by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — From the earliest military victories celebrated by Romans or King Arthur’s knights, formal military dinners have been held to honor those who serve their country; a tradition that has been continued by all branches of the United States Armed Services.
Whether it be a dining in or dining out, regimental dinner or mess night, these formal dinners serve to enhance the esprit de corps of all units and honor their members.
“The dining out represents the most formal aspects of Air Force social life,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Bronson, 21st Medical Support Squadron and one of the event organizers.
The 21st Space Wing is hosting a dining out Oct. 15 at The Club. As Air Force lore goes, formal dinners began in 1930 with Gen. H. “Hap” Arnold’s “wing-dings” to promote camaraderie and esprit de corps. Later called a dining in, the formal dinners served as unit functions with the intent to celebrate the bonds of military service. Today, the dining out is the newer version of the formal dinners, guests and spouses are invited and the event serves as an occasion to meet socially at a formal function.
However, the time-honored traditions have remained the same. And, the rules of the mess make the dining out a special and fun affair. Sergeant Bronson explains: “Host-unit military members and government civilians are the members of the mess. Their guests may attend but are not members of the mess.”
There are two types of guests, official and personal. Official guests are honored guests of the mess. For example, the guest speaker is an official guest. Personal guests may be either military or civilian, Sergeant Bronson said. Officers wear the mess dress uniform, enlisted members wear the mess dress uniform or the semiformal dress uniform and civilians wear formal attire.
Dining out starts with cocktail hour. When the chimes sound, guests are directed to the dining room. Then, the mess is called to order and a toast is made by the president, usually the wing commander.
“Toasting is an ancient tradition of drinking together in honor of someone or some group, in order to show respect or appreciation,” Sergeant Bronson said.
The rules of the mess are set out and those that identify violators can bring a point of order to the president indicating these infractions. The president determines if the violator is sent to the grog bowl to drink as “punishment.” Of course there is an alcoholic and non-alcoholic grog to accommodate any violator. It’s all part of the fun, the tradition, the customs that make the dining out part of Air Force heritage, Sergeant Bronson said.
And, in keeping with the formalities, the evening ends with two raps of the gavel.