Reveille, Retreat etiquette

The Joint Base Andrews Honor Guard lowers a U.S. Flag during a retreat ceremony in front of the Jones Building, JBA, Md., March 23, 2015. The flag was retired because its condition was no longer deemed a fitting emblem for display. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan J. Sonnier)

The Joint Base Andrews Honor Guard lowers a U.S. Flag during a retreat ceremony in front of the Jones Building, JBA, Md., March 23, 2015. The flag was retired because its condition was no longer deemed a fitting emblem for display. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan J. Sonnier)


Those new to the base may not be aware of some military traditions. Consequently, the expectations behind reveille and retreat and are worth revisiting.

The terms "Reveille" and "Retreat" can refer both to the ceremony that is used to show respect to the flag and to the music that initiates the event. Reveille signifies the start of the duty day and is initiated with a bugle call, which is followed by the playing of "To the Color."

Retreat signifies the end of the duty day and is a signal to pay respects. It is initiated with the playing of "Retreat" followed by the national anthem.

When reveille and retreat are played as a prelude to the national anthem or "To the Color," or if the flag is raised or lowered, all personnel here participating in outdoor activities (to include, but not limited to, walking, individual/unit physical training) should stop their activity, face the flag or direction of the music, stand at attention  and show respect for the flag, according to AFI 34-1201.

All drivers are directed to pull over to the side and stop during reveille or retreat.

If sponsoring guests, including contractors, one should inform them of these requirements and protocols.

Below are some common questions regarding the proper protocol for all personnel on Joint Base Andrews to follow during reveille and retreat.

What do I do when reveille or retreat is played?

At the first notes of "Reveille" or "Retreat," stop where you are and turn to face the flag. If the flag is not visible, turn in the general direction of the flag or towards the direction of the music.

If in uniform, come to parade rest at the first notes of "Reveille" or "Retreat." Come to attention and salute at the first notes of "To the Color" or the national anthem.

All civilians or military members not in uniform, come to attention and place your right hand over your heart at the first notes of "To the Color" or the national anthem. If you are wearing a hat in civilian attire, remove it with your right hand and hold it at the left shoulder while your right hand is over the heart.

Service members and veterans, even if not in uniform, may render a salute during reveille or retreat.

What if I'm wearing my physical training uniform?

Proper military customs and courtesies apply while wearing the PT uniform during reveille and retreat.

Required flag protocol for each branch when in PT uniform:

USAF/USA:  In accordance with service protocol, will face the flag or music, stand attention and salute at first note of the national anthem and hold the salute until the national anthem is finished.

USMC/USN:  In accordance with service protocol, will face the flag or music, stand attention and remain at attention until the national anthem is finished.

What do I do if I'm driving at the time of reveille or retreat?

As stated above, Stopping is required within the limits of safety on all other streets.

According to AFI 34-1201, Taps began as a signal to extinguish lights (lights out) at the end of the day. Many Air Force installations play Taps to signify lights out or to begin quiet hours.

Taps is played nightly Monday through Friday, respectively at 9 p.m. and on certain occasions such as the anniversary of 9/11. If civilian or military members are outdoors during the playing of taps, the proper protocol is to stop your vehicle or your person, remove any headgear, and face the direction of the music.

NOTE:  It is customary for those not in uniform to stand remove headgear and place their right hand over their heart, upon hearing Taps at a military ceremony (funeral/memorial). Proper protocol dictates that those in uniform will stand at attention and salute.

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