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What a Mess... Night

By Cpl. Bill Waterstreet | | June 7, 2013

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The Mess Night is a Marine Corps tradition designed to bring a unit together at the dinner table with an odd conglomerate of stern ceremony and light-hearted amusement. These events are practiced pan-Corps and enhance the cohesion of a unit’s Marines.

Marine Air Control Squadron One, of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., hosted a unit-wide Mess Night at the Sonoran Pueblo on station, the evening of June 7.

“We held a Mess Night to bring about some camaraderie amongst the unit,” said Master Sgt. John Baldwin, the senior enlisted advisor for MACS-1 Detachment C. “It’s time for the junior Marines to see the senior Marines act in an honorable manner and also to tie one on and have a good time, and to see how you can interact professionally but still have a good time.”

“[The unit’s Marines] get here and have an absolutely outstanding time,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Meier, the adjutant for MACS-1 and a native of Collinsville, Ill. “It’s a great time for everybody – a little bit of fun, a chance to relax and enjoy each others’ company.”

For Cpl. Miguel Aguirre, a heavy equipment mechanic with MACS-1 DET C, this was his first Mess Night. Though being new to the experience, he was no stranger to the tales of past Mess Nights.

“I’ve heard [Mess Nights] are pretty fun. I’ve heard good stories,” said Aguirre, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. “I’m just going to try to lay low and not get fined. I’m looking forward to the experience.”

The Mess Night consists of numerous events for all the Marines to participate in, some humorous, some somber. The evening starts with a cocktail hour for the group to socialize and move freely. The dinner then begins. Once seated in the Mess, no one is allowed to leave until the ceremonies are complete.

During the multiple course dinner, Marines can call out each other for infractions, whether comical or serious. Marines guilty of infractions are “fined” and must then pay and small fee, usually about three dollars, and drink from the “grog”, a mixture of liquids, the elements of which are a mystery. The evening continues with amusing skits enacted by predetermined groups.

The ceremonies then draw slowly to a close with speeches by the President of the Mess and the Guest of Honor. The Marines of past and present are then toasted with their sacrifices in mind. After the ceremony, all present are invited to join the President of the Mess at the bar.

“It’s something that doesn’t happen very often,” explained Baldwin, a native of Whiteland, Ind. “It’s an opportunity for all the Marines to come together, to not talk shop the whole time and for it to just be about fun. All Marines should experience a Mess Night.”

After his first experience, Aguirre agrees. “If you are in the Marine Corps, you should experience it before your time is done.”

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