Dining out sure to make a splash

  • Published
  • By Staff Sergeant Van Miller
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Looking at himself in the mirror and adoring that glorious ensemble of Air Force distinction -- patent leather shoes, long-sleeved white shirt, blue bow tie made of satin, pleated cummerbund and highly polished silver cufflinks -- the Airman thought he looked like a special agent, as found in one of those spy thriller novels. There was no the Airman was "stylin'."

This night would be complete if he could just remember all the protocol rules for the evening. Otherwise, it would mean a drink from that infernal toilet, the one his peers affectionately call The Grog Bowl.

This is just part of the formal dining out. It is the military's way of celebrating and building bonds during an evening dinner with leaders and warriors alike.

The 78th Air Base Wing is hosting a dining out this year so spouses and special guests could be in attendance and to show support of the "Team Robins" concept.

The event will kick off with the social hour beginning promptly at 5:45 p.m. April 3. This commemorative occasion will be held in the Century of Flight Hangar at the Museum of Aviation, highlighted with former U.S. Air Force chief of staff Gen. (ret.) Ronald Fogleman as the guest speaker.

American military customs around the dining out can be traced back to the days of George Washington. It can be traced back further in other countries, which each had their own customs and procedures when formally recognizing its military accomplishments during a special meal or service.

But how does this age-old tradition of the formal military dinner play out in a modern Air Force? With lots of customs, rules, etiquette, procedures and most of all fun, according to Major NaQuita Manning, 78th ABW Dining Out arrangements officer.

"This is going to be my first Air Force dining out," Major Manning said. "I look forward to having an opportunity to see a different side of some of the people I work so closely with day to day."

Major Manning was selected as the arrangements officer, and then decided she would contribute something to the strange elixir poured into that Grog Bowl.

The Grog Bowl is a toilet used as a punch bowl. Typically, there are two Grog Bowls containing very mysterious concoctions - one alcoholic, one not. Throughout the evening some members are encouraged to drink whenever an infraction to protocol is made. Ceremoniously, the president of the dining out committee nominates a person to drink from the Grog Bowl, and the attendees of the dinner tap their spoons on their tables in a vote.

The evening is a time for military members, Department of Defense employees and spouses to come together, socialize and enjoy an atmosphere of camaraderie.

"We're all focused on our tasks at hand and committed to mission success," said Major Manning. "But I also understand how important it is to not just exist, but actually feel like you belong. The words of Maya Angelou ring true in that 'We are living art, created to hang on, stand up, forbear, continue and encourage others.' That's one of the things we're hoping to accomplish with this event, enhance esprit de corps, fellowship and have lots of fun."

To encourage maximum participation, the Child Development Center will provide child care services for attendees that evening. Children aged 6 weeks through 11 years will cost $3 per hour. Children aged 12 through 18 are charged $3 for the evening and will partcipate in the Youth Center's teen program.

Members interested in attending may purchase tickets from a unit first sergeant, or by calling 926-4940 no later than today by 3 p.m. Tickets cost $25 for non-members and $23 for club members. Dinner items include a beef, chicken or vegetarian meal.

Look out for your wingman; please plan accordingly if attending the social hour or participating in the wine toasting ceremonies.