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thedrifter
01-19-06, 08:02 AM
8th ESB hosts mess night
2nd Marine Logistics Group
Story by Lance Cpl. Joel Abshier

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq (Jan. 19, 2006) -- The commanding officer of 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), gives an order to one of his Marines to dance. Without hesitation the Marine starts “busting a move” to the hip-hop music that blares through the speakers.

Normally this kind of order would be considered unlawful, however, this kind of behavior is not only accepted, but expected during the Marine Corps tradition known as the mess night.

Usually mess nights are held at officer clubs or other suitable places either on or off base where Marines can suit up in their dress blues. Staff noncommissioned officers and officers with 8th ESB did not don their blues or sit in a fancy restaurant, but rather ate their food off plastic plates inside a tent while wearing the same desert camouflage utilities that they have worn for months on end.

“It [was] a chance for us to enjoy ourselves,” said Lt. Col. Daniel W. Elzie, commanding officer for 8th ESB. “Traditions like this are what separate us from other [military] branches.”

The evening started with an order directed to all the members of the mess to enter the tent in order to kick off the evening. Marines march in line one by one to their designated seats and remain at attention until the maintenance chief, Staff Sgt. David J. Lerner says, “Mr. President; all members of the mess are present.”

The junior Marine, known as Mr. Vice, controls the tempo of the night. If members of the mess want to do or say anything, they must ask permission from Lerner, who was acting as Mr. Vice, in order to speak to Elzie, who was the president.

When someone asks a question the president can either hear them out or deny their request in addressing the room.

In the middle of the room rests a large punch bowl. Unfortunately for the members of the mess, it is not punch but a concoction called the gorg that is composed of orange soda, Tabasco sauce, non-alcoholic beer, crushed up protein bars and many other oddities.

“I don’t care what’s in it,” Lerner said laughing as he poured a bag of beef jerky into the mix. “I’m not going to have to drink of any of it because I’m the vice.”

Once the plates from the meal are cleared, the floor was open for anyone in the mess to fine their fellow Marines for anything from uniform discrepancies to humorous rivalries. The president hears both sides of the situations to determine who deems the punishment. The punishments included drinking from the grog, singing a cappella, dancing to random songs or anything else that resides in the imagination of the president.

Once the fining is finished, the president has the capability to fine anyone he deems necessary for any occurrence during the mess night.

“How come there was no desert on our table,” Elzie asked Lerner. “Go ahead and drink from the grog.”

Only the president can order Mr. Vice to drink from the grog. At this mess, not even Lerner could escape a trip to the punch bowl.

The units mess night gave the Marines a chance to have a good time and enjoy the camaraderie and esprit de Corps that took place during the evening.

Twelve toasts were dedicated throughout the night to the Marines who fought for our nation during historic battles and wars, fallen comrades who died bravely and a toast to the success of the Marine Corps.

The commanding officer of 2nd MLG (Fwd), Brig. Gen John E. Wissler, who was the guest of honor during the mess night, provided the Marines of 8th ESB with some words of encouragement and motivation as the Marines near the end of their tour here.

“A pessimist sees danger at every opportunity while an optimist sees opportunity at every possible danger,” Wissler said. “The challenge is becoming that optimist while deployed here [in Iraq]. This battalion took that challenge and greatly succeeded.”

Ellie