Army Dining-In: An Overview

My favorite time of year is December’s drill. This is because there is usually some kind of family event, drill is very relaxed, and there is a formal event like a dining-in or dining-out. After marrying my husband last year, I got to experience the ultimate dining-out at his unit! A dining-in and dining-out are similar, except at a dining-out, civilian guests (like spouses) are included; it takes place at a normal restaurant and has dancing. Here is an overview of the dining-in and why they are so great.

The dining-in is traditionally for the officers of the unit, however, in a majority of cases the entire unit participates in the event. It’s important to know that with a Dining In spouses DO NOT attend.  It is reserved for members of the unit.

The reason that I love this time of year so much is because it is a huge tradition that we can still make the most of. I think the Army needs to keep as many traditions as possible, they instill pride and esprit de corps. The great part is that every unit has their own tradition and every dining-in differs just slightly from the others.

One person that makes or breaks the dining-in is the Mr. Vice. This should be somebody who has a great sense of humor and a quick wit. He or she will be doing majority of the talking throughout the event, and it is imperative that the right person is selected for this position!

The commander usually serves as the president of the mess, and is seated at the front along with guests of honor, chaplain and guest speaker. The dining-in begins with a receiving line, then the colors are posted. There will be opening remarks from the president and the guest of honor. Most units make a grog bowl, and the senior leadership in the unit will each have a hand at pouring a particular liquor or something like “sand from Iraq and Afghanistan”, or “a sock from the lowest ranking private’s foot”. Dinner must be sampled and ensured that it is fit to be consumed by the mess.

Toasts are done, and one must make sure their glass is always charged! Once the gavel drops after dinner and everyone is dismissed, usually people stay and continue to socialize and dance.

Final Thoughts: A dining-in is a great event to plan every year and they help keep Army traditions alive.  If you’ve been to a Dining In before, I would love to learn about your story or experiences with it.  Leave a comment to tell us all about it.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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9 thoughts on “Army Dining-In: An Overview”

  1. I’ve never had the opportunity to attend an event such as this, but it sure does sound like a heap of fun! My brother (a Marine) often shares pictures from events which he and his wife have attended and they always look like they’re having the time of their lives. I think it’s great that the Military thinks it’s important to not only uphold traditions, but also relax just a little every once in a while, seems to me that it reinforces the sense of unity which is so necessary when defending our country.

  2. Amy Skalicky

    The Wyoming National Guard has one dine-in event a year, which is the annual St. Barbara\’s Ball. It is a change of pace from the usual activities because it is a formal event and there is a complete protocol for holding the ball. In spite of the formality, the ball is a fun time. It\’s actually the one event that the Commander seemed to be most relaxed.

  3. Josh Dunwoody

    Interesting post! I am actually planning my first Dining In event right now as the culminating event for Phase II of OCS. As the Dining In Committee Chair, I am learning a lot about this event and its importance to the unit as you mention.

  4. Candace Ginestar

    GROG is the BEST!!!! I keep my glass fully charged with it at all times!!!

    Yeah, it varies year to year on how nasty it is, but there is potential to be really gross. which also means really awesome…

  5. Candace,

    I would say that the most sacred item of MY dining-in experience is the tradition of the GROG! I am not sure if it is just a CAV thing or not, but it is always a good tradition that I particularly enjoy. We tend to make one nasty one for tradition and one GOOOOOD one that we can drink and get drunk with. I am sure your husband has seen some good GROGS in his day…

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Yes, his unit is heavy in tradition, it’s awesome. They just had their 21st annual dining out this past December. The 20th anniversary was very special, though. Anyway, the grog is pretty great, and by great, I mean disgusting. This year a private actually put his sock that he was wearing all day, into it.

      The Oregon military ball is in April, and I can’t wait! I am going to wear a gown since my husband will be with me, and sorry Justin…it’s going to be infantry blue! ;)

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