PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, California -- Warrior Week for the 311th Training Squadron's 400-plus language-student Airmen ended with an event they found fun, traditional, and wholly unfamiliar: the combat dining-in.
A ceremonial feast honoring military victory and unit achievement, the dining-in appears to date to the Roman legions and was established in the United States by Gen. George Washington's Continental Army.
Leadership in the 311th consulted staff and Airmen for the parameters of the event staged at Hilltop Track on March 11 (naturally), as the U.S. Air Force dining-in has evolved in the last 14 years of combat operations.
"This was taken from the ideas of the airmen and the staff, the events they wanted to see in the construct of the combat dining in," said Lt. Col. James McCullough, commander of the Screaming Eagles. "Because we are so academically focused, we try to remind ourselves that we are really here to be military service members that will support combat operations."
A veteran of a few combat dining-ins while deployed, Senior Master Sgt. James Curtis said the 311th did its best to prepare trainees for what they'll face at their first duty station.
"These airmen haven't gotten to that point yet and it's challenging," said the squadron's first sergeant. "Trying to explain combat dining in; 'why are we having a big water fight,' but once you start linking the POW table, the procedures, regulations, the policies, and the camaraderie … no matter what you do in the Air Force, the work will come and go, but you'll remember the people. The first thing you'll think about is who was to your left and who was to your right."
Through their years of service, officers like DuBois and McCullough experience and appreciate the combat dining-in for its ability to bring an atmosphere of camaraderie, fellowship, and social rapport among Airmen.
That esprit de corps was impressed upon Airman 1st Class Cera Wollgast.
"It was very cool being out here, to do this with our supervisors, our entire chain of command, not holding back … it was awesome," she said. "Coming out here to do all these super fun activities with our entire flight, it was very interesting to see how everyone reacts differently, the little huddles, the different structures."