CARLSBAD, Calif. --
Aside from excellence in combat, what makes the Marine Corps unique are the traditions the institution honors and passes down through the generations. Some traditions are observed daily in the way Marines conduct themselves, while others are reserved for special occasions.
The Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, I MEF, held a mess night to build esprit de corps and honor their commanding officer, Col. James H. Herrera, in Carlsbad, California, June 18, 2015.
“Mess night, a tradition as old as the Corps itself, has historically been a time when those who carry out policy have an opportunity to meet those who make policy,” said Sgt. Maj. Darryl Sisneros, the I MHG sergeant major. “It is a time for sea stories, speeches and jokes.”
Mess nights are formal dinners where the junior and senior Marines perform skits meant to showcase talents, build camaraderie or simply make people laugh. While the general nature of mess night is light hearted, it represents much of what has made the Marine Corps the close-knit, effective and efficient force that our country relies on.
“Gallantry and comradeship in arms have enabled our small corps to build and maintain a name for itself as a force in readiness which is known throughout the world, feared by our enemies and respected by every military service in existence,” said Sisneros. “Mess night is a time for strengthening the customs and traditions of our corps, a time to reaffirm our common bonds as Marines.”
Herrera relinquished command of I MHG after two years of dedicated service. He addressed the mess after dinner and expressed his pride and appreciation of the Marines who have served with him throughout his time with the unit.
“This is a world of insecurity and uncertainty where the only constant is your unselfish dedication and your unshakable resolve,” said Herrera. “I will take your optimism, I'll take your quiet professionalism, your sense of humor and your iron clad determination ... thank you for what you've taught me, what you've done for the MEF, and, more importantly, for each other.”
Many attendees commented that this mess night was extremely memorable and that they were proud to recognize Herrera as a leader and a Marine.
“This is one of the best mess nights I’ve ever been to,” said Staff Sgt. Iris Marini, the supply chief for I MHG and vice president of the mess. “I’m glad we were able to do this for a good man, Col. Herrera, and I hope he enjoyed it.”
For many of the junior Marines who attended, this was their first experience with a mess night. Cpl. Ashton Haymore, the administrative clerk for Combat Service Support Company, I MHG, said it was a night she wouldn’t soon forget.
“Mess night was motivational and emotional,” said Haymore. “When we have an event like this it brings us together as one. We don’t just bond as people, we bond as Marines.”
Herrera left the Marines with one parting statement.
“I’ll serve with any one of you, any place, any time.”