By VADM John W. Miller
My first visit to Bahrain occurred while I was deployed to the Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch. The operation guarded southern Iraq’s largely Shia population from their brutal dictator, Saddam Hussain, and took place from shortly after the end of the Desert Storm campaign that freed Kuwait and lasted until the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As with any visit to a “new” port I was excited to see new sights, meet new people, learn about a different culture and sample the local cuisine. Little did I know that my first visit would mark the beginning of a relationship with the Kingdom and its people that goes on to this day.
The U.S. has a relationship with Bahrain that goes back decades and Bahrain hosts the only American base in the region, Naval Support Activity, Bahrain. Because Bahrain is an island and located in a geographically convenient spot at the center of the Gulf, its people have a long history of welcoming people from beyond its shores and making them feel comfortable.
Nearly 10,000 Sailors, Marines, DOD and contractor civilians and their families call Bahrain home. Many of the civilians live in Bahrain for extended periods of time and many service personnel, like me, end up serving multiple tours. For Americans living in Bahrain, there is access to quality schools, affordable housing, modern malls, an antique Souk, tourist destinations, beaches, and dozens and dozens of restaurants that offer cuisine from all over the globe.
The lasting and vibrant friendships that have been forged over the decades continues to attract Americans to the Kingdom, but also attracts many Bahraini’s to the United States – to visit friends, tour, work, or get an education. In 1990, the American Bahrain Friendship Society was founded by Ambassador John Gatch, Mr. Fouad A. Habiby and Vice Admiral Marmaduke Bayne, along with Admiral William J. Crowe and other friends who had lived in Bahrain and had U.S. diplomatic, military and business affiliations. It was established with the approval of the Amir of Bahrain, Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and the President of the United States, George H. W. Bush, and the organization continues to flourish to this day.
Covid-19 put a blanket on the Society, but as Bahrain, the U.S., and the world emerge from the global pandemic, the Society is ready to swing into action. Our next event, likely a virtual one, but possibly a hybrid, is scheduled for June 23rd at 6:30 PM, Eastern Daylight Savings time. The event will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Society. If you’re not already a member, please join by going to the webpage (https://www.abfsdc.org/). Membership fees are waived for the remainder of 2021, so it’s a great time to become a member.
ABFS events are scheduled monthly for the remainder of the year, with the final event in December celebrating Bahraini National Day. His excellency, Shaikh Abdulla Bin Rashid Al Khalifa is optimistic about holding an in-person celebration.
John W. “Fozzie” Miller is a retired United States Navy Vice Admiral who last served as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. Fifth Fleet, based in Manama, Bahrain. He is the President of the American Bahraini Friendship Society (ABFS).