History of Dining In/Dining Out
Formal military dinners are a tradition in all branches of the United States armed services. 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. (“Dining In” includes only unit members. “Dining Out” is a similar event that includes spouses and guests.)
As with most ancient traditions, the origin of the Dining In is not clear. Formal dinners are rooted in antiquity. From pre-Christian Roman legions, to second century Viking warlords, to King Arthur’s knights in the sixth century, feasts to honor military victories and individual and unit achievements have been a custom. Some trace the origins of the dining-in to the old English monasteries. The custom was then taken up by the early universities and eventually adopted by the military with the advent of the officers’ mess. With the adoption of the Dining In by the military, these dinners became more formalized. British soldiers brought the custom to colonial America, where it was borrowed by George Washington’s continental army.
The Air Force Dining In custom probably began in the 1930s with General H. “Hap” Arnold’s “wing-dings.” The close bonds enjoyed by Air Corps officers and their British colleagues of the Royal Air Force during World War II surely added to the American involvement in the Dining In custom.
The Dining In has served the Air Force well as an occasion for military members to meet socially at a formal military function. It enhances the esprit de corps of units, lightens the load of demanding day-to-day work, gives the commander an opportunity to meet socially with their subordinates and enables military members of all ranks to create bonds of friendship and better working relations through an atmosphere of good fellowship.
Dining In and Dining Out represent the most formal aspects of Air Force social life. The purpose of the Dining Out is to bring together members of a unit in an atmosphere of camaraderie, good fellowship, and social rapport. The basic idea is to enjoy yourself and the company. The Dining Out is also an excellent means of providing hail and farewell to members of a unit. It is an excellent forum to recognize individual and unit achievements. The Dining Out, therefore, is very effective in building high morale and esprit de corps.