As the new 412th Test Wing command chief I have been taking time to get to know and talk with you while visiting your units and attending base events. I hope I get a chance to talk with all of you.
During my visits I am asked several questions. Some of these questions I can answer on the spot, some take more research and thought, and still others deserve an answer for all to hear. These are the questions I want to address in this and future articles called “Did you know?”
“What are we supposed to do when Reveille or Retreat sounds?”
Answer: Flags on stationary flagstaffs are only saluted during Reveille, Retreat, or special ceremonies. In these cases, when outside and in uniform, consistent with safety and mission requirements, stop what you are doing, face the direction of the flag (if visible) or the music. When outside in uniform, if the flag is being lowered or raised, or “To the Colors” or the national anthem is played, face the flag (if visible) or face the music and stand at attention and salute on the first note of the music.
If there is no music, salute when you see the flag first being raised or lowered. Drop your salute after the last note is played, or when the flag has been fully raised or lowered, depending on the ceremony (during the playing of “Sound Retreat,” which precedes the lowering of the flag, stand at parade rest). Stand at parade rest during the sounding of Retreat, which precedes the lowering of the flag, then come to attention and render a salute on the first note of the national anthem or “To the Colors.” If you are driving a vehicle, stop if consistent with safety and mission requirements. You and your passengers should sit quietly until the music ends (AFI 1-1 paragraph 18.104.22.168). All sporting or physical training activities will stop during Reveille (if the flag is being raised) and Retreat with proper honors to the flag being showed (AFI 34-1201 paragraph 22.214.171.124).
The above answer, I believe, requires a bit more explanation so please bear with me as I explain further. Clearly the context of the above answer is written for active duty military. For those of us on active duty, we must follow these customs and courtesies and correct all other active duty members who don’t follow them. As leaders we do not have a choice.
Obviously then, the next question is this: How does our civilian and contractor populace show the proper respect during Reveille or Retreat?
Answer: In 1812, Reveille was a drum call, but as time passed it came to mark when the flag was raised in the morning and honors paid to it. Since it is no longer only a call for Soldiers to rise in the morning, it is proper for all military and civilian personnel to afford honors to the flag during these ceremonies. Civilians and military members in civilian clothes should place their right hand over their heart. Vehicles in motion should stop.
If in a vehicle during Reveille (if the flag is being raised) or Retreat, pull the car to the side of the road safely and stop. All occupants should sit quietly at attention until the last note of the music has played or the flag is fully raised or lowered. All sporting or physical training activities will stop during Reveille (if the flag is being raised) and Retreat with proper honors to the flag. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute when outdoors. This is true for hoisting, lowering or passing of the Unites States Flag and the national anthem. All others stand at attention and place your right hand over your heart. Civilians wearing hats should remove them and place it over their hearts during the national anthem. If your base flies the U.S. flag a continuous 24-hours with no music, or Reveille is played with no action with the flag, you are not required to stop and salute. Reveille is just a bugle call. Retreat is much the same. The playing of the national anthem or “To the Colors” is what requires proper honors to be displayed to the flag. (AFI 34-1201 paragraph 126.96.36.199)
Civilians, contractors, active duty, reserve, guard and military dependents are all “Airmen” and as such belong to a family – the Air Force Family. Being a member of any family comes with a measure of responsibility. I hope you all would agree some of that responsibility is showing the proper respect for our United States Flag and national anthem. While driving a vehicle on base, safely stop and sit quietly until the music ends. While walking outside on base in civilian clothing, stand and place your right hand over your heart. It’s the right thing to do.