• Wes Benwick

From The Bridge, December 2018

From the Bridge - December, 2018

The Extraordinary Visit of Brazilian Navy Training Ship Brasil U27

Please forgive me for once again holding back on reporting an event that actually occurred in November so that I could avoid overloading last month's already lengthy column. It's a good thing to have so many good things going on, isn't it?


On November 1, 2018, I received a hurried email from our Brazilian Navy friend, CDR Luciano Calixto de Almeida, BN, announcing that the Brazilian Navy's training ship Brasil U27, with 200 cadets on board, would be making an unexpected port call to Mayport and would be arriving in 5 days. A planned stopover at Port Everglades so the cadets could visit Disneyworld fell through at the last minute, and Mayport was selected as the alternative, because it would still allow the cadets to enjoy their planned holiday in the Magic Kingdom.


CDR Calixto had just been designated liaison officer in charge with the specific task of assembling an appropriate guest list for a reception to be held aboard Brasil on the evening of Thursday, November 8. Of course, we responded with a hastily-assembled list of Navy League, Naval Order and Jacksonville civic and business leaders to help our friend.


A Very Good Time was Had by All

The Brasil's former helicopter hanger has been converted into recreation, classroom and berthing spaces for the embarked cadets and their instructors. Also, the former helicopter landing deck has been extended all the way to her stern, so AMPLE space was available in which to host a gala that must have included 250 guests, or more. Such food! And so artistically arranged! And with lots of freshly-mixed cachaҫa cocktails! Num, num!


Admiral Sean Buck Decorated

The highlight of the evening was the awarding of the Brazilian Naval Merit Order Medal to RADM Sean Buck, USN, Commander U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and Commander of the U.S. Fourth Fleet. Presenting the award was the Brazilian Naval Attaché to the USA, Rear Admiral Newton Calvoso Pinto Homem, BN, who came down from Washington specifically to preside at the award ceremony. In his subsequent remarks to all assembled, Admiral Pinto Homen praised the Jacksonville Council of the Navy League almost as much as he paid respects to Admiral Buck. He came back to the subject of thanking our Council three times during his remarks. It was truly extraordinary! (Perhaps this was due in small part to beneficent influence of the Admiral's self-proclaimed little friend who helps him with his English, Jack . . . as in Daniels.)


Very cool! The Admiral could do stand-up!

Jacksonville Navy League Honored

Later, Admiral Pinto Homem told me why he went to such lengths to honor us.

"My mission in Washington as Naval Attaché is as much a diplomatic posting as a naval liaison. A big part of my job is fostering a strong and positive relationship between our two countries and our two navies. Your Navy League's reaching out to us, as you have, is unprecedented in my experience and very much appreciated. I can assure you that your Navy League Council has the attention of the highest leadership of the Brazilian Navy. You can expect great things to come from this relationship."

Perhaps that was "just a bit outside", but it sure felt good to me and also to Commander Calixto, standing there with us, who I am sure planted those thoughts in the Admiral's mind.


It Gets Even Better

On Friday, December 14, 2018, the Brazilian Navy launched its first Brazilian-built Scorpène® class submarine, the Riachuelo, S40, in a gala National Holiday Celebration attended by the highest level military and government officials, including both the then soon incoming and outgoing national presidents. We determined to send a modest floral commemorative to honor our growing relationship. In making arrangements to have the flowers delivered to the Itaguaí Naval Complex in Itaguaí, where the boat was lying, we were very respectfully asked that if for security reasons we would accept having our gift verbally acknowledged in his remarks by the Brazilian Navy's equivalent to our Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira.


ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Being publicly acknowledged and thanked by Admiral Ferreira before all in attendance is a thousand times better than having a small floral arrangement sitting somewhere out of the way. What a gift for our Council!


But also for the Brazilian Navy and the Brazilian people, wouldn't you say? Isn't that how diplomacy is supposed to work?


And it all came from asking one question at this spring's Fourth Fleet Tenth Anniversary Symposium, "Do your countries have organizations equivalent to our Navy League of the United States, and if you do, would you be interested in establishing links of friendship with our Jacksonville Navy League Council?"

WWII Commemorative Luncheon


Appropriately enough, on Friday, December 7th, your Jacksonville Navy League Council co-hosted with the Florida First Coast Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States, a World War II Commemorative luncheon at the San Jose Country Club. Navy League President, Bill Webb and Naval Order Commander, Bob Whitkop co-presided. Our guest speaker was historian Dr. Alan Bliss, who spoke on the similarities and differences relating to the Japanese naval build-up in the years prior to the commencement of World War II, and the build-up today of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy. Professor Bliss gave a well-crafted, closely reasoned presentation that was simply excellent.


A highlight of the luncheon was the opening observance of the Missing Man Ceremony. The rich symbolism of this solemn ceremony is presented here for your reflection.

∙ The table is round – to show our everlasting concern. ∙ The cloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve. ∙ The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans….and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers. ∙ The yellow ribbon symbolizes our continued uncertainty, hope for their return and determination to account for them. ∙ A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate, captured or missing in a foreign land. ∙ A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families. ∙ The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return. ∙ The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God. ∙ The glass is inverted – to symbolize their inability to share a toast. ∙ The chair is empty – this person is missing…………….. (moment of silence)


Bill Webb Council President

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