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‘Combat dining-in’ tradition takes off in Arizona

Airmen from the 161st Civil Engineer Squadron get ready to fire upon other wing members with water balloons at the 161st Air Refueling Wing Combat Dining-In, Sept. 12, 2015,  at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. The combat dining-in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is making its way back into units across the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff)

Airmen from the 161st Civil Engineer Squadron get ready to fire upon other wing members with water balloons at the 161st Air Refueling Wing Combat Dining-In, Sept. 12, 2015, at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. The combat dining-in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is making its way back into units across the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff)

Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing lift their water bottles for a toast at the wing’s first ever combat dining-in, Sept. 12, 2015, at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. The combat dining in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is making its way back into units across the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff)

Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing lift their water bottles for a toast at the wing’s first ever combat dining-in, Sept. 12, 2015, at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. The combat dining in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is making its way back into units across the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff)

Master Sgt. Don Lewis, 161st Medical Group first sergeant, low crawls through the obstacle course on his way to the grog bowl at the wing’s first-ever combat dining-in, Sept. 12, 2015, at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. The combat dining in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is making its way back into units across the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff)

Master Sgt. Don Lewis, 161st Medical Group first sergeant, low crawls through the obstacle course on his way to the grog bowl at the wing’s first-ever combat dining-in, Sept. 12, 2015, at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. The combat dining in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is making its way back into units across the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff)

PHOENIX -- Armed with water-based weapons and liberally modified uniforms, Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing participated in the wing's first-ever combat dining-in here Sept. 12.  The combat dining-in is a time-honored Air Force tradition that is seeing resurgence across the Air National Guard.

Squadrons marched through the entry control point armed with their water guns, water balloons and one squadron, a homemade catapult.

The format and sequence of events is built around the traditional dining-in, however, it is a far less formal atmosphere requiring Airmen to wear combat uniforms with liberal modifications.  The only requirements are current rank and name somewhere on the combat uniform.

There are rules of the mess to observe, and if found in violation, a trip through a messy obstacle course is in order.

Master Sgt. Rachel Landegent, 161st Mission Support Group first sergeant, wanted to bring this epic event to the unit after she experienced one last year.

"Dining-ins are an important and impactful tradition that have gone by the wayside.  My goal was to bring Airmen together, to have them forget all their troubles for one night, to see the wingmanship they already have with each other and the esprit de corps that is present at the 161st. Air Refueling Wing," said Landegent.

The event also included a squadron challenge for bragging rights and temporary possession of a traveling trophy.  Squadrons were judged on dress and appearance, team spirit and a written test. After the written test each unit's lowest ranking Airman ran through the obstacle course to deliver their answers to the chief's council. 

"Each squadron's camaraderie really built up over the last month.  It was so great to see the competition for the traveling trophy and squadron challenge," said Landegent.

The top three groups were only separated by one point, and claiming the trophy was the 161st Maintenance Group. They will proudly display it in their work area until the wing's next combat dining-in tentatively scheduled for 2016.