Presidio's Army Ball celebrates 236 years of tradition
June 14, 2011
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. ‐ The 229th Military Intelligence Battalion members hosted the 2011 Army Birthday Ball at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel June 4.
More than 700 Soldiers, visitors and guests packed the Grand Ballroom to celebrate 236 years of Army tradition and to dance the night away. The theme for this year’s ball was “Our Army, Our Story” and the guest speaker was Command Sgt. Maj. Todd S. Holiday from the Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.
The history of the United States Army dates back to June 14, 1775, when Congress allocated $2 million to support forces positioned around New York and Boston. Congress also voted to bring forth a uniform set of rules and regulations to the newly formed Army, and authorized the formation of 10 companies of expert riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, who would later become known as the 1st Continental Regiment.
Lt. Col. Kent Webber, 229th MI Battalion commander, explained the meaning behind the theme “Our Army, Our Story.”
“Even though we are a somewhat remote outpost, the (Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center) Soldiers are here in California, and it is our Army, too, and it is our story that we are creating here on a daily basis,” Webber said.
He added that “236 years is a long time to have an army. A lot happens in 236 years, from the Revolutionary War to every conflict we have been involved with up to the present. So the Army Ball takes this past and combines it’ history with Soldiers in the present, and gives it to them to carry forward as the Army leaders of tomorrow.”
One of the highlights of the evening’s activities was a touching skit that brought to life the “story” theme by reenacting past conflicts the Army has been involved in within the context of personal letters written by or received by Soldiers.
During the skit, Company B, 229th MI Battalion, Commander Capt. Kenneth French portrayed a stay-at-home husband who mailed a letter to his wife serving in Operation Just Cause.
“We were able to highlight all the recent wars and really personalize it with real letters to the service members and the family members,” said French about the performance. “For those of us (who) have been deployed, it really hit home because we can relate to these people who have served in the wars and it personalizes it.”
French also talked about the importance of the historic traditions that are a focal point of the Army Ball. He said the traditions have an impact on the many Soldiers in attendance who came to Monterey directly after completing basic training.
“We wanted to instill this great tradition on the new Soldiers so … they have a positive outlook on what they are a part of and so they could wear their uniform with a little more pride on Monday,” French said. “It is important … they understand their role in this whole history and the investment they represent in the future.”
Among the traditions performed at this year’s ball was the cutting of the Army birthday cake, bringing together the oldest serving Soldier and the youngest serving Soldier to make the first cut with a ceremonial saber. Additional traditional elements included the receiving line, where Army leaders personally greeted each attendee entering the ballroom, and the giving of toasts to the United States, the president, military families, each branch of the Armed Forces and, finally, to fallen comrades " a toast that is respectfully answered in silence.
“We are here to celebrate the Army history,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Cayes, who was attending his second Army Ball. “We get this chance once a year to meet in a (more relaxed) setting and celebrate the formal traditions and socialize. Tradition is like a binding agent that holds us together; the Army is spread across the nation and around the globe, but tradition reminds us that we are one Army.”
But, if the first part of the Army Ball was all about tradition, the latter parts of the evening was dedicated to celebration. Upon conclusion of the meal and formal presentation the lights were turned down, the music was turned up and guests took advantage of the spacious Grand Ballroom to show off their dance moves.
“So we dress up in our uniforms and do things very formal but we also socialize and have a good time,” said Cayes. “That is really what the Army Ball is about.”
French went further to explain the importance for DLIFLC students to step out of the classroom for these types of events.
“When you’re in school every day for up to 18 months, you need events like this to help you get through the year,” said French. “Hopefully they take this momentum from tonight and the pride in the uniform, and take it into the next week and make it last as long as possible. The one take-away from the Army Ball is that we are all part of this Army family and this is a night we are able to celebrate that.”
Upon conclusion, Webber declared his first Army Ball as battalion commander a success.
“It went very well. It doesn’t happen by accident. There is a lot of planning and behind-the-scenes operations, and it came out better than I could ever have hoped,” said Webber. “Now I am trying to think of how we could do it better next year.”