By Julius L. Evans
Naval Medical Logistics Command Public Affairs
Naval Medical Logistics Command and Fort Detrick partnered to host the post’s first Enlisted Dining-In ceremony May 11, at the Frederick, Md., Francis Scott Key Conference Center.
Unique among the social customs of the US Armed Forces, the dining-in ceremony has its roots deep in western military tradition. Beginning in the universities of the tenth century, where the widely dispersed student body gathered periodically to exchange ideas in a common atmosphere, the military establishment quickly adopted the dining-in. Perceptive commanders realized that camaraderie among their members was extremely important to the effectiveness of their organization, and a formal banquet provided an excellent situation in which to recognize outstanding personnel.
This event provided a unique opportunity for all enlisted military personnel assigned to the geographical area to participate in a gala affair that included interesting speeches, skits and activities that culminated in an evening of networking and relationship building.
HM1(FMF/EXW) James S. Williams, Naval Medical Logistics Command’s Training Officer, was appointed as Chairman of the 1st Annual Fort Detrick Armed Forces Dining-In planning committee.
“I was responsible of oversight of a staff of 16 military members, mostly all of whom are senior to me, for all aspects of planning of the event, including locating and securing the venue, managing of the budget, coordinating all the fundraising activities and identifying, locating and securing the guest speaker,” Williams explained.
During remarks to fallen comrades, one of the senior enlisted members at the event read the traditional toast, “For 236 years these Colors have represented a nation dedicated to liberty and freedom. They have been carried to many lands and inspired acts of valor which often demanded the ultimate sacrifice. Those who have gone before us have paid for our right to carry on in their stead. For, wars are not won or freedom ensured by the living alone. We offer this toast in honor of those who have gone before us and have given their lives in the defense of our nation... Fellow brothers and sisters, I propose a toast to our fallen comrades and our missing in action."
With that, the more than 217 active duty and retired enlisted members from all four branches and from 20 commands in the Fort Detrick geographic area raised their glasses and honored those who could not be there in person. The next portion of the event was the Grog Bowl Ceremony.
At Army and Air Force dining-in ceremonies, ‘violators’ of the mess are obliged to publicly drink from a grog bowl in front of the mess attendees. The grog is usually contained in a toilet bowl, consisting of various alcoholic beverages mixed together. As a more disgusting effect, the grog may also contain floating solids, such as meatballs, raw oysters or Tootsie Rolls. The tradition of drinking grog originated with the British Navy. Grog consisted of the regulation rum ration diluted with water to discourage binge drinking. In today's Navy dining-ins, grog comes in two varieties (one with alcohol and one without). The non-alcohol variety may contain anything that will make it less appealing to the taste, including hot sauce.
The primary purpose of a dining-out is to bring military members together in an atmosphere of camaraderie, fellowship and social rapport. The goal is to have a good time and enjoy the company of fellow service members.
“This type of event has never been held in Fort Detrick’s 70 year history,” Williams said. “My vision though for next year's event is to have a classy ceremony with the history of our nation's Armed Forces enlisted corps. I also want it to be a uniquely visible event to the general public to highlight our enlisted corps as the backbone of our nations fighting forces -- projecting a joint military force from the sea, air and land,” Williams said.