It is lively for a Friday before close of business at the officers club (O Club). It is no ordinary Friday. It is the first Friday of the month at Yokota Air Base, which means it is the day of the monthly OCall. OCall is a monthly tradition at Yokota where all of the officers on the installation are invited to the O Club bar to Hail & Farewell their members, receive updates from our installation commander, and socialize/network with other officers from different career fields. As I walk into the bar, I see a sea of camouflaged active duty and a few sprinkles of higher-ranking civilian federal employees who joined the officers from time to time. It is the largest OCall since the last set of restrictions lifted in late January. I found my group of Force Support officers and sat as the clinking of a butter knife hit a water glass. It is a gentleman in a flight suit. He clears his throat as he begins to explain this evening’s itinerary. He states that he will go through and call every Group representative up. A Group is comprised of Squadrons. Once the Group representative introduces the Squadrons’ representative, the Squadron representative hails (or welcomes) and farewells (says goodbye) to a member in their squadron. Usually, this comprises a simple introduction by telling the audience where the member grew up, what base they recently moved from, and fun/embarrassing facts. Today’s host decided to add an element to the hails; he brought out a picker wheel that had three categories: tell an embarrassing story, take a shot, or spin again. Once the representatives have hailed all of their new members, they say farewell to the members who have served for that squadron/group by telling the audience where they are going and when they will be leaving. Today’s hails are pretty entertaining with the added component; one member told us about a time when he was playing flag football in high school, and a kid that was trying to grab his flag accidentally grabbed the back of his tearaway pants and left him standing in the middle of the football field in his underwear. The farewells are riddled with jokes about the quirky things that people did that would be missed. Once we went through all of the groups, it was time to wrap up the “formal“ part of the evening by getting updates from the commander. The commander talked about recent restrictions that have been lifted due to the diligence of abiding by limitations to decrease Covid numbers. He tells a story about an off-duty security forces Airman who just so happened to be going through the security gate to enter the base as they ran a security exercise where someone tries to enter the base without permission. The Airman didn’t know it was just an exercise, and despite the fact that she was off duty, she responded and apprehended the “suspect.” There is extreme pride in the wing commander's eyes as he states how proud he is to work with such dedicated service members. In honor of that deed and the progress with decreasing covid numbers, he opened the bar tab and thanked us all for our service. After the announcements, it was time to socialize; members got up to swarm the bar as the restaurant staff brought out finger foods. The event buzzes along with a warm glow that night as laughter, cheerful conversation, and the clinking of bottles behind the bar fill the air. We catch up with each other as we inhale chicken wings, spring rolls, and mini cakes. Although they are called “mandatory fun”, these events help build morale and bond diverse members of an incredible Air Force. Every first Friday, I contemplate whether I should attend the OCall or if I should try to crank out a couple of more tasks before the weekend, but I must say that I never regret a night of hails, farewells, free food, and friends.
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