173rd Fighter Wing Combat Dining-In fosters Esprit De Corps

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

A Storm Trooper, a Revolutionary War hero, a Star Wars TIE Fighter pilot and other eclectically dressed Airmen gathered at Kingsley Field to take part in an Air Force tradition, Saturday, Oct. 13.

A combat dining in is an occasion where fun and history collide, providing what some call a fitting tribute to the Airmen who paved the way to the modern force.

Often irreverent, it brings to mind such characters from Air Force history like Chuck Yeager who piloted the first aircraft past the sound barrier and who was reputed to seize any opportunity to have a good time.

The ceremony does have a serious side though, usually in the form of a guest speaker who had served in the past. This year, Veteran Vietnam pilot Jim Wise, who shot down the last MiG of the Vietnam War, spoke to the assembled Airmen about his service.

Although a dining in is in many respects a big party, all of the Airmen in attendance listened attentively and stood and applauded as Wise finished his remarks.

This year also had a poignant element called the Big Kahuna Award, named for 173rd FW Airman Master Sgt. Juan Canopii, who perished in a private aircraft crash last fall.

“Those of you who knew Juan knew that he could bring a smile to anyone’s face,” said Chief Master Sgt. Roxanne Wilson, one of this year’s dining-in organizers. “Juan loved to have fun and was a big part of the success of the last combat dining in.”

In his honor, the 173rd Maintenance Squadron was named the Big Kahuna of the 2018 Combat Dining-In for the highest level of attendance of any squadron.

One of the mainstays of a dining in is the grog. It’s a form of punishment for different infractions ranging from breaches of protocol—for example not identifying yourself properly prior to addressing the chairperson, or not cheering loudly enough, and maybe cheering too loudly—basically whatever the chairperson deems an infraction at the moment. The best infractions invariably being the most outlandish.

After a violation is presented, the subject approaches two toilet bowls (sanitized and covered with drink liners) and dips into a vile (sort of) concoction of truly heinous proportions (not really) and it may or may not contain a little “white lighting” (yes one version did). After filling a cup with this foul mixture one raises it overhead and toasts “to the mess,” before downing it in a gulp and turning the cup upside down overhead to demonstrate its emptiness.