The Air Force Dining-out

CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D. -- As a young technical sergeant stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in 2008, I experienced my first Air Force Dining-out.

I really enjoyed it and wondered why it took 10 years for me to experience this Air Force custom. The conclusion I came up with is each generation is losing focus on what makes the Air Force the great corps that it is. While shrinking budgets and limited manning make it hard to support such an event, it’d be a shame to see the service let this tradition fade, which is why I recently sought to keep it alive.

The Airman Handbook provides brief descriptions of both a Dining-in and a Dining-out. It specifically states that, “Dining-in and Dining-out ceremonies provide an occasion for Air Force members to meet socially at formal military functions.”

They provide an excellent means of saying farewell to departing members and welcoming new ones. Dining-ins and -outs also provide an opportunity to recognize individual and unit achievements and are effective in building and maintaining high morale and esprit de corps.

Although, the Dining-out is a relatively new custom when compared to the Dining-in, it is similar in most aspects and is becoming increasingly popular throughout the officer and enlisted ranks.

I arrived at Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota, Nov. 30, 2016, as the senior enlisted leader for the installation. I quickly realized I was surround by a junior military workforce, comprising of 11 fresh second lieutenants and a plethora of staff sergeants.

I know what you are thinking; no, I was not terrified. I was actually rejuvenated, because I had the future of Air Force Space Command at my disposal. I knew it was my job to ensure their success and development as Air Force officer and enlisted professionals.

One day, I asked when the last time this installation had held a Dining-out. I received crickets. Some personnel were unfamiliar with the term which was understandable, since this was their first duty station. The rest were unable to answer the question.

At an installation with such a high turnover rate, it was near impossible to find an answer, so I took my question to the contractor workforce. Come to find out, there had been a 10-year gap since the last Dining-out.

I immediately made a commitment that we would have a Dining-out before the year’s end. Now all I needed was an action officer. I began walking around the unit, suggesting it would be a great accomplishment if we could execute a Dining-out for the junior personnel.

It worked. A motivated action officer stepped up to arrange the Dining-out—an admittedly arduous task in an isolated location.

Our unit is excited to announce that Cavalier AFB will execute a Dining-out on Sept. 15, 2017, to coincide with the dual celebration of the Air Force’s 70th birthday and the 40th Anniversary of the Air Force gaining control of Cavalier AFS from the Army.

I take comfort in knowing that the future leaders of AFSPC will know the meaning behind why we celebrate our personal, professional, and unit accomplishments at a Dining-out, and will continue to uphold this important military custom.