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Sgt. Stephany Rector, president of the mess, tastes the beef before declaring it fit to serve to the “mess” during the Headquarters Company Mess Night aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico on June 5, 2013. The taste test was one of several Marine Corps traditions that are a part of the ceremonial dinner

Photo by Pfc. Samuel Ellis

Marines participate in tradition

6 Jun 2013 | Pfc. Samuel Ellis

Four-dozen Headquarters Company Marines, clad in Dress Blue uniforms entered the Clubs at Quantico on June 5, 2013, for a time of tradition and camaraderie.

The Clubs was the staging point for a formal, noncommissioned officer dinner known by the Marine Corps as “Mess Night,” a tradition that began in the 1920s by the Fourth Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China. The dual-purposes of Mess Nights are rooted in honoring former Marines and the socialization of current Marines.

Mess Night is not always open exclusively to NCOs, said Sgt. Stephany Rector, administrative assistant and president of the mess.

“[But this dinner] is a time for Marines to get together with other NCOs outside of their unit,” she added.

Mess Nights are held, among other reasons, to honor military guests, commemorate anniversaries, boost morale and provide a place for Marines to socialize apart from the work environment. 

It is a custom long characterized by traditional toasts, imaginative pranks and exaggerated formalities such as: not leaving the table after being seated until given permission - including restroom breaks - having the main course tested and declared “fit for eating” and asking to be recognized before one may speak to the participants of the mess as a whole.

“It’s the traditions that separate the Marine Corps from other branches and make the Corps what it is,” said Rector. “It’s one tradition where everyone can have fun.”

Traditionally, save the guest of honor, only Marines are invited to participate, even excluding civilian spouses, making the event a unique experience for those who choose to attend.

“I hope the Marines get something out of tonight,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Graham, Headquarters Company gunnery sergeant, at the event. “Tradition and spending time together is what this is all about.”

Headquarters Company has more than 180 NCOs, but this night 74 percent of the first link in the company’s chain of command were absent from the fraternal fellowship.

Rector noted the absence and stated, by not participating in these types of events, we contribute to the decline of the Marine Corps.

“Those not able to attend missed a great opportunity to be with their peers,” said Graham, furthering the importance of traditional events.

Corporals and sergeants who did attend found a spirit-filled, traditionally set sanctuary where they could find enjoyment in celebrating Marine Corps pride and traditions.

A first, I decided not to come, but then I was reminded that this is one opportunity I get to instill my experiences to other Marines,” said Sgt. Edward Cunningham, chaplain’s assistant, Memorial Chapel.

My desire is to give back to my peers, so they can continue to become better Marines, Cunningham concluded.


Marine Corps Base Quantico