2018-03-09 / Front Page

Make the most of a military ball

Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

Military ball season is upon Fort Gordon. If you have never attended a military ball, you probably have a lot of questions like what to wear, what is proper protocol and what to expect. If you have attended more military balls than you can remember, it might be helpful to review topics such as proper etiquette.

Bernadette White, Mobilization and Deployment Specialist, Army Community Service, said military balls are centered on celebration and tradition.

“It really is to recognize the branch and to continue to celebrate those traditions that we have,” White said. “It is a celebration.”

For many attending a ball, the biggest concern comes long before the celebration. It is the question of “what do I wear?” Military balls are considered formal black tie events, which means the Servicemember will wear their dress uniform with bow tie. Male civilian guests should wear a tuxedo. For females, a long dress is appropriate.

A fancy short dress, cocktail dress and evening trousers with a dressy top are also options. Ann Morrison, wife of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon commanding general, said to choose something respectful and that you will be comfortable in.

“There are lots of ‘don’ts’ out there online; you don’t want to be on those sites the next morning,” Morrison said. “And now with social media, those pictures that a few years ago were only printed out now live on in cyberspace.”

On the day of the ball, give yourself ample time to get ready and arrive on time.

Before the formal portion of the ball begins, guests are expected to go through a receiving line. This is an opportunity for you to be introduced to the event’s honored guests such as the hosting unit commander and higher ranking officials, along with their spouse.

As couples join the line, the male should stand on the side closest to the receiving line. The first person in the receiving line is not actually part of the line, but rather the “announcer.”

The announcer is there to hear your name and introduce you to the first person in the receiving line. Do not shake the announcer’s hand. Once your name is given, ladies should step ahead of the man and go into a single line.

Once through the receiving line, mingle with others, find your table and seat, and get in line to have your professional photo taken. Guests should not take their seats until the formal portion of the ball begins, at which time there will be an announcement. From that point, listen and follow any instructions carefully. Much of the military ball is centered on tradition, so observe what others are doing if you are uncertain of proper protocol.

“Take a look at the senior spouses around the tables,” White said. “One day you might be that senior spouse that someone’s looking to for clues and pointers for what to do and what not to do.”

“If you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world, so don’t be stressed out,” said Tina Chu, wife of the 706th Military Intelligence Group commander.

Most military balls have a program, so that will also be helpful in letting know guests what to expect.

Keep in mind that even the most seasoned spouses had questions at some point in their spouse’s career and had to begin somewhere.

“For instance, I learned to ‘follow the American flag’ with my eyes and body when the color guard enters and exits the ballroom by following the example of others around me at a ball many years ago,” Morrison said.

The formal portion of the ball will wrap up after dinner, and the dance floor will open up. Feel free to join others in having fun on the dance floor, but be mindful that it is a work event.

“There are great stories and pictures that come out of going to balls and fun times out on the dance floor,” Morrison said. “Remember it’s a work event for your Soldier though … respect your spouse, respect the event, and respect yourself.”

If you are planning to attend your first military ball, Morrison suggests reaching out to ACS and ask other spouses who have experience with military balls for advice.

“Bernadette White has developed a great set of resources she’s uploaded on the Fort Gordon Mobilization Deployment & SSO Program Facebook page, including military ball etiquette,” Morrison said. “Many of the things you’ll learn on the Facebook page or on websites pertain to formal functions in the civilian world also, such as table place settings.”

Free dresses

The Military Intelligence Corps Association is sponsoring “Operation Take a Dress for Free” today from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Fort Gordon Christmas House, Building 39109 (located behind the Main Exchange). If you are going to a military ball or high school prom, you are invited to pick out a dress for free. Dresses are available on first come, first serve, so arrive early. This event is a continuation of “Operation Donate a Dress.”

“These are very nice dresses,” said Tina Chu, military spouse. “They are not old hand-me-downs.”

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