By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderMay 31, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- This year's Army Birthday Ball will be an opportunity for Soldiers and their families to reconnect with military tradition.
Fort Jackson in celebrating the Army's 237th birthday June 16 at the Columbia Convention Center with an event designed to help Soldiers returning home from war participate in ceremonies with deep roots in military tradition.
"Some of those Soldiers have been at war for 10 years," said Lt. Col. Ricky Earleywine, Army Ball project officer. "Many of them are young Soldiers who have never been to an Army Ball. They've missed out on some of our traditions because they were either deployed, or getting ready to be redeployed. They just haven't had time for it."
The ball was moved off-post to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center to allow for a greater attendance from Soldiers who, in previous years, did not have the option to attend. Last year's onpost event accommodated 500 people. This year's event at the convention center is designed for 800 people, Earleywine said.
"The city has been most cooperative in making the two parking garages open so people don't have to pay," said Ike McLeese, President and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. "It's a great opportunity to help spread the Army message and get the community more involved. We call ourselves the most military friendly community in the country and realize we have to earn that privilege every day."
"This is an all-ranks ball," Earleywine said. "We'd love to have it on post, but it limits the number of people who can attend. The convention center's been great and they've bent over backward to help us. Because this facility is so much larger, we can open it up to all ranks. We can get those Soldiers who have been in the Army for three years or less to attend."
"We're working day in and day out," said Capt. Kenyada Wallace, one of the organizers of the event. "It's something that's near and dear to all of our hearts. These Soldiers have been in this war for so long. I think it's a good thing for everyone to take part in it."
Fort Jackson's Army Family Team Building program is also conducting a protocol and etiquette course for military families to help them get acquainted with military customs prior to the ball. Set for June 8, Army Ball 101 will offer instruction in formal attire, receiving lines, table etiquette and other Army customs.
Veronica Patrick, AFTB program manager, said there have been a number of questions on Fort Jackson's Facebook page about proper attire, especially from military spouses.
"Some people were not sure what to wear," she said. "We want to help make sure that everyone who attends is comfortable in this environment. We're going to cover some of the history of the ball, and will have instruction on table etiquette and receiving lines.
"And we'll have a portion about what to wear," she said. "We want to let women know they don't have to spend a million bucks to look like a million bucks."
The ball is open to anyone who wants to attend, she said. For more information about Army Ball 101, call 751-6315.
"We're expecting a wide range," Patrick said. "Our goal is to make sure all of them are comfortable, that they know Army etiquette and protocol to better their experience."