• Redstone Arsenal's inaugural black-tie gala combined Army and community members for a celebration under the Saturn V rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

    Redstone Arsenal Gala

    Redstone Arsenal's inaugural black-tie gala combined Army and community members for a celebration under the Saturn V rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

  • Alabama State Rep. Howard Sanderford, U.S. Space and Rocket Center Director Dr. Deborah Barnhart and AMC Commanding General Gen. Dennis L. Via pose together at the inaugural Redstone Arsenal black-tie gala.

    Redstone Arsenal Gala

    Alabama State Rep. Howard Sanderford, U.S. Space and Rocket Center Director Dr. Deborah Barnhart and AMC Commanding General Gen. Dennis L. Via pose together at the inaugural Redstone Arsenal black-tie gala.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Redstone Arsenal's inaugural black-tie holiday gala was a chance to showcase military traditions to the entire community Dec. 19 at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

AMC's Commanding General Gen. Dennis L. Via said incorporating the community into this holiday celebration was a way to recognize and thank those in the surrounding area who have been staunch supporters of the arsenal and its continued growth.

"Our theme for the event, One Family -- Redstone Arsenal and the Tennessee Valley, really embodies both the season and our appreciation for this wonderful community," Via said. "It's a tradition we hope to see flourish in the coming years."

Space and Rocket Center Director Dr. Deborah Barnhart thanked the Army for its part in launching the center back in 1960s when it donated land. "The Army wanted a showcase to show what was happening in Huntsville," Barnhart said. "And what was happening in Huntsville was that the United States Army was launching the very first satellite, Explorer 1. You started it Army, way to go." she said.

"Never before has there been such a formal event that brought the civilian community together with the military here," said Army Materiel Command Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff Maj. Joseph R. Gallaher, who helped coordinate the event. "Besides celebrating the holidays, the intent was to include our neighbors in some of our most treasured Army customs."

Those customs stem from old Viking traditions which were adopted into the British regimental mess system, according to a 1999 U.S. Military Academy Guide to the Dining-In.

"World Wars I and II brought the American and British military close together and exposed U. S. officers to this ancient tradition of the dining-in," according to the guide. "Quickly seeing its benefits for the units, we adopted it as our own, and today cadets, officers and noncommissioned officers in the American Army regularly hold dining-ins."

While not an official "dining-in," gala attendees took part in a traditional receiving line and watched the posting of the colors. Customary toasts were offered to the country and the community, and a solemn toast honored fallen comrades.

"The holiday gala was a fabulous event. Dining underneath the Saturn V was a once in a lifetime experience," said Anna Hamlett, a civilian employee from the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command who attended the event. "This was a great opportunity for the Redstone community to come together, celebrate and enjoy the Christmas season."

A group of volunteers from across Redstone Arsenal coordinated and organized the event, Gallaher said. Entertainment included the bands Unknown Lyric, Pink Cadillac and a special appearance by the AMC Band's Brass Quintet.

Page last updated Fri December 20th, 2013 at 00:00