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Wing plans to dine out "MASH" style

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Military life revolves around traditions. The way we salute, address each other and celebrate career milestones all have deep roots. Now the Aviano community as a whole will have the opportunity to experience another unique military tradition.

The 31st Fighter Wing is hosting a MASH Bash-themed combat dining out at 6 p.m. May 19 in Hangar One.

A combat dining out is different from the military members-only dining in, but both are formal social military functions designed to bring units together.

“Traditionally, dining outs are formal affairs and everyone wears their mess dress” said Chief Master Sgt. La Shawn Scott, 31st Dental Squadron and event coordinator. “The combat dining out is the newer version and is typically more fun and appealing to young folks.”

In keeping with Air Force custom, the MASH Bash will feature two mainstays of the combat version to a dining out -- the grog bowl and the obstacle course.

“The obstacle course makes it a little more challenging to get to the grog bowl,” said Chief Scott. “The grog bowl itself is considered the ‘alley of shame,’ which is why we have them go through the obstacle course to get to it. The concept is that people who are disobeying the rules and orders of the mess will get sent to the grog bowl.” 

While the obstacle course and grog bowl are the main traditions of the combat dining out, Chief Scott said the ‘combat’ part allows for conventional dining out rules to be bent a little. Beyond those two fixtures, anything else is “just a matter of using your imagination.”

That creative license led to the other event highlights, including a MASH costume contest -- people are encouraged to dress like their favorite MASH sitcom character -- and, staying with the MASH theme, a medical competition.

“We also decided to add a little self-aid and buddy care to it to enhance the concept that it’s all about readiness -- this is why we exist in the military,” Chief Scott said. “We can’t give out all the secrets, but let’s just say, let’s hope your self aid and buddy care is up to date.”

Although the combat dining out is a relatively modern military tradition, the actual concept of dining ins and outs goes back to the medieval era.

“The tradition of dining outs date back to knighthood times and King Arthur,” said Staff Sgt. Leonard Johnson, 31st Medical Operations Squadron dining out committee member. “Hap Arnold used to have ‘wing dings’ for his Airmen in the 1930s and that’s probably where our modern ones come from.”

Tickets are $5 for E-1 to E-4, $15 for E-5 to E-8 and O-1 to O-5 and $25 for E-9 and O-6 and can be purchased through first sergeants. The menu includes ribs, chicken, bratwursts, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and baked beans. Since the event is a combat dining out, people should plan on bringing water guns.