Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball is rooted in tradition

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The following story and photos were submitted by NROTC Commander Daniel "Chilly" Buhr.

The Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball is an event annually held by the Naval ROTC Unit at Iowa State University and various Navy and Marine Corps units across the world. It is a time during which we celebrate the birth of our two great services. There is a great deal of tradition and decorum associated with the ball, conducted year after year to preserve the traditions and ideals that we hold most dear. However, it is also a challenge to those who organize the ball to fulfill these traditions whilst still offering a fresh experience to those who attend.


This year’s Birthday Ball was organized by MIDN 1/C Knute Klinker, and it is very reasonable to say that the guest of honor, the various attendants, and the midshipmen of the unit can all agree that midshipman Klinker’s efforts were successful.

The Guest of Honor at this year’s Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball was Lieutenant Colonel Dave Morris. LtCol Morris is a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, with primary experience in flying and commanding CH-53 squadrons. LtCol Morris was invited by the unit’s AMOI, SSgt Harrison, who had previously served under then Captain Morris. After being introduced by the Commanding Officer of the Unit, Captain Ricks Polk, LtCol Morris offered a unique experience to those who attended this year’s ball. In place of a formally written speech to the guests of the unit and the midshipmen, LtCol Morris dedicated his time to a Q&A session specifically directed towards the future officers in attendance. While still being able to share his personal experiences with all those who attended, this offered the midshipmen a chance to learn the lessons they were particularly interested in gaining from such an experienced and humble guest of the honor.

There was another particularly unique guest at the Birthday Ball, retired Navy Captain Doug Ward. An interesting relationship exists between Captain Ward and the unit. Captain Ward, an alumni of Iowa State and the Cyclone NROTC unit, returned later in his career as a professor of Naval Science with his former unit. During his time as Commanding Officer here, he instructed a young midshipman named Daniel Buhr. The name should certainly sound familiar, as now Commander Daniel Buhr has also returned to his alma mater as an adjutant professor of Naval Science and the executive officer of the unit. Such a unique situation leaves one to ponder whether one of the current midshipmen may someday return to the Cyclone Battalion to continue the cycle.

Immediately following the dinner portion of the evening is the dance social. When the CO’s jacket is removed, the signal is given that it is time for the midshipmen to take to the floor and dance away. Some prefer to watch or converse from afar, and some certainly feel quite comfortable jumping into the fray and stealing the show. A fresh face this year, MIDN Harris easily caught the attention of many guests by showing off his slick moves to the battalion. His classmates soon joined him during the traditional freshman dance; set to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” this year. With many of the young and old midshipmen, their guests, and even the unit staff dancing away, this is certainly a fun way to conclude the evening.

Overall, this year’s Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball proved to be a unique experience combined with timeless tradition. Though a yearly expectation, this year’s ball certainly gives the midshipmen of the unit something different to look forward to for next year and many years to come.

Photos from the Navy and Marine Corps Birthday Ball, submitted by Commander Dan Buhr:


About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in its community and around the world.

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Contacts Daniel Buhr, Naval Science ( Jess Guess, Liberal Arts and Sciences Communications (