Enlisted Airmen celebrate heritage, honor "The Fallen:" Combat dining-in first in 9 years

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Enlisted 90th Missile Wing Airmen, armed with water guns and balloons, gathered in the Peacekeeper High Bay Sept. 13 for the first enlisted combat dining-in held by the Mighty Ninety in nine years.

Dining-in rules of engagement allowed Airmen to wear any Air Force uniform approved at any time during its history, so the uniforms worn by the nearly 400 attendees included Airman Battle Uniforms, Battle Dress Uniforms, Flight Duty Uniforms and Desert Battle Dress Uniforms.

The event was marked by water gun fights, food and socializing. A power outage halted the festivities briefly, but the dining-in continued as soon as power was restored.

"I thought it was fun," said Airman 1st Class Felicia Grassel, 90th Medical Group physical therapy technician who served as the event's Madam Vice, a master of ceremonies and event order keeper. "People seemed to be rather excited as it was going on."

The event was kicked off by the arrival of Chief Master Sgt. Michael Garrou, 90th Missile Wing command chief and president of the dining-in, and Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Alston, U.S. Strategic Command senior enlisted leader and guest speaker for the event, escorted by 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron Flight 9 defenders carrying riot gear.

Master Sgt. Gabriel Lieber, 90th MW Command Post, served as the event's Mister Vice, the male counterpart to Madam Vice.

Lieber described the long history of social gatherings preceding the dining-in. The custom of the dining-in is a very old tradition but not an exclusively military one, he said. It is believed to have begun in monasteries. Later it was adopted by universities, then eventually military units in Great Britain.

Contact with Royal Air Forces during World War II led to the practice of U.S. Air Force dinings-in, he said.

"It was recognized that those occasions provided situations where ceremony, tradition and good fellowship enhanced the military unit and could make the difference between a good unit and an outstanding unit," he said.

The theme of the dining-in was remembrance of "The Fallen." Airmen toasted each member of the 90th MW who died while deployed overseas: Airman 1st Class Benjamin Hall, who died in Kuwait in 1999; Airman 1st Class Eric Barnes, who died in Iraq in 2007; Tech. Sgt. Alejandro Ayala, who died in Kuwait in 2007; and Tech. Sgt. Matthew Schwartz, who died in Afghanistan in 2012.

In addition to tables set for the Airmen in attendance, an unattended table sat at the head of the gathering to symbolize service members who are prisoners of war or missing in action who could not attend.

F.E. Warren's Top III, the Airman's Council, the LEAD 5/6, the Chiefs and Sergeants Major group, the First Sergeants Group, the Air Force Association, the NCO Association, the 90th Medical Group Booster Club, the 90th Maintenance Group Top 4 and all had a hand in organizing the event.