Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top Ten Things to Know About an Army Formal Ball

Army formal events are a time of fun for all involved.
An Army formal ball is a fun opportunity to build comraderie, get to know your unit Family, and spend time together in a social setting.  If you've never attended a ball before, there are some general characteristics that will likely be a part of what you will experience.  Use these tips to prepare yourself for this important event in your unit.
  1. Arriving:  Arrive at the venue with enough time to park your car, find your way around the location, and chat with your fellow Soldiers. This is a great time to introduce your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse to the people you work with every day. This is also the best time to check your coat (if available) and use the restroom.
  2. Receiving Line:  Some units may choose to include a receiving line at the beginning of the event.  You will likely be called by company to line up to meet the command team, guest speaker, and any VIPs present.  The first person in the line will be in charge of announcing the names of the guests.  He/She does not shake hands or carry conversations; his/her job is to introduce the arriving guest to the next person in line.  A few things to remember:  Ladies walk first through the line, your hands should be free to shake hands with those in line (no cigarettes or drinks here), and keep conversations limited to a brief greeting then move on.  Because names do not travel well, please repeat your name to any person in the line to whom it has obviously not been passed.
  3. Posting of the Colors:  Once everybody has been introduced, it's time to check your name on the seating chart to find your table.  There, you can visit with those around you as you wait for the entrance of the colors.  As colors are being posted, those in uniform should remain at attention and face the colors at all times during the presentation.  Civilians should stand quietly and follow the colors as well.  The colorguard posts the colors once indicated by the commander.  Once colors are posted, gentlemen will seat their ladies then stand behind their chair until everyone at the table is ready to sit.
  4. Toasts:  The Toasts are a very important part of the Ball. The Toasts give the unit an opportunity to raise a glass to pay tribute to a variety of meaningful people and groups. At this time, a designated speaker will propose specific Toasts in accordance with the sequence in your ball program. It is your responsibility during this time to respectfully listen and reply with the appropriate response, also found in your program. *The response is not the same as the toast so be sure to follow along in your program.
  5. Table of Remembrance:  You may notice a small table set for one that is off on its own - it is reserved to honour fallen comrades in arms. This symbolizes that they are with us, here in spirit. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured the agonies of pain, deprivation, and death.
  6. Order of Events:  The order of events will vary from unit to unit, but may include a slide show or video, a skit or sketch, entertainment, or possibly a punch or 'grog' ceremony.  During this time, simply follow along in your program and show respect by being attentive to those speaking or presenting.
  7. Guest Speaker:  At some point in the evening, the guest speaker will be introduced.  It is important to show the guest speaker the proper courtesy of not speaking or leaving your seat during his or her remarks.  All cell phones should be turned off, and trips to the restroom postponed until after the speech is complete.
  8. Retiring of the Colors:  After closing remarks, the colors will be retired. Remember how you respected the colors as they were posted? The same rules apply when the colors are retired. Too easy.
  9. Dancing:  Now comes the fun part ... time to dance! Hit the dance floor and cut up the rug like never before, but keep in mind that this is a formal ball, not the dance club you may be used to going to on the weekends. 
  10. Fun & Responsibility:  Here comes the most important rule: Have fun!  This is an excellent opportunity to see your teammates outside of work and continue to build strong relationships. Have fun, but also be responsible. Designate a driver or make arrangements to stay at a nearby hotel. If you have had too much to drink, be strong enough to realize this and call a taxi or work with your chain of command to get safely home. As with everything in the Army, have a plan, and if that plan doesn't work, use your back-up plan.
For More Information:

"Married to the Army" Blog Post: My Experience with Army Balls and Formals


Sgt. Parker's Guide to The Old Guard Ball

Toast to Fallen Comrades

DA Pamphlet 600–60:  A Guide to Protocol and Etiquette for Official Entertainment