By Tech. Sgt. Ray Bowden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
It’s 4:59 p.m., exactly one minute before Retreat will sound and a senior master sergeant sprints through the commissary parking lot and dives into the store while a lieutenant colonel leaps into his car and leaves a thick trail of burning rubber in his wake as he slaloms out of the parking lot toward the gate.
To the untrained eye, shoppers hurrying into the commissary or rushing out of its parking lot might seem innocuous, but to most Airmen these two would appear to be desperately trying to avoid one of the military’s most revered ceremonies: Retreat.
“The Air Force is full of proud tradition and it’s not up to us to decide which of those we’ll adhere to,” said Chief Master Sgt. Tim Omdal, 21st Space Wing command chief. “It’s more than a simple breach of protocol when we don’t show our flag the respect it deserves – it’s inexcusable.”
In the case of Retreat and Reveille, there have been local reports of Airmen and vehicle operators not abiding by proper protocol during these ceremonies.
“I hope not to see anyone running for cover during Retreat or Reveille unless lightning happens to strike,” said Chief Omdal.
While this inappropriate behavior is atypical of Peterson Airmen, the wing’s senior enlisted leader believes a refresher is in order.
“Every Airman is obligated to be familiar with proper customs and courtesies, but I hold noncommissioned officers responsible and expect them to lead by example,” he said.
On Peterson, “Reveille” plays at 7 a.m., followed by “To the Colors.” Retreat, followed by the “National Anthem,” sounds at 5 p.m. and Taps plays nightly at 10 p.m.
Reveille and Retreat, respectively, signal the beginning and end of the official duty day while “Taps,” signifies “lights out” or the beginning of quiet hours.
Regardless of whether they are in uniform or not, Airmen are required to stop and turn toward the flag at the first sound of Reveille or Retreat and stand at the position of parade rest. In the event the flag is not visible, they should turn toward the general direction of the music.
Those in uniform should come to the position of attention and render a salute when they see the flag being raised or lowered or at the first note of “To the Colors” or the “National Anthem.” Those not in uniform do not salute but should come to attention and stand with their right hand over their heart. Men wearing a hat should remove it with their right hand and hold it at their left shoulder with their right hand over their heart. In accordance with 21st SW policy, these courtesies should be held until “To the Colors” or the “National Anthem” has finished playing or until the flag has been completely raised or lowered.
Airmen wearing the Air Force’s physical training uniform should render the same courtesies appropriate when wearing other Air Force uniforms.
Vehicle operators also have a role to play in rendering respect during Reveille and Retreat.
Anyone driving a vehicle on base should come to a complete stop at the first note of “To the Colors” or the “National Anthem” and put their car or motorcycle in park. Everyone inside the vehicle should remain quietly seated.
While formal protocol procedures are not required during the normal playing of “Taps,” “Taps” played at a military funeral or memorial honors ceremony are a different matter. Servicememebers attending these events should render a salute upon hearing the first note of “Taps” and hold their salute until the last note is played. Anyone not in uniform should come to the position of attention and place their right hand over their heart. As with Reveille or Retreat, men wearing a hat should remove it with their right hand and hold it at their left shoulder with their right hand over their heart.
“Rendering proper courtesies to the flag is the correct standard and the only standard for Airmen,” said Col. Jay Raymond, 21st SW commander. “I would hope that everything our national symbol stands for would be fresh in our mind after we’ve all celebrated another Fourth of July. Our national symbol and those who fought to protect it deserve our respect.”