Two of the Monterey Peninsula's oldest institutions mingle every February, the Presidio of Monterey (1902) and Pebble Beach Golf Links (1919).
The occasion is the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament, another local, newer (1947) tradition.
Service members stationed at the Presidio of Monterey volunteer in the concession tents and attend with free tickets from the Birdies for the Brave program. The Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines are popular with attendees, PGA golfers, and the celebrities that are unique to this tour stop.
"I thought we would be observing from the outside so it was really surprising to be invited in and right there with the celebrities, especially on that last hole to be right next to Bill Murray and everybody out there," said Pfc. Kaleb Barnes, a Chinese Mandarin language student with Company D, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion. "My buddy Pfc. Luke Beifuss actually got a hug from Murray over their bond of being Chicagoans and Cubs fans."
The scene was the 3-M Celebrity Challenge pre-tournament charity event on Feb. 8 as the service members found themselves visiting with luminaries from former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, actors Josh Duhamel and Andy Garcia, and Murray, the king (or jester) of golfing celebrities, crowd favorite and 2011 AT&T Pebble Beach winner.
For all the military yukking it up with TV stars on the course, dozens more were volunteering in concession tents, prepping food for the tens of thousands of tournament attendees that stood 20 deep in line.
Airman 1st Class Saray Garcia, a recent Spanish graduate on her way to Goodfellow Air Force Base for further training, was specific in her reason to be out at Pebble Beach: "I really wanted to see Justin Timberlake."
The weekend assignment at the fourth hole food tent was the latest volunteer effort for the Tampa, Florida, native, who said she gave of her time to "Just to keep myself busy. The school is very stressful and it's nice to take a breath outside of DLI and get to know the area."
Recently-arrived Capt. Jake Mormon of E Co., 229th MI Bn., begins his Foreign Affairs Officer training program soon but didn't pass up the opportunity to see one of the world's most-fabled golf courses Feb. 8.
"I am extremely proud of how these Soldiers, mostly junior enlisted, carried themselves today, they were true professionals," he said. "I think we are out here to let people know that we are normal people and that we do support the communities where we serve."
Mormon's highlight of the event was meeting Rice, who the Soldiers met after the Challenge near Pebble Beach's practice green.
"Meeting her was very humbling and such an honor, especially because there were a couple of us that have been in the military since she was part of the administration," he said.
The military were continually honored themselves by the dozens of spectators, many of them veterans, that sought the troops to speak with them and shake their hands.
"It was very unique and humbling opportunity to go out and receive all the attention we did," said Mormon. "We were treated like celebrities, which is something that I did not expect. It was an outstanding opportunity for us to interact with the public and meet and greet people and show our support for the Monterey community."
PGA tournaments are run by community volunteers: marshals, concession workers, security, and other support staff. Local civic organizations receive donations from the PGA for the volunteers they provide. The Presidio's military volunteers participated under the direction of the Monterey Veterans Transition Center.
Most of the service members volunteering at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am have arrived at the Presidio of Monterey but are waiting for their language class to begin.
"I'm here to help the VTC," said Marine Corps Pfc. Emma White, whose Persian Farsi class starts in late February. "I think it's pretty cool to work with them because eventually I will be a veteran as well. It's nice to be able to give back to them."
USMC Pfc. Kamil Midura was glad to be anywhere but home in early February as he toiled in a concession tent at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, one of three courses used in the tournament.
"I'm very happy to be out here in Monterey and I'm looking to give back," he said. "New York is a dreary place in the winter. Here everything's lively."
Lively was the word for Barnes and his fellow Soldiers at the Celebrity Challenge when Larry the Cable Guy's second shot on the first hole came zooming towards them.
"It came flying, missing the fairway, then it hit the path and actually hit a couple of us," Barnes said of just one of the stories he would bring back to the Presidio barracks.
"When I go back and I tell people about this I am definitely going to rub it in a bit. This is something that most people will never be able to do," the Utah National Guardsman said "I mean, we were able to walk out onto the course and were escorted right up there with the celebrities, almost nobody gets that experience."
From Barnes and his group hobnobbing with Hollywood golfers to the numerous volunteers contributing to the six-day PGA tournament, many stories were shared back at the Presidio. Maybe those stories will inspire other service members to be part of the action in 2018, for the 71st Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament at the 99-year old Pebble Beach Golf Links.