By Tech. Sgt. Albert Stoner
Air Force Space Command
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — As a proud Airman, nothing is more awe-inspiring than driving through base and watching children drop what they are doing to place their hand over their heart as the bugle call for Retreat begins to play. Looking at the cluster, I can’t help but laugh and truly appreciate their understanding and intent at such a young age.
It also led me to recall instances when I noticed us, as Airman were unsure of what to do when Reveille, Retreat and Taps is played on the installation.
This led me to asking myself and others, “Are you familiar with the proper protocol for when Reveille, Retreat and Taps is played over the giant voice system?”
Air Force Instruction 34-1201, states, “Reveille and Retreat on their own are bugle calls only. The playing of “To the Color,” the national anthem or the raising or lowering of the flag is what requires proper honors given to the flag.”
Reveille is played at 7 a.m. every day to signify the beginning of the duty day and there are no courtesies required unless played as a prelude to “To the Color,” which is the case on Peterson.
This means, when outside military members in uniform will face the flag or the direction of music if no flag is in view, stand at attention and salute on the first note of “To the Color.” Members of the Armed Forces or veterans not in uniform, may render the salute when outdoors. All others are encouraged to stand at attention and place their right hand, with a hat if wearing one, over their heart.
On Peterson AFB, Retreat is played at 5 p.m. and signals the end of the official duty day.
Similar to Reveille, Retreat is simply a bugle call and there are no courtesies required unless it is a prelude to the national anthem. On this installation, at the first note of the Retreat bugle call, military members in uniform will face the flag, or music if no flag is visible and stand at parade rest.
When the national anthem is played, military members will go to attention and render a salute. Military members or veterans not in uniform, may render a salute and others are encouraged to place their right hand over their heart, with a hat if wearing one.
In both of the above instances, personnel on Peterson AFB, in vehicles should pull over to the side of the road, stop and sit quietly. Additionally all sporting or physical training activities will stop and proper honors will be given.
Taps began as a signal to turn off the lights and the end of the day. Most Air Force installations play Taps to signify lights out or to begin quite hours on base.
For these purposes, there is no formal protocol, you do not need to stop or pull over when driving and saluting is not required when Taps is played. However, Taps is an integral part of military funerals and memorial ceremonies and calls for different protocols.
In the instances of funerals or memorials, individuals in uniform and outdoors shall salute at the first note of Taps and maintain the position until the last note is played, if indoors, members will stand at attention. Civilians will remove their headgear and place their hand over their heart.
As retired Gen Martin Dempsey said, “In the course of everyday life, there are very few opportunities for the people of the United States to come together, pause and reflect on the hope that is only possible with freedom and democracy…”
The first note of the bugle calls for Retreat, Reveille and Taps on Peterson AFB are prime examples of those opportunities.