Honoring our flag: Reveille and Retreat Protocol

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dozens of 934th defenders stood tall and held a tight salute as the stars and stripes slowly climbed the frozen flagpole at dawn’s early light during the February Unit Training Assembly. The different squadrons throughout the 934th Airlift Wing alternate raising and lowering the flag during the monthly UTAs here, and this month the honor fell upon the 934th Security Forces Squadron.


As many are aware, Reveille is typically initiated by a bugle call and signifies the beginning of the official duty day. This ceremony is performed in honor of the flag, and is followed up by Retreat which takes place at the end of the duty day and is typically initiated with the playing of “retreat” followed by the National Anthem.


For many Airmen, these traditions are ritual. But revisiting the expectations may be helpful to both new Airmen and Traditional Reservists who may have forgotten or are simply unaware of the customs and courtesies associated with Old Glory in accordance with Air Force regulations.


According to AFI 34-1201, at any installation, the playing of “To The Color,” the National Anthem or the raising or lowering of the Flag is what requires proper honors to be displayed to the flag. Additionally, Flags on stationary flag staffs are only saluted during Reveille, Retreat, special ceremonies, or when the flag is being raised or lowered. Because our Flag here at the 934th Airlift Wing is lowered and raised during UTAs, proper customs and courtesies should be followed.


Military members in uniform per Air Force Manual 36-2203, on first note of retreat will stop, face the Flag, or the direction of the music, and stand at parade rest. Members will stand at the position of attention and salute on the first note of the National Anthem, or when the Flag begins to lower. Drop your salute after the last note, or when the Flag is completely lowered.


Military personnel and veterans not in uniform will stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart, or may render a salute. Civilians should stop, and place their right hand over their heart.


Base drivers operating a vehicle should pull to the side of the road, and come to a complete stop when music is playing or when the Flag is being raised or lowered.


According to AFI 34-1201, if the base flies the U.S. Flag continuously for 24-hours with only Reveille or Retreat played, but no action with the Flag, individuals are not required to stop and salute.


Our Flag is a symbol of our nation, freedom and heritage. When we render these simple customs and courtesies, we display both honor and respect for country and tradition.