78th ABW Dining-In promotes proud, passionate and professional Airmen

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Evan C. Lagasse
  • 78th ABW/PA
More than 240 military and civilian Airmen gathered in the Museum of Aviation's Century of Flight Hangar June 22 for the 78th Air Base Wing's Dining-In.

The event, which boasted a "Proud, Passionate and Professional Airmen" theme, was an occasion for Airmen to meet socially at a formal military function.

"I was very delighted to meet lots of our civilian attendees and also countless young Airmen who had never been to a dining-in before," said Col. Patrick Higby, 78th Mission Support Group commander. "For example, I was very touched that three young Airmen from the Air Force's best heating, ventilation and air conditioning shop went out of their way to meet me and chat with me about their deployment experiences and families."

According to the event's program, a dining-in is meant to enhance the esprit de corps of units, lighten the load of demanding day-to-day work, give commanders the opportunity to meet socially with their Airmen and enable Airmen of all ranks to create bonds of friendship and better working relations through an atmosphere of good fellowship.

"I believe it raised morale and gave everyone a chance to interact with other (squadrons and ranks) they normally wouldn't," said Airman 1st Class Joshua Edwards, heating, ventilation and air conditioning apprentice with the 78th Civil Engineer Squadron.

"My favorite part of the evening was spending time and socializing with friends and coworkers from around base that I don't get to see in my every day job," said 1st Lt. Paula Delapasse, bioenvironmental engineer with the 78th Medical Group.

The evening's events included the singing of the national anthem by Tech. Sgt. Darryl McEachin from the Band of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, posting of the colors by the Base Honor Guard, an invocation given by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Thomas Fey, 78th Air Base Wing head chaplain, a welcome from Col. Theresa Carter, 78th Air Base Wing commander, POW/MIA recognition, mixing of the grog ingredients, grog demonstration, dinner, skits and a speech by guest speaker retired Maj. Gen. Edward R. "Buster" Ellis.

Many of the evening's laughs were provided by Airmen who experienced The Grog, a toilet bowl filled with a plethora of mysterious ingredients, both liquid and solid.

When the President of the Mess, Colonel Carter, made the determination that an attendee had to drink from The Grog, the individual marched swiftly to The Grog, saluted the commander, filled a cup with grog mixture, toasted the mess saying, "To the mess," drank every last drop in the cup, inverted the cup above their head proving that all contents had been consumed, discarded the cup, saluted the mess president one last time and returned to their seat as swiftly as they approached.

If there was an award for most trips to The Grog, Colonel Higby would have been the recipient. During one of his trips to The Grog, he was dressed up by the colorful and energetic Mister and Madam Vice of the Ceremony, Capt. Jason Huffman, 78th Operations Support Squadron, and Staff Sgt. Genis Membrila, 78th Security Forces Squadron, in a grass skirt, coconut bra, oversized sunglasses and a straw hat. While saluting Colonel Carter he somehow managed to maintain his military bearing.

"The taste was awful until I added my special gunpowder ingredient symbolizing warrior spirit. After the third time, though, I think my taste buds went numb and I'm still not sure which bowl had the leaded (alcoholic) versus unleaded (non-alcoholic). By mixing both together, I created a dense pigment, mild spicy flavor, with a complex dingle berry aroma, which was enhanced after (Col. Warren Berry's) visit to the grog, and a strong, fruity finish," said Col. Higby of The Grog's contents.

While Colonel Higby was trying to bring his taste buds back to life, Lt. Col. Eric Ferguson, 78th Communications Squadron commander, was busy singing and trying to remember the words to "I'm a Little Tea Pot," much to the delight of the crowd, due to his inability to flawlessly execute the grog procedures.

Alas, dinner came to an end, The Grog was closed, but the entertainment did not end there.

After a short break, Lt. Col. Steven Keller, 778th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, and Lt. Col. Arthur Davenport, 78th Medical Support Squadron commander, brought the crowd into a rhythmic spoon-tapping frenzy (dining in protocol states that attendees must tap their spoon on the table as opposed to clapping) when they appeared on stage dressed as the Blues Brothers complete with sunglasses, hats, white socks and high-water pants, and pulled off a choreographed dance and lipsynching performance to "Soul Man."

"I thought they were hilarious. I did get concerned that (Colonel Keller) would hurt himself doing those cartwheels. Fortunately we had a great team from the medical group in attendance in case he threw his back out," said Colonel Higby.

The evening concluded with a speech by General Ellis, a command pilot with 240 combat hours in support of Operation Northern Watch and former commander of 19th Air Force.

General Ellis spoke about attitude being more important than aptitude. He told the crowd they should never stop fighting for improvements to the Air Force. Improving the Air Force each and every day, he said, will ensure the U.S. Air Force remains the world's most feared and respected. He also placed special emphasis on the significance of family and making sure Airmen make time for their family members amidst their busy work schedules.

Second Lt. Eric Miller, dining-in arrangements officer, was pleased with the way the event turned out.

"For those who were there, I would like to thank them for coming out and helping to make the evening a hit. We can do all the planning we want, but when you get right down to it, it's the people that made it a good time," said Lieutenant Miller.

The spirit of the evening was captured by Lieutenant Delapasse, who said, "The dining-in promoted proud, passionate and professional Airmen by showing off our heritage with the POW/MIA table and Honor Guard, as well as hearing General Ellis speak.

"Joining together with fellow Airmen who had recently been deployed, or who are missing those from our units who are currently deployed, reminds us that the 78th Air Base Wing has an important mission that affects many different areas of the Air Force. Together, our hard work helps contribute to the Robins (mission) and we are a proud wing."