Posted on Mar 1, 2014
Maj Fepp, Deputy Director, Strategic Communication
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I've noticed a steady decline in participation and incline in reluctance to attend special events (since I am Air Force, namely the Air Force Birthday Ball) in the past decade. Do you think people still view these events as a vital part of tradition and commraderie or are they (as some proclaim) simply "mandatory fun" that must be endured because "we have always done it that way"? I've heard various reasons why people don't attend them or why they begrudginly participate -- e.g. my boss made me, it's all about being seen, I shouldn't have to buy mess dress, why do I have to spend all that money on babysitter/spouses's dress/tickets/etc, I can celebrate my services birthday without having to go to a birthday ball. But I don't hear very many reasons why people DO or WANT to attend. What do you think?
Posted in these groups: CelebrationFun Fun
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SFC Opsnco
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Yes, it is a great tradition to hold on to. I have been to numerous balls in my 12 years all with positive experiences. All the "excuses" people give (cost, dresses, child care, etc.) are just that, excuses. They don't complain about dropping money on name brand items at the PX on payday weekend or the new 2014 model when their 2009 was doing just fine. Or the single Soldier who blows his check at the club. My wife has four ball dresses that she recycles every four years and no one knows (well, until now). Childcare duties can be traded with other couples from other units (not everyone has the ball on the same date). Just about every excuse can be countered with a solution. The only ones who might need a little financial help are the new/young Soldiers/families. I have made it a point to buy two additional tickets for a young Soldier to every ball I have attended since becoming an NCO.
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SFC Opsnco
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1SG, when I first came into the Army I didn't have two nickels to rub together. My first PSG bought my ball tickets and I told my self I was going to do the same for my Soldiers.
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SFC Ait Platform Senior Instructor
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We just had our dining out and since our unit is very NCO heavy, all the E-4s and below along with their guests went for free. First time I saw it done this way but it helped eliminate the financial burden to young soldiers and there wasn't the usual mandatory fun complaints.
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SGT(P) Section Leader
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That's awesome, SFC Calmes. If one of my unit's events had been like that ever, I might have been more motivated about attending.

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LT Regional Practice Manager, Hwsl
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We just had a military ball last month and the same rules applied to the females. This resulted in female members not wanting to participate. They felt that it was their time to be "pretty" and made up. I was able to work with the command to reverse this policy for the female members, which resulted in all tables being filled.
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PO3 Account Management Specialist
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I was going to go to the Navy Ball one time when I was active duty, with a date (who was also a Sailor). I'll admit, I didn't want to wear a uniform. I wanted an excuse to dress up and be girly. I wanted a pretty ball gown. When we went to buy our tickets, we were told that because I was a servicemember, I had to wear a uniform.<div><br></div><div>We didn't go. I still got a pretty ball gown, and dressed up all girly that night, but my date and I went to a nice restaurant for dinner and a comedy club instead. Mandatory Fun = crap. Not that I wasn't proud of my uniform, but that was a complete deal breaker for me.</div>
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SSG V. Michelle Woods
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PO3 Hicks

My first military ball, the women were allowed to wear dresses if their date wore their service uniform. I went. It was the greatest night of my life (from what I remember).

The next military ball women were required to be in uniform. I didn't go. I heard no positive remarks about that night.

Agree 100% with you!
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CMDCM Gene Treants
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Petty Officer Hicks, I bet you would have had just as much fun in uniform as in a fancy dress. Just because you had to wear a uniform does not mean you could not have had fun too. I have been to a few Balls and Dining Inns and the Women in Uniform - Dinner Dress - looked just as good as those in Civies. Of course this does violate the rule that no two women will ever wear the same outfit!

Besides, after the first few minutes, most men are not looking at the wrapping anyway. If you are dressing to impress your date, what difference does it make?
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1SG Shane Hansen
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Unfortunately Ma'am, I think the younger generation does see them as "mandatory fun".
Personally I see them as an important part of tradition and I enjoy attending these types of events.
I am rather disappointed in the trend lately of removing other traditions from the balls, such as we are no longer allowed to have a "grogg" bowl in the unit I am currently in because they say it glamorizes alcohol. To me it was not about the alcohol, it was about the "script" of personnel in the unit adding ingredients to the grogg that made it tradition and helped us remember the past.
I also enjoy the "letting loose" part after the formal portion of the ball/dining inn is over. My wife also enjoys the night away from the kids, playing grown up is what she calls it. I am not sure about the air force, but the army units I have been in we have a tendency to wear "party shirts" under our dress uniforms on certain occasions. It is interesting to see all the different shirt creations.
Depending on the selection, the guest speaker is usually a good experience as well.
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SFC Opsnco
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Ahhhh, the famous "Party Shirt". I remember attending my first ball and seeing them. Next ball I had my own, now I have six.
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