Sunday, August 2, 2009

Military Special Events and Ceremonies in DC

Sorry my blog posting has been light lately. I've been pretty busy planning this weekend's festivities in addition to my normal workload. Friday we had my promotion ceremony at the Navy Museum on Washington Navy Yard and Saturday we had a big wetting down party here at our house, and both events took a lot of planning and coordination and setup.

My wonderful wife and I could not have done it all without the help of our awesome family members who flew in from out of state to assist in the setup and cleanup of both events. Actually, I give myself too much credit. It was really my wonderful wife, dad, stepmom, stepbrother, and mother in law who did all the manual labor and hard work. Both events were a big success due to their efforts. I just sorta went with the flow of things.

You may recall I had a poll on my blog a few weeks ago asking for your opinions where to have the promotion ceremony. Although the Navy Memorial in downtown D.C. won the poll, the Navy Museum wasn't far behind in the votes and I opted for the Navy Museum. My main concern with the Navy Memorial was the outdoor location and the risk of either rain or of extreme heat and humidity in July. As it turns out, it was a very hot and muggy day outside, so I was glad we chose the indoor location (and it was still pretty warm inside the museum).

ES found a nice ring-side seat on a cannon to watch.

ES and YB (who commandeered my old cover)
heading into the reception at the Navy Art
Gallery next door to the Museum

On Saturday we had 50 adults and 17 kids over to our house for a wetting down party. You can read about the history and tradition of the wetting-down in this wikipedia article. Nowadays, there is no set standard for how to do a wetting down, and everyone comes up with their own variation on it. For another recent example, you can see photos on the Navy website of the wetting down on board USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN-76).

In our case, my dad and stepmom brought saltwater from the Pacific Ocean and my mother in law brought saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean. After everyone had a chance to eat dinner at the party last night, I put on my uniform and stood in the backyard for everyone to watch as I had my boys each pour the saltwater on my new collar devices.

YB and ES douse my new collar devices with
saltwater from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Lessons Learned on Planning Special Events in the DC Area:

For anybody else trying to plan a special event (such as a promotion or retirement ceremony), July 31st is a HORRIBLE day for such events (at least in the DC area). EVERYPLACE is booked. One place told me they were reserved back in MARCH for a ceremony on July 31st.

In between calling around different places to have my ceremony, I've been asking the question WHY is July 31st so bad. One rumor / speculation I heard was that a lot of people choose Oct 1st at their retirement date, and if you back up 60 days of terminal leave before the retirement date, that puts the retirement ceremony at... JULY 31ST!!! I don't have any empirical evidence to back this up, and I've been asking around trying to figure out why people would prefer to have a 1 October retirement date. One guy told me it has to do with the High Three retirement pay calculation and staying in until October 1 gives you credit for that year or something like that. Again, I haven't been able to look that up yet.

So the lesson learned is: Make reservations early!

In the course of calling around, I discovered lots of new places I hadn't thought of or known about before. Each time I called a place to find out if they were available on July 31st, after they told me "no, but did you try..." then would recommend another cool place nearby. It led me on sort of a fruitless wild goose chase (because everyplace was booked), but I learned about a lot of places to hold special events.

So if you're looking for a place to have a special event, here are some ideas:

- Navy Museum at Washington Navy Yard (WNY). They only allow one event per day and two events per week. During the event, the museum remains open to the public, but if you've been there, you know they don't get a lot of traffic being on base. In my case, luckily there was a cancellation, so we were able to get in there for our promotion ceremony.
Upside: They have periscopes. :-) Lots of cool Navy history. Indoor and air conditioned.
Downside: They don't allow food or drinks, so you need to find someplace else if you want to have any kind of refreshments or reception.

- USS BARRY (destroyer moored next to the Navy Museum). This is a popular spot for military ceremonies.

- Mordecai Booth's Pub. This pub on WNY is an Irish themed pub.
Aside: It's not all that exciting, but the story of the pub's namesake is in this article about the pub's grand opening. However, I liked the Irish toast they offered on the occasion: "There are good ships, there are wood ships and the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are the friendships, and may they always be."
- Navy Art Gallery. This is right next door to the Navy Museum. This turned out to be an awesome location for our reception, and I'm very grateful to the staff at the Art Gallery for allowing us to host our event there.

- WNY Catering and Conference Center.

- Admiral Gooding Center (AGC). I didn't know this place existed until someone at the Washington Navy Yard catering and conference center recommended I see if they were available. This is more of a conference center, but it's a feasible location for a reception following a ceremony somewhere else close by (like the Museum where they don't allow food or drinks).

- The Optical Tower. I didn't even know this place existed until someone at the Catering and Conference Center asked me if I had checked their availability. The history of the place is pretty cool (in a geeky sort of way).

- Pentagon Chapel.

- Pentagon Hall of Heroes (2nd floor, just off Corridor 10 at the bottom of the ramps going to the 3rd and 4th floors).

- Pentagon Library and Conference Center. There are over a dozen conference rooms here, and I noted there are promotion ceremonies going on there.

- Pentagon Memorial

- The Navy Memorial (downtown DC next to the National Archives). This is where the Lone Sailor Statue is.

- The Navy and Marine Memorial. Small monument on the Virginia side of the Potomac River near the Pentagon, wedged in between the Mount Vernon Trail and the river. I would have gone to this location for my promotion, but due to the construction going on now, the parking lot is blocked off and it's impossible to drive there. I didn't think everyone would want to walk out there. It's a nice location with a beautiful view of DC though.

No comments: