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What Not to Do at a Military Ball (By a 1SGT)

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Logan Lester, Miss Texas, USA and Lt. Col Joey Errington, 3-16th FA commander, takes part in the Order of Saint Barbara awards ceremony during 3-16th FA's Battalion Ball. (U.S. Army/Carson Petry).
Logan Lester, Miss Texas, USA and Lt. Col Joey Errington, 3-16th FA commander, takes part in the Order of Saint Barbara awards ceremony during 3-16th FA's Battalion Ball. (U.S. Army/Carson Petry).

Military spouses like to bicker about what the leadership must think about military ball rules and the attire of spouses, girlfriends and partners at the ball. So, we decided to ask. Here, straight from the source, is one Army First Sgt.'s (E-8) instructions for spouses at the ball -- presented as only a First Sgt. could.

As an Army first sergeant, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see issues that can be avoided if soldiers and their spouses would just talk about military life, its expectations and find their own middle ground.

However, I know it’s hard to tell your spouse how the military expects them to act. It’s even harder when it comes to military balls. How do you tell your spouse their behavior and attitude isn’t “appropriate” at the company party?

In my 27-years as an Infantryman, I’ve seen a lot and I always tell it like it is. Of all the things that have happened at balls (and of those listed below only one didn’t), there are a few categories that always makes the list of military ball rules and military ball etiquette.

It does matter what you wear.

  1. Knee-high boots with 4-inch heels and a skin-tight leotard jumpsuit are not military ball attire.
  2. Sheer outfits, transparent dresses and no appropriate underclothing is not a good combination.
  3. Wearing matching plaid outfits to the ball isn’t necessary to prove that you’re truly a team.
  4. How you dress does reflect on your spouse regardless of rank -- officer or NCO. Whether at the ball, a FRG meeting or a Hail and Farewell -- how you dress affects your soldier. Period.

It matters how you eat.

  1. Dinner isn’t like it is at Olive Garden -- it’s not an all you can eat buffet.
  2. Please don’t “order-in” pizza or Buffalo wings because you don’t care for what’s being served.
  3. This is not musical chairs: don’t change your assigned seating because you don’t like who’s at your table.
  4. Silverware, dinnerware, centerpieces and glassware are not to be considered party favors unless they are printed with the name of the event and you are invited to take them home.

Don’t toe the line of appropriate behavior.

  1. While in the receiving line, it’s not necessary to hug everyone in your spouse’s chain-of-command.
  2. The colors being retired isn’t code for “Let’s get this party started.”
  3. “Dropping it low” is not the equivalent of freestyle ballroom dancing.
  4. Don’t even think about bringing the “purse-puppy” to the ball because you couldn’t find a pet-sitter.
  5. This isn’t grade school -- making out on the dance floor is not cool anymore.

Drinking is ok, as long as you remember.

  1. There isn’t a prize at the end of the ball for the attendee who consumes the most shots.
  2. You may think coming to the ball already inebriated make you more social … it really doesn’t.
  3. The whole platoon buying rounds for the guest-speaker (before his speech), isn’t the best way to make a lasting impression on leadership.
  4. Sip, don’t gulp when a toast is made. And, please, don’t finish the glass with each toast.
  5. If you’re not asked to make a toast … don’t.

And if you’re wondering about bringing a date.

  1. Never bring your buddy’s ex-girlfriend as your date.
  2. The ball isn’t the place to hook-up with someone else’s date.
  3. Just bring a relative or come alone; it’s better than bringing a professional date.

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