An ocean of blue uniforms crowded into a hall with round tables and a head table at the front. Soft lighting illuminated the room to a relaxed environment. Upon the start of the evening, all cadets stood at attention while the members of the head table made their entrance into the hall and walked the tunneling path of silver sword arches raised by the detachment’s sabre drill team. Once the head table had sat down, the rest of the room took their seats. Then the new commissionees, cadets in the detachment who are graduating this semester and going to work in the Air Force, also had the honor to walk under the sword arches. After the commissionees were announced, the Honor Guard entered the room to post the colors, which is the act of placing the U.S. flag and the Arizona state flag at the front of the room. Following the posting of the colors there was the opening invocation, then the presentation of the POW/MIA table, along with the formal and informal toasts. Presenting the POW/MIA table was a somber reminder of those missing from our midst. Long moments of silence provided opportune moments for reflection.
The evening then transitioned to a brief history of Dining Out, an introduction of the head table, and then onto the dinner. Cadre, cadets, and guests greatly enjoyed a well-cooked meal as they dined with friends, family, and colleagues. Towards the end of the dinner, it was time for the premier of the Dining Out video, a tradition of entertainment during the evening’s meal. Right from the start, the film was stocked full of jokes and hilarious tidbits, displaying how each class acted and leading into a segment of “Stuff Seniors Don’t Say.” The film generated great positive feedback as the hall filled with laughter and left everyone with some great new stories to tell.
Shortly after the video and into dessert, the guest speaker took the podium for his speech. Jeffrey Dodson, a retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, began his speech in a stutter. However, it was a way to fool everyone; after a few short stuttered words, he stood up straight and yelled out, “to heck with it!” He spoke with the utmost confidence and clarity. He talked about how it was an honor to serve in the Air Force, some things he did, and inspired the cadets in the hall to be enthusiastic about being in the Air Force and to take care of themselves, their family, and their people. Somewhere along in the compelling stories, Dodson convinced everyone in the room that he had punched a bear right in the nose to protect his wife. Then he claims that he woke up.
After Dodson’s final remarks, there was the closing remarks and then the retreating of the colors. After the flags were removed from the room, everyone stood out of respect as the head table and the commissionees exited the hall. While some went back home, others stayed a little longer for the military ball. Gathered in song and dance on the roof of the hall, cadets and guests enjoyed the time being together. It was a night of camaraderie amongst the Air Force cadets and the tradition will continue in the years to come.