The Dining-In/Out: An Honored Military Tradition
The Dining-In represents the most formal aspects of Air Force social life. The custom is a very old tradition, although its origin is not clear. Formal feasts to honor military victories and individual achievements have been customary from pre-Christian Roman legions to King Arthur's knights in the sixth century.
The custom of the dining-in is not exclusively military. The tradition as we know it today is rooted in England where it was a custom in monasteries. It was later adopted by the early universities and spread to the military when the officer's mess was established. With the adoption of the dining-in by the military, these feasts became more formalized. British soldiers introduced the custom to colonial America, where it was borrowed by George Washington's Continental Army.
These dinners have become traditional in all the branches of the armed forces. In the Air Force and Navy, it is the Dining-in; in the Army, the regimental dinner; in the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, mess night.
The Air Force Dining-in format began in the United States Army Air Corps with General "Hap" Arnold's "Wing-dings." The Air Corps' association with the British in World War II increased its popularity, and since that time it has been modified into its present form. Faculty members of the Squadron Officer School of the Air University began having faculty Dining-ins. They were later included in the curriculum for the students, and because of their success, dining-ins spread rapidly to other Air Force units. Many of the original traditions are still very much alive.
The Rules of the Mess
The following is a list of the rules will be conducted. They are designed to conform to the tradition and promote levity. Violators of the rules are subject to the wrath and mischievousness of Mr. Vice. All assigned punishments and penalties will be carried out before the membership.
1. Thou shalt arrive within 10 minutes of the appointed hour.
2. Thou shalt make every effort to meet all the guests.
3. Thou shalt move to the mess when thee hears the chimes and remain standing until seated by the President.
4. Thou shalt not bring cocktails or lighted materials into the mess.
5. Thou shalt smoke only when the smoking lamp is lit.
6. Thou shalt participate in all toasts unless thyself or thy group is honored with the toast.
7. Thou shalt not leave the mess while convened.
8. Thou shalt ensure that thy glass is always charged when toasting.
9. Thou shalt keep toasts and comments within the limits of good taste and mutual respect. Degrading or insulting remarks will be frowned upon by the membership. However, good natured needling is ENCOURAGED.
10. Thou shalt not murder the Queen's English.
11. Thou shalt always use the proper toasting procedures.
12. Thou shalt not open the hangar doors.
13. Thou shalt fall into disrepute with thy peers if the pleats of thy cummerbund are not properly faced.
14. Thou shalt also be painfully regarded if thy clip-on bow tie rides at an obvious list. Thou shalt be forgiven, however, if thee also rides at a comparable list.
15. Thou shalt consume thy meal in a manner becoming a gentle person.
16. Thou shalt not laugh at ridiculously funny comments unless the President first shows approval by laughing.
17. Thou shalt express thy approval by tapping thy spoon on the table. Clapping of thy hands will not be tolerated.
18. Thou shalt not question the decisions of the President.
19. When the mess adjourns, thou shalt rise and wait for the President and guests to leave.
20. Thou shalt enjoy thyself to the fullest.