Friday, October 14, 2011

Rundown of Marine Corps Ball

Cocktail hour 
(Time to mingle with Marines and their dates and to have your pictures taken by provided photographers). 
Usually not an open bar and drinks tend to be over priced. Most Marine's bring their own flask.

10 minute call
The Narrator will make an announcement 10 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony for everyone to start finding their seats. This is a last call to get your drinks or use the restroom because you will be locked in the banquet hall for around 2 hours. (yes, they'll make exceptions for those who can't hold it for a couple hours)

5 minute call
The Narrator will make an announcement 5 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony for everyone to take their seats. The band will take their positions, the color guard and all involved in the ceremony will take their spots.

Seating at most Balls is assigned. Sometimes table numbers are listed on the tickets themselves but usually there will be a manned table at the back or just outside the ball room, if you give them your name they will be able to tell you what table you are sitting at, and then you can look up the corresponding number on the seating chart (usually propped on an easel near the table). Make sure you find the seating chart and your table prior to the 5 minute call.

The Commandant's Message
After everyone is seated, the narrator will welcome all guests and read the Commandant's message. Five minutes tops.

The narrator will ask that everyone stand while the chaplain leads prayer. I want to make a point and say that i've seen people remain seated during this time, no one cares what religion you are, or if you believe in the God that the chaplain is praying to, regardless of your faith, you stand, and bow your head out of respect.

Adjutants Call (This might be hard to follow if you haven't been to a ball, I'll try to use lamins terms)
When the chaplain in done, the narrator will ask that everyone remain standing. The band will sound "Attention", all Marine's in uniform will snap to "position of attention" (heals together, feet in V shape, arms strait and to the sides). The band will play "Adjutants Call" and you will see "Escorts" (Marine's in dress blues) march down the aisle and stop, a couple feet from each other, turn and face the aisle itself. The band will play "order arms" at which point all escorts will pop their riffles up across their chests and all other Marine's in uniform (Your date) will salute in the direction of the door way. At this point all those not in uniform (yes this is you) should stand tall and place your hands to your side or clasped in front of behind you. (Meaning, don't stand there with your hands on your hips or arms crossed)

The Colors are marched forward along with the guest of honor and distinguished Marines. When the colorguard comes to a stop, the band will play the National Anthem and the Colors will be posted (place your hand OVER your heart, fingers together). The band will play order arms again and you may drop your hand, but remain standing. The colorguard will march around a bit, and present the Marine Corps flag, at which point the band will slowly play the Marine Corps Hymn. You will hear the majority of the Marine's around the room singing, but non-Marine's need to resist joining in on this catchy tune... Non-Marines (Wives, Girlfriends, other dates) did not earn the right. When the Hymn is over you may hear grunts, barks, Oorah's, please try to not start laughing, the ceremony isn't over yet. After the Hymn they'll roll the cake out at this time, and FINALLY, you can sit down.

Cake Cutting Ceremony
An adjutant (usually some higher up) will read Gen.Lejeune's birthday message (Marine Corps Order 47, dated 1 Nov 1921). The narrator will introduce those sitting at the head table and will read the guest of honor's biography. At this point the oldest and Youngest Marine will come forward (towards the cake cart previously rolled out), there will be a passing of a sword and the cutting of the cake. The narrator will announce this all as they go, but they give the first piece of the cake to the guest of honor... And then this is the fun part... They announce the birth date of the oldest Marine present as they hand him a piece of cake, then as he passes it to the youngest Marine present (symbolic of passing traditions of the "Old Corps" to the "New Corps") they will announce the youngest Marine's birthday and then laughter and grumbles ensue as everyone in the room realizes how old they are getting.

The cake escorts remove the cake from the room and everybody will stand as they retire the colors (march the flags out of the room). After the Adjutants march out of the room everybody may be seated again.

POW/MIA/KIA Ceremony 

Your attention will be directed to a small table at the head of the room with an empty place setting. Everything on that table is a  symbol and the narrator will go over each individual meaning. It is to the utmost important that you remain completely silent out of respect to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for YOU! After a moment of silence a toast will be given, usually very somber and not followed by the cheerful (Oorah, barks and applause).

State of the Corps (usually after the POW Ceremony, sometimes after speeches, and sometimes shown during dinner)
At this point, most commands will choose to show a "State of the Corps" video, usually narrated by Gary Sinise or R.Lee Emery. It usually lasts 10-15 minutes.
The narrator will re-introduce the guest(s) of honor and they will take the podium. If you're lucky, you'll have a really engaging guest of honor. I've seen some speeches last as short as 5 minutes, and some as long as 45. All conclude with a toast the the unit and the Marine Corps (Make sure you have a drink handy). You will also need to stand up and applaud when the guest is done speaking (standing ovation).

Retiring of the Colors
At this point, in the same procession that entered the room, the colorguard and escorts will leave the room. You will of course need to stand, yet again, for this.

Parade of Uniforms (sometimes commands omit this altogether)
The parade of uniforms is the time to "parade" uniforms of Marine's past and present, starting with the Revolutionary War and working up to Afghanistan. One by one, a Marine wearing a replica uniform will make his/her way down the aisle and give a short speech on that war. This is usually pretty entertaining as most Marine's will give their own spin on the speech (or low crawl down the aisle). On a side note, Towards the end of the parade, the Corpsmen will be honored (FYI, when the Corpsmen are honored, even through they are Navy, the Marine's owe them much respect and usually a standing ovation is given, follow in suite).

The narrator will ask that everyone remain standing while the chaplain gives a short blessing for the food. Once again, regardless of your faith, you stand, and bow your head out of respect. It's literally a 30 second prayer, it won't kill you.

Once the colors are out of the room, and the chaplain is done, the narrator will make a statement to the equivalent of "Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes our ceremony. Enjoy the Ball." Remain seated until a ball coordinator takes the stage and lets everybody know how they are to receive dinner.

Some balls choose to do buffet style catering. In cases like this, the ball coordinator will dismiss table by table as to not have everyone standing in line at the same time. If they are doing a plate (seated) service, you may get up and use the restroom or get a drink at this point, but make sure to leave your dining card (where you choose if you want beef, chicken or vegetarian) at your place setting so the server knows which plate to give you.

After dinner, the CO (or narrator) may say a couple word (IE: Thanks for coming, please don't drink and drive, see the back table for an "arrive alive" card, etc.) The DJ will starts to play and that's when the good times start.

Each Ball will have its own flow and some have a traditional uniform viewing during the Ceremony, or, as in the past few years, a long video about the "State of the Corps," that is shown Marine Corps wide. It just depends. The Ceremony usually lasts about one hour, but I've seen it go on for two hours.

1 comment:

  1. This was very informative! Thank you. Did you cover females' attire in another blog post?