Dining Out with the Armed Forces Group, Celebrating Traditions (and Spirits) of the Branches

by Zack Koenen, Class of 2019

Class of 2019 AFG Co-Chairs (from L to R) Daniel Gottesman, Zack Koenen, Ido Goren, Chris Treyz, Scott Jones, and Sam Spletzer

Class of 2019 AFG Co-Chairs (from L to R) Daniel Gottesman, Zack Koenen, Ido Goren, Chris Treyz, Scott Jones, and Sam Spletzer

For veterans at Chicago Booth, one event stands out among the myriad cocktail hours, dinners, and Liquidity Preference Functions that comprise the MBA experience. That event is, of course, the Dining Out.

Those unfamiliar with military traditions might find the event’s title a bit strange, if perhaps unimaginative, but Dining Outs (and their equally creatively-named cousins, Dining Ins) both feature strongly in military culture. Dining Ins traditionally consist only of military service members. They often occur just before or after combat deployments and entail a degree of silliness beyond the tolerance of this publication. The Dining Out differs in that significant others are allowed to join, and the silliness is somewhat toned-down.

One piece of Dining Out silliness essential to any event is the grog. Grog typically consists of a fruit punch base accompanied by substantial quantities of liquor and a few “surprise” items. Liquors represent the unique traditions of each branch of the armed services – a stiff whiskey for the Army, rum for the Navy, a crisp (but not too crisp, for God’s sake) Chablis for the Air Force, and anything liquid and fermented for the Marine Corps. What separates the grog from any normal college dorm-room attempt at cocktail mixing (aside from its massive scale) is the addition of certain delicacies. Again, each of these resonate with the branches of the military – perhaps a delectable pair of boot socks from the Army, a pint of seawater from the Navy, a pair of Ray Bans from the Air Force, and a brand new box of crayons from the Marines. The resultant concoction is as delicious as it is healthy.

Consumption of the grog, while certainly its own reward, is also bestowed upon those dinner guests who have distinguished themselves in some way. Mildly embellished tales of misdeeds are submitted for the judgment of the President of the Mess and the crowd in general. Rebuttals are made, grog is consumed, and shenanigans generally ensue.

Elliot Thomas reacts to the grog with Ben Jacobson, both AFG members and Class of 2020

Elliot Thomas reacts to the grog with Ben Jacobson, both AFG members and Class of 2020

While all of this may sound a bit odd, for most of the veterans at Booth it is a piece of the familiar in what can be a new and strange place. Most of us could not have distinguished a credit from a debit before Booth, and would have assumed that an “efficient market” meant less than five minutes in line at the store. While we are all hopefully past that point now, it is still great to dust off the old traditions and have a time of fellowship and fun.

Booth has long been a great place to be a veteran – from the generous Yellow Ribbon scholarships to the funds set aside by Marine Corps veteran and Booth graduate Mr. Eric Gleacher (of Gleacher Center fame) – the school is very much in our corner. We try to give back where we can as well. Booth veterans lead the way in veteran outreach and support efforts across UChicago, and can also be found co-chairing many of the student groups here at Booth. We’re your classmates, project partners, and crop circle wingmen. Each of us is grateful to call Booth home, and we hope you will consider joining us next year at the Dining Out as a guest. Come thirsty, and bring your boot socks.

Zack, a former Army Officer, is a co-chair of the Armed Forces Group and the Business Solutions Group. He interned at BCG Dallas over the summer and will return upon graduation.