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Retired Marine Col. Dan Gillan, (right) president and president and chief executive officer, Albany Area Young Men’s Christian Association, Albany, Ga., and the guest of honor at a recent mess night, spoke to the Marines about the importance of volunteerism at the Town and Country Grand Ballroom aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.

Photo by Nathan Hanks

Mess night: Marines celebrate one of Corps’ oldest traditions

29 Sep 2016 | Nathan Hanks Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Exceeded only by to the Marine Corps’ birthday, mess night is one of the Corps’ most celebrated traditions.

Mess night is a ceremonial occasion where Marines, wearing their dress blue uniforms with ornate medals, gather to share the Corps’ customs and courtesies as well as build camaraderie and Esprit de Corps.

During this time-honored tradition, officers and staff noncommissioned officers from various commands throughout the base, took part in a formal dinner held at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany’s Town and Country Grand Ballroom, recently.  

Although the event is filled with of pomp and circumstance, entertainment is also a part of the occasion.

Humor was added to the all-Marine event by levying charges on anyone, with the exception of members of the head table, who violated the “rules of the mess.”

The rules of the mess are standards of etiquette which must be adhered to. When a member of the mess violates one of the rules, fellow Marines may “charge” him or her with a violation. Sometimes, Marines may fabricate false allegations or tease one another just to stir up their comrades.

After hearing both sides of the argument from the accused and accuser, the president of the mess imposes fines; in most cases one dollar or a drink from the grog, for any infractions deemed appropriate.

The grog is a bowl filled with a concoction resembling punch. This traditional beverage was supposedly served to potential Marine Corps recruits at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, during the American Revolution, according to Marine Corps History Division’ website,

Lieutenant Col. Nathaniel K. Robinson, president of the mess, said the event was a “time to reaffirm our common bond as Marines.”

“Mess night, a tradition as old as the Corps itself, has historically been a time when those who execute policy have an opportunity to meet those who make it,” Robinson said. “It’s a time for old sea stories, speeches and jokes, as well as ovations; but most importantly, it is a time to strengthen the customs and traditions of our Corps.”

The maintenance of traditional discipline, gallantry, and love of God, country and Corps are the Marines’ bonded duty, according to Robinson.

“Gallantry and comradeship-in-arms have enabled our small Corps to build and maintain a name for itself as a force in readiness that is known throughout the world, feared by our enemies and respected by every military service in existence,” he noted. “As leaders of Marines, we are obligated to ensure that these high standards are passed on to the younger Marines who will take their place among the Corps’ leadership once we’ve moved on.”

Guest of honor, retired Marine Col. Dan Gillan, president and chief executive officer, Albany Area Young Men’s Christian Association, spoke to the Marines about the importance of volunteerism.  

“(Volunteering) is a hallmark of Marines,” Gillan said. “(No matter where you are) stationed, you contribute, be a part of and dedicate (some) of your time to volunteer in your local community. Your personal reward is so great in doing so, but the legacy and handprint that you leave, where you have been planted or assigned, is immeasurable.

“You give of yourself just like you are spending your adult lives giving and serving our country,” he continued. “You represent all that is good and great of this country.”

At the end of the night, Marines raised their glasses to toast and honor those who have fought and died for freedom in various wars. They also recognized current active-duty Marines who served in recent wars as well as those who are currently forward deployed.

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