Regimental Dinners: Keeping up with Military Tradition

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that in keeping up with military tradition, the Western Naval Command recently held its regimental dinner, which was an opportunity to enforce regimentation and foster comradeship among senior and junior officers

If there is any institution which adheres to tradition no matter how long ago it was established, it is the military. Tradition they say never dies and that particularly holds true for the military. The Nigerian Navy, one of the tripod arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces, is not an exception.

For them, instead of tradition being deemed as archaic and outdated, it is seen as an anchor to their past, constantly reminding them of where they have been, where they are now and where they hope to be. It would therefore be safe to say that the very tapestry or fabric that holds the military together is its customs and traditions.

Even though those traditions might not be understood by civilians, because of what they deem excessive regimentation, for the military, those same traditions are their heritage, even as they seek to align themselves with contemporary modern day structures and practices.

Thus, the observance of the customs and traditions of the military is an integral part of their way of life because a well defined and strong military built on past traditions is germane to its growth.
Regimental Dinner
One of such traditions held sacred by the military is the Regimental Dinners. Traditionally, regimental dinners are held to increase regimentation and foster comradeship among senior and junior officers. In essence, the formal dinner affords military officers, both seniors and juniors to interact among themselves, remind themselves of the traditions in the military and at same time exchange ideas.
Thus, commands and formations within the military structure often hold such quarterly regimental dinners. Recently, the Western Naval Command (WNC) held its regimental dinner in Apapa, Lagos and witnessed an encouraging numbers of naval personnel, officers from other sisters services and head of some governmental organisations.
Dress Etiquette 
For officers not yet in possession of mess dress, service dress will be the norm, some regiments expect their officers to wear service dress with white shirt and black bow tie for such occasions. Civilian members or guests will wear evening dress (“black tie”/tuxedo) or dinner jacket subject to the commanding officers’s approval.
Mess Etiquette
Keeping in line with the theme of regimentation, there are rules that guide the dinner and mess life in general and they include- don’t drag your chairs, don’t place your hand across the table, don’t cross your hands to take something off the table, rather you politely ask the nearest person to pass it to you. Your eating is at the behest of the special guest of honour, no phones while at the table.
Regimental Process 
The process for a regimental dinner begins thus: junior officers arrive before the senior officers. Then the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) and the special guest of honour (SHOH) for the night arrives before the pre-dinner drinks are served. The next agenda is then the announcement of dinner and people go in and stand by their seat till the SGOH comes in and sits down. The dinner is served by well dressed up butlers. However, before one digs into, there is the grace for dinner.
The butlers serve the first course and everyone eats until the SGOH has eaten his full and drops his cutlery, which means everyone will follow suit. They clear the dishes and brings in the main course, clear it after eating and then serve desert, clear the table afterwards and then pour the wine that would be used for the royal toast.
The SGOH is then introduced, preceding the presentation of awards, and then followed by the special guest’s speech. After the speech, a gift is presented to him, before the vote of thanks. This wraps up the evening, although the SGOH and the VIPs conducted the band before leading others to the post dinner drinks.
Loyal Toast
A loyal toast is a salute given to the head of state of the country in which a formal gathering is being given. It is usually a matter of protocol at state and military occasions. The toast is usually initiated and recited by the host. This year, the toast was given to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari.
SGOH’s Remark
Reiterating that regimental dinners foster camaraderie and esprit d corps among personnel, as well as with other services, the special guest of honour (SGOH), Commodore Noma Ebueku (Rtd.), said it is therefore pleasing to note that this noble tradition has been sustained in all the services over the years since his disengagement from active service.
Accordingly, he urged young officers to be committed to sustaining mess ethics and remain committed to mentoring their subordinates along this line, adding that “in the light of the recent security challenges in the country, this will provide a common among services in the fight against Insurgency and all forms of criminality in our society.
“It is also gratifying to note that the NN has made laudable efforts in the provision of additional platforms and welfare facilities for personnel across naval formations in the country. As recently attested to by the CEO/Executive Secretary of Shippers Council, Mr Hassan Bello, the drastic reduction of piracy incidents in our waters is a testimony of the NN’s resilience in curbing criminalities in the maritime domain.
“I urge you to maintain the highest level of professionalism and integrity at all times in the discharge of your mandate of protecting the nation while also maintaining the much cherished culture of discipline and regimentation.
“ Finally, I am also glad that some persons were recognised by the command and received prizes in appreciation of their contributions and dedication to duty. I urge the recipients not to rest on their oars but to keep pulling ahead. I also encourage others to strive harder and contribute their quota towards achieving the operational mandate of the command”.
Reward for Excellence 
 
At the dinner, the WNC rewarded five officers and four ratings as part of its  efforts to motivate a better workforce in the command. The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) of the WNC, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, during the event, said it was the command’s way of rewarding hardwork.
He said, “It is our own little contribution to motivate our personnel. Everybody has parts to play  and they have played their parts very well.”
Daji said the ratings who won the gallantry awards went beyond their call of normal duties to make sure that they not only save lives, but prevented ships from being at risk. According to him, the command normally  rewards hardwork and gallantry.
“We also punish wrongdoings whenever they happen. So, both are the two sides of a coin to motivate and sanction our personnel so that they can always put in their best in the service,”he added.
The awardees are the Fleet Commander West,
Commodore Elkanah Jayeola; Commanding Officer of NNS ARADU; Commodore Olusanya Bankole, and the former Commanding Officer of NNS NGURU, Commander Emmanuel Fingesi,
The command also rewarded:  Lieutenant Commander Tene Nyeh, officer-in-charge of NNS ONITSHA and Lieutenant Adamu Sambo serving onboard NNS ONITSHA.
Others include: Master Warrant Officer Ekesakumor Wowo,serving onboard NNS UNITY; Petty Officer Shaib Kaseem; Seaman Writer Okegbade Oluwagbemiga, serving onboard NNS KARADUWA and Able Seaman Gana Ndaba serving onboard NNS KARADUWA.
Jayeola was rewarded for exhibiting high sense of duty, diligence and ability to effectively deploy resources without losing focus throughout the Nigerian Navy 63rd Anniversary Celebrations held in Lagos while Commodore Bankole was commended for displaying high sense of commitment and professional conduct of NNS ARADU. Fingesi and Nyeh were commended for their efforts and exemplary conduct during the combined sea exercises with Spanish Naval Ship, MV SERVIOLA, and French War Ship COMMANDANT BOUAN.