HomeNewsFeaturesDisplay

Customs and Courtesies: What to do during reveille, retreat, taps

A U.S. Air Force Airman renders a salute to the American flag, depicting the proper respect to pay. According to Air Force Instruction 34-1201, Protocol, 8.1.6.2, when reveille or retreat is played, following “To the Color,” or the national anthem, military members are required to salute facing the flag or the direction of the music. Airmen are required to salute when the flag is raised, lowered or hoisted, including passing during special ceremonies. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Bob Stillwell)

A U.S. Air Force Airman renders a salute to the American flag, depicting the proper respect to pay. According to Air Force Instruction 34-1201, Protocol, 8.1.6.2, when reveille or retreat is played, following “To the Color,” or the national anthem, military members are required to salute facing the flag or the direction of the music. Airmen are required to salute when the flag is raised, lowered or hoisted, including passing during special ceremonies. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Bob Stillwell)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- President Woodrow Wilson once said, "This flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts that execute those choices, whether in peace or in war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us -- speaks to us of the past, or the men and women who went before us, and of the records they wrote upon it."

For both past and current military members, rendering a salute has always been deeply imbedded in their minds as part of the U.S. Armed Forces. Sword salutes, gun salutes, greetings and honoring the American flag - while distinct salutes - are all similarly done to express honor and respect.

According to Air Force Pamphlet 34-1202, 8.4.1, Customs and Courtesies, "[A salute] is rendered with pride as a sign of recognition and respect between comrades in the honorable profession of arms."

Whether during organized physical training, walking in formation or wearing civilian attire while outdoors, most Airmen maintain proper etiquette during the daily playing of reveille, retreat and taps. However, some may have forgotten the appropriate protocol.

Reveille and Retreat
According to AFPAM 34-1202, 14.10.1, Reveille and Retreat, the U.S. flag is flown daily from reveille until retreat. Reveille is the raising of the flag for the day's activities and is a ceremony to honor the flag when it is raised in the morning and plays at 7 a.m. Retreat is the retirement of the flag from the day's activities and plays at 4:30 p.m.

During the playing of reveille and retreat, uniformed military personnel should stand at attention and face the American flag, or the direction of the music if a flag is not visible. If reveille or retreat is followed by the national anthem or "To the Color," military personnel should salute (during the entirety of the song).

Military personnel and veterans who are present but not in uniform may salute when outdoors [during reveille and retreat] or stand at parade rest. Civilians should stand at attention and place their right hand - with a hat if they're wearing one - over their heart. All vehicles on military installations should come to a complete stop and wait until the last note of the music stops. Military members in their vehicles should sit at attention.

However, according to Air Force Instruction 34-1201, 8.1.6.2, Protocol, if the U.S. flag flies for 24 hours and is not being raised or lowered, when reveille and retreat are played, individuals are not required to stop and salute.

Military customs and courtesies also apply to Airmen in a physical training uniform. Airmen should stop all sporting or physical training, stand at parade rest during reveille and retreat, then stand at attention and salute during the first notes of "To the Color," or the national anthem and hold through the last note if the flag is being raised or lowered. Airmen undergoing official physical fitness assessments are an exception to this regulation.

Protocol during taps
A commonly known military bugle call - taps, continues to be played at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services. It also is played as the signal for the end of the day and is played at 10 p.m.

According to Air Force Instruction 34-1201, 2.20, Protocol, "Many Air Force installations play taps to signify lights out or to begin quiet hours. For these purposes, there is no formal protocol procedures required."

When taps is played during military funerals, military members will render a salute from the beginning until the conclusion of the song. Civilians should place their right hand over their heart during this time.

For more information on Air Force protocol regarding reveille, retreat and taps, go to http://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a1/publication/afpam34-1202/afpam34-1202.pdf.

Information from this article was taken from the following websites:
-http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flagquot.html
-http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2012/12/27/taps-national-song-remembrance/1793559/
-https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4310/text
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.