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Observe proper customs, courtesies

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Marty Anderson
  • 90th Missile Wing command chief
The purpose of this article is to clarify some confusion regarding how to display appropriate honors and respect for the United States flag. I know none of us would ever intentionally show disrespect toward our nation's flag since we swore an oath stating we would die to protect what it symbolizes. Attending various functions and even just driving around base, I have noticed there may be some misunderstanding about proper protocol when it comes to the flag.

"Reveille" is sounded at 7:30 a.m. and, after a five-second delay, is followed by "To the Colors." "Retreat" is sounded at 4:30 p.m. and, also after a five-second delay, is followed by "The National Anthem." I understand it can be hard to hear the music while driving, so I must ask you to practice situational awareness at those times. Know when the music is going to play and pay attention to your surroundings, you may notice someone who has heard the music and is doing what they should. If you are in a vehicle during these intervals, stop the vehicle completely, pull over (if possible) and sit silently until the last note of music.

If you are outside and in uniform, stand at parade rest during "Reveille" or "Retreat." Upon hearing the first note of "To the Colors" or "The National Anthem," come to the position of attention and render a salute until the last note of music has played. If you are within view of the flag, face the flag, if not, face the direction from which you hear the music. When in view of the flag while being raised or lowered, hold your salute until the action has been completed, regardless of when the music stops.

If outside and in civilian clothes, Armed Forces members and veterans have the option of saluting or placing their right hand over their hearts. If wearing any type of non-religious headdress and not saluting, remove it and place it over your left shoulder so that your right hand falls over your heart. Civilians should place their hand over their heart for any situation.

Coming indoors for ceremonies brings a few variations you should be mindful of. If in uniform, in a formation and wearing appropriate headgear, salute during the playing of "The National Anthem." When not wearing headgear indoors, military members, in or out of formation, should stand at attention during "The National Anthem" without rendering a salute. The one exception to this is a military member in uniform and under arms shall salute. During ceremonies, such as a change of command, which bring "outdoor" rules in, follow the guidelines set forth for outdoor ceremonies. If the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, military members in uniform will silently face the flag at the position of attention.

Another area that has been the source of confusion encompasses physical training sessions and the PT uniform. In accordance with a memorandum for record released by the Manpower/Personnel DCS dated May 5, the PTU is an Air Force uniform and while worn, all proper customs and courtesies (in regards to the flag) will be applied. Also, according to Air Force Instruction 34-1201, paragraph, "All sporting or physical training activities will stop during Reveille and Retreat with proper honors to the flag being showed."

With the exception of the MFR mentioned in the previous paragraph, this guidance was taken from AFI 34-1201, Protocol, dated October 4, 2006, incorporating change one, June 1, 2009.

I hope this helps to clarify any confusion about proper customs and courtesies, including conducting physical training during "Reveille" and "Retreat" and displaying honors while in the AF PTU.