MONTEREY, Calif.-- More than 400 Soldiers and their guests celebrated the U.S. Army's 244th birthday with song, dance and the ever-traditional cake-cutting at the California central coast city of Monterey, Saturday evening.
The ball, hosted by the Presidio of Monterey's 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, brought celebrants, mostly students from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language School, to a packed Herrmann Hall at Naval Support Activity Monterey. Attendees gave speeches, ate three-course meals, and enjoyed traditional Arabic dance performed by Airmen language trainees at DLIFLC's Middle East II school.
Born June 14, 1775, America's premiere land force first raised its colors when the Second Continental Congress ordered the formation of ten infantry companies from across the 13 original colonies under the command of George Washington. Then known as the Continental Army, the first multi-state American force immediately went to relieve local forces in Boston and six years later forced the surrender of British forces in Yorktown, Virginia. Today the Army's ranks, including active, guard and reserve Soldiers, number nearly 1 million with about 180,000 deployed in more than 140 countries at any given time.
Pvt. Joshua Salmanson said it was "mind-blowing" to be a part of an organization as storied as the Army.
The 18-year-old from Washington D.C. and Master Sgt. Theo De Hoyos, 45 -- the youngest and oldest Soldiers assigned to the 229th MI Bn., bridged 28-years to cut the Army birthday cake together with a ceremonial sword.
Saturday's sugary slice was the fourth confectionary mark for the Salmanson Army clan.
"I have a twin brother in [South] Korea," Salmanson said. "He's cut three cakes in the last week."
Sgt. 1st Class, Christie White, a drill sergeant with the 229th, and veteran of six Army birthday balls, said "this is where Army tradition starts."
She hoped Saturday's event would teach Army traditions to new soldiers like Salmanson.
"We do the POW/MIA ceremony and that's something they really haven't experienced yet," the 31-year-old from Shelton, Connecticut said, referencing the empty, standalone table set aside for those Soldiers who could not be there.
Hiam Kanbar, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education at DLIFLC, began her career as a language instructor in 1991 and told Presidio Public Affairs she has always made it a point to attend these "happy occasions," with her military and civilian colleagues.
The Beirut native said, "seeing the people behind the student" is what makes the Army's birthday ball special. "We get to meet our students, colleagues, and bosses outside the context of the classroom."
Which service does their birthday bash the best? Not picking favorites, Kanbar laughed, "all of them."
Before the official ceremony gave way to dance and disco-spotlights, guest speaker Everette Jordan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence Community Integration, Department of Treasury, and former Russian linguist at DLIFLC, thanked the Soldiers in attendance for their service and sang a linguist version of Gilbert and Sullivan's "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General."
Declaring -- in rhyme -- he and everyone there were the "very model of a modern language-analyst."