Military balls keep Airmen connected with heritage

Col Karl McGregor

Col Karl McGregor

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- From the time of George Washington, the military ball has been an integral part of what it means to be a member of the military family. It is an opportunity for servicemembers to connect with their military heritage and to network across organizations as well as rank structure. The mess dress and formal wear, rituals and toasting speak to our more formal nature.

The 22-person military ball committee, chaired by Chief Master Sgt. Karen Krause, has been hard at work planning for this event since April. Their goal is put on a high quality event where Team March members can reflect on their accomplishments and relax after the very hectic year.

This year's theme, Over There, evokes both the history of the world wars and our ongoing deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that we can host a military ball at all is due to the service and sacrifice of those who served when the world's need was great and those who now volunteer to support our ongoing struggle against terrorism in some of the toughest locations in the world.

The connection to overseas service is strong at March. More than 400 March Airmen who have deployed this year and approximately 150 who are deployed now. Last month, Airmen from squadrons across base joined the 336th Air Refueling Squadron to form the 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron for a European Command deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. A contingent of 336th members and assets deployed at the same time to support drug interdiction operations in the Southern Command.

Earlier this year, 200 March Airmen mobilized to support Air Mobility Command's demands during the Operation Enduring Freedom surge.

March is also a primary air point of departure for the Marines of the First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton. Last year, more than 60,000 servicemembers deployed or redeployed from the deployment hangar on base. Sixty Sailors from the Naval Operational Support Center Moreno Valley are currently serving on deployments that have been averaging 12-months and 60 Soldiers from the Army Reserve's 437th Medical Company Ground Ambulance celebrated their homecoming at the Cultural Resource Center in February.

Observing the traditions of the military ball connect us through a long line of others who served, notably the patriots who freed this nation and those who kept it free. In keeping to the old ways, the sword arch and the posting of the colors, we honor our heroes as well as those who lived and died in service but passed unknown. In the POW/MIA table ceremony, we acknowledge our unending debt to those who suffer still and our unyielding commitment to never forget those who are still missing.

The military ball offers our junior Airmen their first glimpse into the larger weave of the military tradition. It reinvigorates our officers and directly binds them to the long legacy of those who led before them. For our civilian guests, it allows a glimpse of an organization that has history, gravitas and is dedicated to service to this nation regardless of personal cost.

In this event, you can feel the weight of history, from General Blackjack Pershing dancing with each attending wife (as was the custom during World War I), to General Patton, who felt this event was so important that he made it mandatory. The tradition of the military ball speaks of the ties that bind us to the greater good.

Although it is too late to purchase tickets to this year's military ball, I encourage all our members to attend a military ball every few years to connect with their Air Force heritage and show their spouse the deep roots of service. March's military ball is normally held during the B-UTA weekend during November each year. Team March members from all branches of service as well as Defense Department civilians are welcome to attend.