JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Task Force 61st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 1st Medical Brigade, a 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) subordinate unit at Fort Hood, Texas, hosted a formal dinner at Morale, Welfare and Recreation East Feb. 2 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
The TF 61st MMB Brave Mercy Combat Dining In brought officers and non-commissioned officers together to socialize and recognize individual and unit achievements.
Master Sgt. Michael J. Rubio, chief veterinary non-commissioned officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, TF 61st MMB, said such events may also be held to honor distinguished visitors and should be viewed as an association, not a mandatory formation for all parties.
"The dining in is an effective way to build and maintain esprit de corps," said Rubio, a San Antonio native.
Rubio said the event allowed the task force to gather some of its Soldiers, who are spread throughout Iraq, to share a meal and build camaraderie amongst one another.
The event kicked off with the arrival of the official party and a TF color guard presentation, he said.
Rubio played Mr. Vice, the host for the evening, and Lt. Col. Keith A. Rigdon played Mr. President. They incorporated other members of the units in speeches about the tradition and reasoning behind dining in ceremonies. They provided part of the entertainment, Rubio said.
In the grog bowl ceremony, Soldiers from each unit brought an ingredient to pour into a communal punch bowl, he said. Each ingredient symbolized an event or otherwise significant aspect of the units' history, he said.
Soldiers had to drink from the grog bowl if they failed to follow a rule and failed to give a good reason for why they did not follow the rule, Rubio said.
Sgt. Justine R. Vitug, a patient administration non-commissioned officer in charge with the HHD TF 61st MMB, said the drinking the grog was his favorite part of the event.
Vitug, a volunteer with the color guard team and a Dededo, Guam, native, said the event started out slow, but the grog ceremony increased the crowd participation and Soldiers began enjoying themselves.
Rubio said the guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Paul L. Wentz, the commanding general of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Fort Hood, Texas, spoke after the grog ceremony about the battalion's achievements.
Wentz, a Mansfield, Ohio, native, said the 61st epitomizes the hard work and perseverance of the military.
"You exemplify what teamwork is all about," Wentz said to them.
To date more than 58,000 Soldiers have been treated by their medical professionals, with more than 140 air evacuations, he said.
He said roughly 5,000 glasses have been made by the battalion's optometry units.
"You are making things happen," Wentz said to them.
Rubio said they paid tribute to two Soldiers after the commanding general spoke, Wentz and Col. Rochelle T. Wasserman, the task force battalion surgeon and a California native. Wentz received a certificate of appreciation and Wasserman received a Bronze Star.
"Her responsibilities included coordinating medical functions in support and enabling the delivery of high-quality, customer-focused, evidence-based healthcare to over 150,000 U.S. and coalition forces and eligible civilian personnel," said Rubio.
At the end of the night, the task force finalized the event with a fallen comrade ceremony, he said. Vitug said he appreciated the recognition the fallen Soldiers received.
"The fallen comrades that are not here deserve to be recognized, even though they are not here, they still fought for our country," said Vitug.
Rubio said the dining in was a great opportunity to sit down with fellow Soldiers to relieve stress, share stories and bond.
"I think the event went well," said Rubio. "I couldn't ask for anything better."