Manama [Juffair], Bahrain [Al Manamah]
It was fortunate for the Navy that the Bahrainis recognized years ago that Juffair would make a good place for future development. The capital, Manama, lies on a small peninsula at the northeast corner of Bahrain's principal island, and the downtown hub hugs the shoreline. The port and Navy base are southeast of downtown, distant from the rest of the island. The U.S. Navy base at Juffair, about 5 miles southeast of Manama, provides onshore offices for the Navy's 5th Fleet, which has aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships stationed in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.
The United States has increased its access and its forward presence since the Gulf War, while trying to keep its footprint to a minimum. Bahrain and the United States signed an agreement in October 1991 granting US forces access to Bahraini facilities and ensuring the right to pre-position material for future crises. US forces include a naval component, organized as the Fifth Fleet under a Naval Forces Command headquartered in Bahrain, which regularly includes a battle carrier group and other naval assets. Maritime intercept operation enforce the UN sanctions regime on Iraq, and a Marine Expeditionary Force has pre-positioned equipment in the Gulf. The Air Force has an air wing conducting Operation Southern Watch in southern Iraq, and the United States has forward-deployed Patriot batteries and special operations teams.
USAF Prepositioned War Reserve Materiel (WRM) provides support to bare base systems, medical, munitions, fuels mobility support equipment, vehicles, rations, aerospace ground equipment, air base operability equipment, and associated spares and other consumables at designated locations. Responsible for asset receipt, accountability, serviceability, storage, security, periodic inspection and test, maintenance, repair, outload, and reconstitution of prepositioned WRM. Current WRM operating locations include Seeb, Thumrait, Masirah, Oman; Al Udeid, Qatar; and Manama, Bahrain.
Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS) are loaded with necessary military supplies (ammunition, military vehicles, medical equipment, etc.) and stationed at Bahrain. Although their official homeport is Norfolk, VA, the ships of Afloat Prepositioning Ships Squadron Four are always forward-deployed to the Persian Gulf and have no tie whatsoever to Virginia. The normal operational schedule for the ships is to be at anchor off Bahrain 75 percent of the time with some underway time in the Persian Gulf.
The vast majority of NAVCENT's operating forces are rotationally deployed to the region from either the Pacific Fleet or the Atlantic Fleet. Once in theater they fall under the US Fifth Fleet, also commanded by COMUSNAVCENT. These forces normally consist of an aircraft carrier battle group, an amphibious ready group (ARG), surface combatants, submarines, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, and logistics ships. Providing a continuous naval presence in the absence of a deployed CVBG or ARG are the ships of Commander, Task Force FIFTY. These ships work closely with other coalition participants to enforce UN sanctions against Iraq, and conduct the majority of all maritime intercept boardings in the Arabian Gulf.
In 1996, US naval presence and ability to preserve the security of regional sea lines of communication (SLOCs) were significantly enhanced by the addition of two forward-deployed AVENGER-class mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels to the Gulf. USS Ardent (MCM 12) and USS Dextrous (MCM 13) remain forward deployed to Bahrain, manned by Mine Countermeasures Rotational Crews (Alfa - Hotel) based at Naval Station Ingleside, Texas. The deployed battle groups and other units receive logistic support from the auxiliary ships of Commander, Task Force FIFTY-THREE.
Fifth Fleet supports operational forces and afloat units assigned or attached to the United States Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) and to other joint and combined Use The Fifth Fleet area of responsibility includes the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf [the US uses the term "Arabian Gulf" instead of "Persian Gulf"]. The Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf are not in WESTPAC.
In the early nineteenth century the British had no desire to take over the desolate areas along the gulf, but they did wish to secure the area so that it would not pose a threat to shipping to and from their possessions in India. The British decided to leave in power those tribal leaders who had not been conspicuously involved with piracy, with whom they concluded a series of treaties to suppress piracy. As a result of these truces, the Arab side of the gulf came to be known as the "trucial coast." The area has also been referred to as "trucial Oman" to distinguish it from the part of Oman that was not bound by treaty obligation. The original 1820 treaties, which from the outset involved Bahrain, were extended over the next 100 years, and by the end of World War I leaders from Oman to Iraq had essentially yielded control of their foreign relations to Britain.
The British Navy established a naval installation known as HMS JUFFAIR on April 13, 1935 in the area where ASU-SWA is located today. In 1950, the United States Navy leased office space aboard HMS JUFFAIR from the British. In 1971, after their treaty expired, the British left Bahrain, granting the island total independence. The United States, through agreement with the Bahraini government, took over part of HMS JUFFAIR, renaming it Administrative Support Unit Bahrain.
The US Navy has maintained a permanent presence in the Gulf since the establishment of the Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR) in 1949. For the next 20 years, three or four ships at a time were assigned to MIDEASTFOR -generally a command ship and two or three small combatants such as destroyers or frigates. Navy presence was embodied in the "little white fleet" of USS Duxbury Bay (AVP 38), USS Greenwich Bay (AVP 41) and USS Valcour (AVP 55)--former seaplane tenders--which rotated duties as flagship for Commander Middle East Force and his staff. All three ships were painted white to counter the region's extreme heat. The flagship served as the primary protocol platform of the United States throughout the region. Accompanied by one or two other rotationally deployed warships, the Middle East Force provided the initial US military response to any crisis in the region, as well as humanitarian and emergency assistance.
When Bahrain became a sovereign state in 1971, the US Navy worked out an agreement to take over piers, radio transmitters, warehouses, and other facilities left vacant by the departing British. USS La Salle (AGF 3), an amphibious transport ship converted for Gulf duty, began to serve as the permanent MIDEASTFOR flagship 24 August 1972. In 1977 the agreement establishing Bahrain as the home port for the United States Navy's Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR) was terminated when MIDEASTFOR was subsumed into NAVCENT, a part of US Central Command in Tampa, Florida. Bahrain now is host to the Navy's Fifth Fleet.
In the 1970s, the Bahraini government began filling in part of the shallow harbor next to the base. The Gulf Hotel, which stood on the beach in 1975, is now more than half a mile inland. By the 1990s, the sand had settled enough to support Manama's next boomtown.
DESERT SHIELD/STORM brought together the largest force of Navy warships assembled in a single theater since World War II. Bahrain played a limited but active role in the Gulf War, serving as the primary coalition naval base and the point of origin for coalition air operations against Iraqi targets. After the Persian Gulf War, Bahrain held negotiations with Washington that culminated in 1992 in the signing of a defense cooperation agreement. The terms of this agreement permit the United States to pre-position military supplies and equipment in Bahrain and to use its military facilities. The Command title was changed to Administrative Support Unit, Southwest Asia in 1992 to reflect the new mission to support ships and remote sites throughout the COMUSNAVCENT Area of Responsibility.
Before, Juffair was a small place, with very few people and just a few buildings. A decade ago, a sailor could walk from the tiny base one kilometer to the majestic Grand Mosque without seeing a soul, tripping across empty fields of sand. Now he would have to dodge a steady flow of traffic on asphalt roads, headed to places like the Al-Safir Hotel, a gleaming white tower that opened 2˝ years ago. Many of its guests are Navy families who are coming and going from their duty postings in Bahrain. Many others eat at the hotel's classy restaurant.
Before the Persian Gulf War, no more than 100 sailors were stationed at the base here, and port visits by Navy ships were relatively rare. After the war, though, the US boosted its presence significantly. A carrier battle group comprising up to 20 ships began patrolling the Persian Gulf full time, policing merchant ships that might be breaking U.N. sanctions against Iraq. The new 5th Fleet command moved ashore, and the Navy's presence rose to its current level, around 1,200 sailors.
This was not a gradual introduction, but rather a sudden introduction of a number of people in the thousands. It had a big impact on the real estate market in Bahrain. Overnight, a huge new market for luxury hotel rooms and apartments, restaurants and entertainment sprung up. Department of Defense rules allow for hotel room charges of up to $175 a day, and per diem of around $75 a day for people on temporary duty, and monthly housing allowances of about $1,400 to $2,000. Even junior enlisted sailors could afford a large, furnished apartment with maid service.
At the same time, the base itself was expanding. At first, the Navy brought in dozens of trailers to serve as temporary offices. Then it bought more land and hired contractors to build restaurants, a bowling alley, a 5th Fleet command compound, bachelor's quarters, an arched gateway, a large wall, and a parking lot.
By the mid-1990s Administrative Support Unit Southwest Asia (ASU SWA) Bahrain covered the busiest 22 acres in the world. Located in the middle of the Middle East, the facility provides services and support to ships at sea, remote sites throughout the region, and military and civilian personnel living in Bahrain. ASU SWA underwent a huge construction program that more than doubled the size of the base.
The current ASU bears little resemblance to the small, 10-acre compound it was as recently as 1991. In the past seven years, this "sleepy hollow" has expanded to 62 acres with $36.5 million worth of new construction underway, including new transient bachelor quarters, a medical and dental clinic, a racquetball court, a chapel, a post office and several multi-purpose sports fields.
Juffair is the boomtown of the Bahraini capital. Across the flat, dusty plain outside Naval Support Activity Bahrain, a jungle of glass and concrete has sprouted. Newly paved roads crisscross in an expanding checkerboard between the base and the bay. Armies of construction workers swarm over half-finished apartments, restaurants and hotels as the white sun bakes the desert. Some of them sleep in the open shells at night.
Prospective owners of hotels and apartments cultivate Navy leaders, hoping for a piece of the military pie. For security reasons, the US government places strict limits on the number of Americans who may stay in each hotel or apartment. For hotels, the limit is 25 percent of guests, and for apartments the limit is 50 percent of tenants. That means building owners must get non-Navy clients to fill up the rest of their space. As fortune would have it, the Navy's expansion coincided with Manama's rise as the hub of Middle East commerce.
Today, 178 banks have branches here, al-Absi said - a vast number for a country of just 645,000 people. Dozens of firms, like Coca Cola and Chevron, have located regional offices here to take advantage of the friendly, tolerant business climate. It also is a rare country in the Middle East that permits companies to be 100 percent foreign-owned. It aspires to fill the Arab niche once occupied by Lebanon before the bloody civil war of the 1970s and 1980s. Like the Navy, these companies pay the living costs of employees who move to Bahrain. As a result, expatriates from Great Britain, India, Pakistan, Australia and Saudi Arabia have filled up the apartments and hotels of Juffair. Foreigners now make up about one-third of Bahrain's population, and they dominate in Manama.
The local population lives a little bit out of town - what in American terms would be called the suburbs. A great percentage of the people of Manama are not Bahrainis. They don't want to drive 25 minutes to go out and get a drink.
Even with the increasing foreign influence, the Navy's economic clout is deeply felt. Since the suicide bomb attack on the 5th Fleet destroyer USS Cole in Yemen, the US Central Command began limiting the activities of its personnel in Bahrain. It also has curtailed ship port calls in Manama and other Gulf ports. The restrictions have ebbed and flowed. As of October 2001 all bars were off-limits, a midnight curfew had been imposed, and large gatherings were forbidden. So are certain hotels and restaurants, especially those frequented by Arabs or with uniquely American identities such as the Hard Rock Café. The Navy feared they might make plump targets for terrorists.
If the Navy's lockdown continued, some business owners may start looking to other markets - particularly Saudi Arabia, which lies only 14 miles from Manama across the King Fahd Causeway. Many Saudis drive to Bahrain for holidays to take a break from the restrictive Islamic laws in their homeland and to shop in Manama's four huge new malls. The Saudi market is untapped. They can pray and do all their good things in Saudi Arabia, then come over here on the weekends and drink.
Despite the Navy's security posture, few observers think the boom outside Naval Support Activities Bahrain is likely to bust anytime soon. Surveyors already are preparing for construction of a new causeway that will connect Juffair to Muharraq, the offshore island that is home to Bahrain International Airport. A large beach hotel already is under construction there, and another shopping mega-mall has been planned.
Quality of Life
Most Sailors receiving orders to Bahrain will serve at the host command, Administrative Support Unit (ASU) Southwest Asia, the 5th Fleet staff, or one of 42 tenant commands. A few will be stationed at nearby satellite locations or at remote sites in the Middle East region, such as Hurghada, Egypt or Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. Additionally, Sailors assigned to helicopter detachments, such as HC-2 and HC-4 from Sigonella, Italy, P-3 and EP-3 detachments from various locations and Naval Reservists serve temporarily throughout the area of responsibility (AOR). Other temporary assignment opportunities exist for Sailors and reservists to use their skills both afloat and ashore in the region.
Two-year tours are the norm for most accompanied Sailors serving ashore in Bahrain, while 12 months is the standard for those unaccompanied. Challenging work, good compensation and great housing are just some of the reasons many Sailors decide to extend their tours in Bahrain. Drawbacks to serving in Bahrain are few for most Sailors and families, but it is important that Sailors seeking duty in the region talk early and often with their sponsors to get the proper perspective before moving. Adequate preparation before leaving the United States can ease the transition to duty in Bahrain.
With no on-base housing or barracks, living accommodations vary. For city dwellers, there are plenty of apartments to choose from. Those who prefer a calmer neighborhood environment can choose from compounds in the city or outlying suburbs of Manama. Grand villas, many with pools, become homes to those who like to live in a more secluded area. The overseas housing allowance for all pay grades goes a long way in Bahrain. Some compounds offer homes in excess of 3,000 square-feet situated in the middle of what can only be called an "oasis" of date palm trees. Most homes are within 20 minutes of the ASU. Amenities within the compounds often include bowling alleys, modern gyms with aerobics, weight machines, indoor and outdoor pools, hot and cold Jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms, playgrounds, etc.
Beyond the base, recreational facilities abound. Water enthusiasts can sail, fish, snorkel, scuba dive, and windsurf. The Bahrain historical and archaeological society offers conducted tours of the island's archaeological sites many of which date back to 3,000 BC. There is a souk in the downtown area where one can purchase local or regional products as well as the regular shopping areas throughout the city. There are several new shopping malls. The Bahrain Theater club and the Manama Players are two amateur groups presenting plays regularly. Professional plays and other cultural activities take place at large hotels.
War Reserve Materiel (WRM)
Services under the War Reserve Materiel (WRM) contract are performed by DynCorp Technical Services at Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) bases at Masirah, Thumrait, and Seeb; Al Udeid, Qatar; Manama, Bahrain; and Shaw AFB, SC. DynCorp provides support to bare base systems, medical, munitions, fuels mobility support equipment, vehicles, rations, aerospace ground equipment, air base operability equipment, and associated spares and other consumables at designated locations. Responsible for asset receipt, accountability, serviceability, storage, security, periodic inspection and test, maintenance, repair, outload, and reconstitution of prepositioned WRM. This is a one year contract with an option to renew the contract. Total length of contract is seven years.
Services include maintaining war reserve materiel (WRM) stored in the Sultanate of Oman, State of Bahrain, and State of Qatar. In Oman, contract performance is on Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) government installations, and all access to the installations is controlled by the RAFO Security. In Bahrain, performance is in an area controlled by US Navy and Bahrain Port Authority. In Qatar, the Host Nation controls access to the work site.
War reserve materiel includes medical and munitions, warehousing of rations, and various other supplies. The contractor shall be responsible for performing all or any specifically designated portions of the functions accomplished under this contract during any wartime operations. Wartime operations are those actions, including contingency planning, which would be required to support current or any future United States Air Force wartime requirement. Emergency situations (i.e., accident and rescue operations, civil disturbances, natural disasters and military peacetime contingency operations and exercises) may necessitate the Contractor provide increased or reduced support as indicated below when required by Contracting Officer. Military contingency operations may necessitate military personnel assistance be provided to the Contractor. Should this occur, the Contractor will be relieved of responsibilities and accountability for the phase of the contract taken over by the military. Optional WRM sites may be exercised at any time during the performance of this contract. In the event the Government adds a new site to the contract, both parties to this contract hereby agree to negotiate in good faith the applicable price necessary to account for the change.