded by dramatic caves.
For those who enjoy the outdoors, reserve your tee time on a championship 18-hole golf course, dive for world famous pearls in the Arabian Gulf or kayak around Floating City in Amwaj. If you are seeking a new challenge or want to improve your horseback riding skills, take a lesson at Dilmun Stables. They offer lessons to guests of all ages and will help you work on jumping and flatwork skills. NSA Bahrain does an excellent job in coordinating activities, which include 5k base runs, scuba diving certification, a rock climbing wall and multiple intramural sports to name a few. There is an endless list of activities to keep you busy throughout the year.
If you want to stay indoors and keep cool during the summer months, reserve a table at one of the many upscale hotel brunches. After experiencing a delectable meal, head to the Gold Souk and design your favorite piece of jewelry or get taped by one of Bahrain’s renowned tailors. Explore Manama Souk and find your favorite handmade silk rug, then make a stop at the Grand Mosque. Keep the kids entertained and make a trip to City Centre Bahrain, which includes shopping, an international food court, a water park and an entertainment park.
U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) is a fast-paced environment and working there is a challenging experience. At any time, there are more than 50 U.S. and coalition vessels operating in the AOR. As supply officers, we have a unique opportunity to work closely with coalition forces from a myriad of countries to include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. This allows us to build long-lasting partnerships and friendships with members of the armed forces from all around the world.
Networking is a tremendous advantage to a tour in this AOR. Officers work with close access to several senior Supply Corps officers. Most of us can say for a fact that our career has significantly benefited from our time in this AOR, thanks to the mentorship we have received. Our station may seem remote and far from our U.S. home, but we are proud to be here and to directly support the warfighters, both at sea and on the ground.
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NSA Bahrain Base 5K. Photo taken by MC1 Steve Smith