“Into the wild blue yonder”

Air Force JROTC cadets climb high together at annual Dining Out event


photo contributed by AFJROTC program

After the formal dinner at the Waterford Fair Oaks, cadets line up and are presented with awards based on their performance during the first semester. Those with leadership positions are recognized and honored, and new cadets assume their positions for the future.

Rachael Gunn, managing editor

The Chantilly Academy’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program hosted the 17th annual Dining Out event on Jan. 25. The formal dinner at the Waterford Fair Oaks reception facility allowed the cadets to transfer leadership and celebrate the end of the program’s first semester.

“It’s the change of the guard where the flight commanders pass off their baton per se to their new flight commanders,” Cadet Logistics Team Member and junior Marcus Barreto said. “It’s a new leaf so to speak.”

The gathering is all about the cadets and the work they have put into the program thus far.

“All the flights come together, we give out awards, bring guests, and it’s a very fun event,” Cadet Technical Sergeant and senior Chris Longino said.

Months of thoughtful preparation go into making Dining Out memorable and well-structured.

“Chief [Master Sergeant Al Clemmons] and Lieutenant Colonel [Tim Lambert] put a lot of emphasis on this all the way in November,” Barreto said. “Of course, I was a little stressed, but it all turned out fine because they taught us; they’re great instructors.”

Instead of being assigned specific roles, cadets were able to volunteer their services in their preferred area.

“All the cadets in the program get responsibilities,” Cadet Technical Sergeant and senior Ali Elyousfi said. “The group commander and group vice commander brought out a list, then cadets volunteered to take the jobs.”

As part of the function, cadets participated in the tradition of toasting with water, all drinking to the well-being of their superiors.

“Toasting is where we give honors to the United States chain of command such as the president, secretary of defense, those kinds of personnel,” Barreto said. “It’s a mere formality but an honorable formality at that.”

Dining Out has become an important part of the culture of the JROTC program, and many cadets look forward to it each year

“It’s about having fun,” Barretto said. “There are rules, but as long as you follow them, you’re going to have a great time.”

Often considered the highlight of the year, the gathering is eagerly anticipated by many involved.

“This is definitely something first-year cadets should look forward to next year,” Barreto said.

The JROTC program itself isn’t only for those who consider themselves military brats looking to carry on their family’s legacy.

“JROTC is not about being tough, not about the ribbons and ranks; it’s about the people around you, the community and building yourself,” Elyousfi said. “I’ve always thought about JROTC as a way to get ready for life.”