OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - - A military tradition that began in the 1930s with General H. “Hap” Arnold’s “wing-dings,” the Dining-in is a formal military ceremony for members of a unit, which generally includes a dinner and other events to foster camaraderie and esprit de corps.
However, what happens when members of the unit extend beyond the battlefield? For spouses here, the tradition was reimagined recently as the inaugural Osan Spouses’ Dining-in kicked off April 27 and served as an early celebration for Military Spouse Appreciation Day on May 10.
About 85 U.S. Air Force and Army spouses of both enlisted and officers attended the “Rocking the ROK” experience alongside some of their Korean spouse counterparts. Seventh Air Force and 51st Fighter Wing senior leader spouses co-hosted the bilateral event to strengthen the Alliance, while also extending military traditions to those who don't wear the uniform.
“The festivities are a vehicle whereby we can honor, applaud, and thank our spouses for their incredible service and sacrifices,” said Cindy Wilsbach, spouse of Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, 7 AF commander. “Military spouses are mission-essential to our Armed Forces and this event celebrates their invaluable contributions.”
The evening’s celebration included some of the more traditional aspects of the Dining-in but substituted the mess dress uniforms, plated meal and formal centerpieces for a more upbeat theme.
“This event was designed to build unit cohesiveness and pride and to celebrate Osan’s military spouses,” said Cindy. “This revved-up version featured teams carrying out the musical theme by selecting a band, a specific song, or music genre from any decade and incorporating that selection in their table decor, costumes and a short skit.”
The teams paid homage to iconic music legends including Elvis, Queen, and Guns N’ Roses and served as primer on American pop-culture for many Korean nationals in attendance.
“I think that the role of the military family, as well as, the military members are important in protecting the country,” said Chang, Yun-Jung, spouse of the Lt. Gen. Keon Wan Lee, ROK Air Force Operations Center commander. “Through special times like these, we learn and understand each other better and can deepen friendships and trust between our two countries.”
Event leaders echoed the importance of host-nation spouse participation not only from a diplomatic standpoint but also a way for the Korean spouses to experience something new.
“This event, held in bases worldwide, is designed to build morale and unit pride, but the Spouses’ Dining In is especially beneficial at overseas bases when families are so far from home, extended family, and surrounded by an unfamiliar culture,” said Cindy.
As the U.S. and ROK slogan, Katchi Kapshida “we go together” suggests, the Alliance is not just between service members, who work alongside each other every day, it also extends to the families who compose the core of the Korean Airpower Team.
“The ROK military spouses serve and sacrifice for their country in the same way as American military spouses - it’s a bond that extends beyond language barriers and cultural differences, “said Cindy. “Sharing this event was a great way to strengthen our friendships and our alliance. And both the Korean and U.S spouses stepped up in a big way and rocked the ROK!”