First Friday

  • Published
  • By Lt.Col. Nathan M. Hansen
  • 29 ATKS
It has recently come to my attention that the "First Friday" tradition I have grown up with over the course of my 18 years in the Air Force and have taken for granted as "standard operating procedure" is, in fact, not standard or universal across the Air Force. I am going to take this opportunity to explain this tradition and set the record straight regarding its origins.

First Friday is a tradition in Air Force flying squadrons that sets aside the first Friday of every month to invite families into the squadron for an informal social gathering. The normal conduct of this ritual is that each flight or section is given an assignment, knowing that the overall success of our mission depends on each member doing their job.

For example, A Flight may be assigned to bring meat products wrapped in bacon, B Flight brings any other type of food wrapped in bacon and deviled eggs, C Flight brings desserts, which normally consists of a cake shaped like a football and perhaps chocolate covered bacon, D Flight brings side dishes and Jell-O casseroles, and the command section brings drinks, plates and utensils. And voila, you have a feast fit for the American Heart Association (bacon is not mandatory, but highly encouraged). The festivities commence at 1629 (4:29 p.m.) on the first Friday of the month.

Note: All official functions in the 29th Attack Squadron start at 29 minutes or 29 seconds after the hour. Your start time may differ, but feel free to adopt our policy in the absence of higher headquarters guidance.

Conduct of the ceremony is at the commander's discretion. Normally, kids run amok and draw pictures on every dry erase board in the building. This has the added benefit of making your Monday morning just a little bit brighter, or at least more interesting. Eventually, somebody has the foresight to put on a kids movie in the mass briefing room,giving the parents about 29 minutes of peace to socialize and get to know each other a little better.

Note: All units of time in the 29th Attack Squadron occur in units of 29: 29 seconds, 2.9 minutes, or 29 minutes. You will find that this works in 99.29% of all situations in which time is a factor.

A popular addition to the First Friday is the hail and farewell. Once per quarter it is acceptable to welcome new arrivals to the squadron in an environment that makes them feel like they are part of the family. At the same time, we say goodbye to outbound members and wish them well, making sure they know they will forever be a part of our family and are always welcome at our table.

It is a well-known fact that the tradition of First Fridays traces its origins back to the earliest days of our country's heritage. Upon returning from the arduous campaigns of the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington returned to the site where he felled that notorious cherry tree in his youth, removed his wooden teeth and, being unable to tell a lie, he admitted to himself that he loved deviled eggs, bacon and all its glorious applications, and Jell-O casseroles (historians hypothesize that this is mostly due to the wooden teeth). He immediately enacted into law, via Executive Order, Article 29 of the Articles of Confederation, which stated:.

"Just as Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, so shall the first Friday of every month be a time of thanks giving and potluck dinners to be shared with family and friends. Bacon products will be used to the maximum extent possible."

Although this article unfortunately didn't make the cut when the Constitution was drafted, we still honor the wishes of our Founding Fathers by celebrating First Fridays. (First Friday...Founding Fathers...F.F. Coincidence? I think not.).

Another great tradition in Air Force flying squadrons is the "10% rule." In the delivery of tall tales and war stories, as long as 10% of your anecdote is factual, its veracity cannot be called into question. And if it is at least funny, then the 10% truth requirement can be waived. I leave it to the reader to determine the "truthiness" of my story above and whether or not to accept my explanation of First Friday's historical origins.

After conducting an informal and completely un-scientific poll of my peers, the best explanation I received for tradition is that "some things just are." Culture isn't something that happens over night. Traditions are built by people that are trying to make their world better, and the ones that stand the test of time are those that serve a purpose. You don't always know why you do it, but you know that it's good.

I've introduced you to many traditions that we use to boost morale, build esprit de corps, and create a culture that ultimately enhances teamwork and makes us more effective when we are called to defend our national interests. First Fridays are a way that we honor our families and dedicate time to building the relationships that enrich our lives and make memories that will stay with us long after our military service ends. It's part of taking care of our people and thanking our families for the sacrifices they make.

Please feel free to stop by and visit the 29th Attack Squadron this First Friday, Dec. 6, at 1629 (4:29 p.m.) if you'd like to see this tradition in action. Rumor has it that Santa will be stopping by.