By Scott Prater
More than 80 3rd and 4th Space Operations Squadrons’ team members participated in a dining-in event May 30. Members wore uniforms, followed formal rules and paid homage to a few Air Force traditions during the affair.
But as participants learned upon their arrival, this wasn’t your typical dining-in.
For one, it occurred inside the snow barn at Peterson Air Force Base, a space usually reserved for snow plows and dump trucks.
Trips to the grog bowl didn’t involve marching or standing at attention either. Instead, members took trips on a slip-and-slide, endured a barrage of falling water balloons and finished with a thorough drenching as they maneuvered through a gauntlet of water guns at the combat-version event.
Initially, the unique approach elicited a weak response from the units members.
“Calling it a lackluster response would be kind,” Capt. Robert Wilcox, 4 SOPS operations support flight commander said. “Most people groaned on about how it was cutting into their weekend, which seemed reasonable considering we planned it for an early Friday evening.”
Eventually, once details of the event started to resonate around the squadrons, acceptance emails began streaming in at a steady clip.
“Come the day of the event, I think most people were still skeptical about it, but it only took a few minutes for things to ramp up and individuals to start really having fun,” Wilcox said.
Instead of requiring formal mess dress uniforms, common at a normal dining in, organizers asked participants to don creative-uniform costumes. “Warrior” was the theme and creativity was encouraged.
“We had a guy who wore a ninja suit and carried a plastic samurai sword,” said Capt. Raquel Salim, 3 SOPS Echo Mission commander. “People got real creative, so it was hard to keep a straight face, especially with all of the silly things we were doing.”
Lt. Col. Chadwick Igl, 3 SOPS commander said squadron leadership wanted to project camaraderie and a warrior ethos, especially for first-term operators in 3 and 4 SOPS.
“I also wanted to reinforce a team atmosphere for those who work in the integrated operations environment,” Igl said. “I think it is important to have a work-hard, play-hard mentality that is supported by leadership. Having Col. Tommy Roberts, 50th Operations Group commander, as our dining-in president was phenomenal. He encouraged everyone to have fun, but reinforced the need to be safe and responsible.”
Salim said the dining-in activities were also designed to pay homage to Airmen and Soldiers who have deployed and who will deploy.
“A combat dining-in is a bit rugged,” Salim said. “The formalities were there for the first part, but then it seemed to get less formal as we went along.”
By design, the dining-in president had complete authority to make up rules and send anyone to the grog bowl. Salim said it helped make the whole event dynamic and surprising, while creating many awkward and hilarious moments.
“This event was well-organized and proves you can have an incredibly fun and safe, time while also paying tribute to our Air Force heritage,” Roberts said. “Everyone seemed to enjoy letting out some of their warrior spirit. These events don’t just happen. People make them happen.”