Introduction: How to Organize a Combat Dining Out

*** All of the paperwork needed to organize a combat dining out (at lodge) is under the logistics step ***

Coming into Cadet Squadron Ten as a freshly picked 2 Degree after being in another squadron for two years prior was quite interesting. I was a little nervous and excited and perhaps just wanted to make an impact. I was motivated to start anew and excel at my military position as well as my academia. However, as clockwork seems to inevitably do, the real world hits. Priorities get jumbled, motivation dwindles, and classes start to seem tedious, but the worst part about it was that i was going through it with complete strangers. I knew three people coming into Tiger Ten and even after the first few weeks of school I realized that I continued to only know three people. “The Shuffle Gap”, I like to call it, is what happens when you switch squadrons after sophomore year. It is when the juniors come in from a different squadrons and do not know each other or the other classes in the new one. They are upperclassman now and are supposed to be leading the lower two classes and setting them up for success; however, people tend to resort to what is comfortable. Instead of being integrated into the squadron, they revert to hanging out with their friends of their old squadron because it is easy and it keeps them in their comfort zone. Even though I am capable of reciting everyone’s name as they pass me in the halls of Tiger Ten, we are not cohesive, we are not a team, and I was ready to make this change.

Step 1: Step 1: Decide on the "Who"

For you:

Know who is going to be:

  1. The President (Master of Ceremonies)
  2. The Vice President
  3. Set up and tear down crew
  4. Guest Speaker
  5. Food Retriever
  6. Paperwork Helper

For me:

As easy as this may seems, in my situation this ended up being extremely difficult because many people are so busy doing other things, especially during Final Exam season. Obviously everyone in Tiger Ten received invitations to attend the Combat Dining, but it was organizing who was going to be the President, who was going to be the Vice President, who was going to coordinate food, who was going to set up and tear down, who was going to write the script, who would be our guest speaker, would we have a guest speaker? These are a few of the "who's" that, if figured out early, makes a huge difference in the efficiency of organizing.

Step 2: Step 2: Create the "What"

For you:

You are obviously organizing a Combat Dining Out. Unless you want to create another central theme, your work here is done.

For me:

This was by far the easiest aspect of the Dining Out for me.

Incorporate a theme for your Combat Dining Out. In my case, it happened to be right around the Holidays. So Major Allen helped with the idea of making a Hybrid Outing just like we made a hybrid Behavior Science Course. The idea of a Semi-Formal Holiday Combat Dining Out took off.

Step 3: Step 3: Finding the Place "The Where"

For you:

Figure out where you want to hold the event.

Here are a few options you can try:

  1. The Lodge
    1. Email:
  2. Eisenhower Golf Course Club House
    1. Phone Number: 719-333-2606
  3. Your Squadron's SAR
  4. The Squadron's Sponsor Family's House
  5. Somewhere big enough, where you can be loud enough, and where you can drink enough

For me:

Before figuring out the time and date it was going to be held, I first needed to figure out where the venue was able to be held. My initial thought was to have it at the golf course club house at the United States Air Force Academy. However, after 6 calls to their front office all at different times and no one answering, I figured that the service would not appeal to the expectations we had for our outing. We needed a place that was cheap and where we could provide a grog bowl. After word got out about the potential of a Combat Dining Out, one of my friends suggested "The Lodge" for it. So I tried it out. After many rough edges with paperwork and signatures, the Lodge became a reality.

Step 4: Step 4: Fining the Time "The When"

For you:

Pick a date where the most people are going to be able to come! The most ideal time would be on a Friday on a Silver Weekend where everyone is going to be stuck at USAFA anyways!

For me:

Once we started arranging the Lodge as the Place, the timing just kind of fell into place after a little bit of frustration. I made a mistake in thinking that if I attempted to schedule the event 1 month out that it would be plenty of time in advance to choose whatever date I wanted and to get it. I suppose Christmas Parties and Combat Dining Outs are popular around the Holiday Season. So after 3 different failed proposed dates, we finally settled on the 10th of December for ours. This created a little bit of conflict because it is on a Thursday on a school night before many people have GRs. Regardless, many people still RSVP'd so I suppose it was not too much of a nightmare date.

Step 5: Step 5: the "Why"

For you:

Your "why" will be different than mine. However, personally I think there are endless reasons why your squadron should do a Combat Dining Out.

  1. For how much fun they inevitably are!
  2. For squadron bonding/cohesion
  3. To just getting to know your people more, which you will have to do on active duty
  4. To relax and unwind
  5. For the good food
  6. To burn your friends
  7. To make memories
For me:

In the invitation I sent out about the Holiday Combat Dining Out I specifically stated that the reason we are having it is "In celebration for the upcoming Holiday Season." I stated nothing about the fact that it was for my Behavioral Science Project because there is always a negative connotation to that. I also stated nothing about "binding the classes together for more cohesion" because I felt as if 1) people would think I'm just using buzz words and 2) It would seem like more of a forced event rather than just a party/celebration that is optional and everyone WANTS to go to. Cadets are way more willing to go to something with a positive attitude that is fun & optional rather than fun & and mandatory.

Step 6: Step 6: the Logistics

All of the other small underlying questions that you sometimes don't think about are extremely important in how smooth the event is run.

We wanted to keep the Holiday Combat Dining Out pretty Semi-Formal. Typically Combat Dining Outs are very formal where everyone wears Mess Dress/Service Dress. We believed that it would be more comfortable, a more relaxed environment where people feel like they can be themselves, and more people would come if we changed the uniform to "Ugly Holiday Sweaters" and Flight Suits for 4 Degrees. Also, the point would be to start the party in a more of a formal manner (strong situation) and end up in more of a relaxed funny setting (weak situation) in which there are less constraints on behavior. However, at all times everyone is expected to self-monitor themselves, whether it's with rogue comments or the amount of alcohol they consume.

Deciding which alcohol we wanted for the Grog was another issue we ran into. In fact, I accidentally kept "malt liquor" on the MFR that I sent up instead of changing it and many questions were brought up...

For the food I initially thought that Mitchell Hall would be our best bet, and then I realized how silly that was of me to think cadets would enjoy that. I decided that the two other places that came to mind (outside of USAFA) with the biggest variety were Texas Roadhouse and Rudy's. In order to allow for more involvement on the RSVP email, I gave the attendees the option of choosing which food they would rather have. Rudy's ended up winning. Now we just have to cross our fingers and hope that the process for getting refunded for everyone's meal through Mitchell Hall works.

Step 7: Step 7: the Tentative Schedule

This was my tentative outline of the series of events for the evening.

However, we all know how no event like this run exactly as planned, so lenience is required.

1730: People start showing up

1730 - 1800: Everyone is talking/being social and playing games (Life Size Jenga?, Christmas Games)

1800: Dinner is served/Rules of the Mess/Games/etc (more specific info on the MOC sheet)

1900: Dinner is dismissed & Optional White Elephant Gift Exchange Begins

1930: Clean Up

Step 8: BS Context (What Captain Raymer Cares About)

I cannot even begin to describe the amount of Behavioral Science terms starting to pop up here and there while organizing this event, but I will try to describe a few:

  1. Delegation:
    1. This was by far the leadership concept I ran into the most. It was great though because I have never really appreciated delegation before because I feel like I can always just do it myself so that no one else has to. However, I could not have done the Combat Dining Out if it wasn't for giving other people tasks and getting them involved. It developed followers, freed up more time for me, and strengthened the team as a whole because we got more things done quicker. (More delegation below)
  2. Teamwork:
    1. I thought teamwork was going to be more of a "end" than the "means"; however, i was drastically proven wrong
      1. At first I made the drastic mistake of delegating things individually and not talking to everyone together in order to come up with a common goal and to create a communication between subsystems. However, before long, the people helping me put it all together came together and realized that we need to make sure EVERYTHING was adequately planned out. That way it creates an environment with more of a team effort that includes shared-leadership among the group, "a dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both."
      2. This gives everyone a sense of empowerment which creates an environment of motivation, stress reduction, and learning
      3. In response to getting together (and even some signs before) everyone was such an effective follower because they were all very proactive and thought of different ways to do things.
      4. We were definitely a team that makes/does things, and didn't really face the challenge of how to implement it because we already made clear objectives of how to get there.
  3. Goal Setting:
    1. Setting clear performance targets and helping people to achieve these goals
    2. I let everyone know what was going on, what we needed to get done, and how to do it. Then i just let them do their thing. It makes them feel included and motivated to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I used intellectual stimulation and intrinsic motivation in the Full Range Leadership Model to allow tasks to get done.
      1. example: After tallying up what type of food the squadron wanted, I told C1C Bingaman that we needed to get catered food from Rudy's and that if she needed help with the process I would help (Intellectual stimulation). She ended up CC'ing me in an email a few days later to the Manager of Rudy's explaining exactly what we needed (intrinsic motivation). I didn't even say what exact food items or anything. This was the true definition of someone who understands a goal and how to get to it. She definitely disproved the golem effect that I thought was going to happen at first, in which I had low expectations and she completely disproved them.
    3. Personally I believe that my goals were specific, attainable, and required commitment.
  4. Low power distance:
    1. Just a small mentioning that it was helpful that we are all just cadets and cadet rank means nothing. In delegating tasks I didn't even consider that some were 4 degrees or others were more capable of doing things. I just wanted to involve everyone. We are all just trying to reach the same goal of a successful Combat dining out and did not need to feel as if people couldn't work or had to work harder because they were higher or lower ranked.
  5. Power
    1. I didn't really posses any type of "power" when I took lead on the dining out. I didn't possess hardly any prior knowledge to combat dining outs so I had no expert power. However, I think there might have been a hint of referent power when it came to delegation and motivating people to come to the event. There was a type of mutual respect due to the relationships I had made prior to scheduling it. The reason I say this is because multiple people came up to me after I made the announcement that it was happening and told me, "Hey thank you so much for putting something like this together. I'm not surprised it was you." I didn't think about that small statement at the end until the next day when I realized that people kind of expected that from me. They upheld me to a standard that wasn't even a mandatory thing to do. I had others come up to me and ask me if they could help in any way with the event, which is super weird when it comes to cadets. So many of them are so busy all the time and not many go out of their way to help with things that they don't have to. That's when I realized that there was some type of respect, whether it for the cause or for me who knows. But that's almost irrelevant isn't it?
  6. Leadership:
    1. I was not "authorized" to lead, or put into a position which people would expect me to put a combat dining out together. This shows that you don't need positional power to be a leader, rather just an intrinsic desire to make a difference in peoples' lives.
    2. Leadership is about adapting to challenges and boy were there obstacles to overcome.
  7. Self assessment:
    1. This whole project gave me a lot more confidence when it comes to being a leader. I have never really considered myself a super strong leader. I have always counted on myself to get things done, and it was truly special to see people follow you, not because they have to but because they believe in what you are doing. To know that I have the ability to inspire people and give them a type of intrinsic motivation behind a task was such a neat experience and shows that I am actually capable of self-verification.
    2. There was a small issue with sizing myself up to others. I fell for projection, in which I believe that someone was capable of doing a task just because I would be able to do so. I gave someone the task to write the script for the Master of Ceremonies and to be able to make if funny and clever. Let's just say I went over a few of the sentences and revised:) However, this is a terrible problem I have. Everyone has different talents and it's not okay to size yourself up to others. Instead, I should have gotten to know the people I was working with more so I could task those who are more willing and able.
  8. Emotional Intelligence
    1. My Extraversion and Agreeableness scores definitely helped in putting the event together. It's the interactions with people that make all the difference, but skills that are taken for granted quite often. Or am I overvaluing my abilities as a leader... Who knows.
    2. Perceiving Emotions:
      1. Ahh this one was huge! So I started talking to my squadron commander about being the President of the event because I already knew how personable, funny, and how well he knows his people. He can name everyone by first and last name in the squad, be genuine about asking them how their day is, and ask them another personable question about something they talked about the week before. Truly an amazing leader. I wish I had the memory he does. Anyways, I asked him if he would want to be the President for those reasons and he kind of replied with a "Oh yeah man that would be pretty cool," but I could tell something was a little weird about it. His wandering eyes and timid gestures made me realize that he either wasn't willing because he felt like he wasn't capable of the job, or because he wasn't able because he is a double major and a squadron commander and is quite the busy man. However, if I wouldn't have perceived his emotions when he said that, he would have been super stressed and overworked up about something that he shouldn't have hesitantly said yes to. We have a new president now!
  9. That's all folks!

Step 9: Lessons Learned (Before & After)

This is where I'll have a discussion about what happened because of the event.

Before the Event:

I asked many people about what they wanted to see at the Holiday Combat Dining Out, and these were some of their responses:

  1. Prizes on an individual and/or flight/element level could add a "combat" component to it through a little competition.
  2. Impressions of C1C's by the C4Cs (or on any level) (2)
  3. Comedy/stand-up from participating members int he audience
  4. Cookie decorating
  5. Simple contests/Awards for silly things

It was really cool to be able to implement some of these into the event because it allows for a diversity of ideas and creates an environment where people feel like their input matters.