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All Dressed Up, but Where Are We Going? A Guide to Military Events

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Hi friends! We know you’re staying safe at home and social visits are limited, but we still wanted to take time to create a small event guide for when things start to pick back up!

I remember when I was a brand new 2LT that I had no idea what to wear or expect from my first Hail and Farewell. Then, as a 1LT, I went to my husband’s CCC reception and another young mother new to the Army life brought her baby to the reception. It was her first Army event and her husband has just started the Basic Officer’s Course. Two senior wives pulled aside all of the wives at the event and did a quick “etiquette/Army information” session. During that session, they mentioned that you should never bring your children to event if not explicitly invited. I’m sure it was good intentioned, but that poor young woman was completely alienated by a CSM and COL’s wives, and to be honest, she didn’t know. Now, there were many ways that situation could be handled, but I think clear expectation management is one of the best ways to prevent these awkward situations. So today, we will give you a quick rundown on events so you aren’t clueless or stressed out like me!

Dining In –

A dining is a formal event held for the members of the unit only. There are no dates, the unit usually is in their dress uniform, and it usually encompasses a dinner, skits, and sometimes a grog.

Dining Out –

A dining out is a formal event held for the members of the unit and their dates. This is also in dress uniform for the service member, cocktail apparel for the date, and includes dinner, a guest speaker, and sometimes a grog. This is not a kid friendly event.

Me and my husband, Mic, at a Dining Out

Ball –

A ball tends to be a larger formal event. Service Members wear their dress uniform or dress mess and dates wear formal gowns. The ball includes dinner, a guest speaker, a grog, and dancing. This is also not a kid friendly event.

Us at various military balls we have attended as dates

Hail and Farewells –

Hail and Farewells are informal events. Apparel for service members and dates alike can vary from unit to unit but is generally Sunday dress, so a little more formal than casual. Sometimes Hail and Farewells have a theme – definitely feel free to participate! My unit has done Lumberjack, nerdy, and Hawaiian shirts. This is an event usually reserved for senior leadership in the unit and is just like it sounds – where incoming and outgoing service members and spouses are welcomed in the unit or farewelled. This one is sometimes kid friendly. Ask other spouses or people in the unit for how previous events have gone. My first unit had H&Fs that were always family friendly, but my second unit generally had the events at bars. Ask around to find out the vibe of your unit!

Appropriate options for Hail and Farewell attire

Promotions –

A promotion is very service member and unit dependent, so bear with me. The uniform for the service member is generally their duty uniform or their dress uniform. The family is highly encouraged to attend, and generally wears Sunday dress or business casual. Sometimes the promoting service member provides food (usually senior enlisted, warrant officers and field grade officers).

Change of Command/Responsibility –

The change of command or responsibility is another formal military event. Families are invited. Apparel usually is Sunday Dress or Business Casual – both are appropriate and the Service Members are generally in duty uniform. This event is a ceremony, and usually includes a more private presentation of an award for the outgoing command, and the more public ceremony with the passing of the colors, national anthem, and prayer.

Julia and her family at her husband's (Aaron) change of command

New Year’s Call –

This event is traditionally done near the New Year. The senior commander of the unit invited the other officers and senior enlisted to their house for a formal social gathering. There’s light refreshments provided, Service Member are in their dress uniform, and spouses wear cocktail apparel. Children do not attend.

Julia and Aaron at a New Year's Call

We hope this helps event a little when you’re trying to figure out what to wear!

Let us know your favorite event you’ve attended!


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