CAMP SUFFISANT, Curacao --
Marines of Force Reconnaissance Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, put their training on hold for a day to celebrate the Marine Corps’ 235th birthday by holding their own Marine Corps ball in Curacao, Oct. 29, 2010.
The Marines honored their heritage by taking part in Marine Corps birthday traditions such as having the oldest Marine in the unit offer a slice of birthday cake to the youngest Marine.
“We read the messages, honor our brothers in arms, and observe the birthday together as Marines,” said Capt. Joshua R. Plummer, the Platoon Commander of 2nd Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Co. “Really I think that’s the point of celebrating the birthday.”
“We’re also celebrating our relationship with the Royal Netherlands Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Kuperus, a team leader for 2nd Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Co. “The Dutch were a big part of our close air support scheme in Afghanistan and they also support us with special operations troops. They left a footprint in Afghanistan as well as other places the Marine Corps has been.”
United States Marines stood out prominently among Royal Netherlands Marines and the civilian guests at the hotel in which the ceremony was held. The Dress Blue Alphas that the U.S. Marines wore for the evening attracted the positive attention of tourists and local-nationals as well as former U.S. and Royal Netherlands Marines vacationing in Curacao.
“Very few times do you ever get to celebrate the ball in a foreign country with members of a foreign military,” said Kuperus. “We are celebrating 235 years of Marine Corps excellence and I’m proud to be here to represent the United States in Curacao with [Royal Netherlands] Marines.”
The birthday celebration was ended with a unique reconnaissance tradition. Sergeant Maj. Fitzgerald, the sergeant major of United States Marine Corps Forces South and Royal Netherlands Marine, Brig. Gen. Dick A. Swijgman, commander of Netherlands forces in the Caribbean were both presented with paddles constructed by Force Reconnaissance Co.
The presentation of the paddle is usually reserved for a reconnaissance Marine that is leaving active duty, or has been killed in action. The event, known as a paddle party involves wrapping the handle in parachute cord, representing parachute and free fall operations. The color of the cord chosen illustrates the significant parts of the recipients career.
“I’ve seen a paddle in many people’s offices,” said Fitzgerald. “I never thought I would have a paddle in my office but this is from [Force Reconnaissance Co.,] for their brothers and fellow reconnaissance Marines. It is by far the greatest gift I have ever been given in my Marine Corps career because I know what it means to reconnaissance Marines.”
“I think it is important no matter where you are, whether you’re stateside or deployed, to take time out and observe the Marine Corps’ birthday,” said Plummer.