Reveille and Retreat … they’re military traditions

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steven V. Reynolds
  • 49th Materiel Maintenance Squadron first sergeant
Do you remember what to do when you hear the music for Reveille or Retreat? In the coming weeks, you will begin to hear reveille played over the giant voice system at 7 a.m. daily. This will not replace, but will rather add to, Retreat, which is played at 4:30 p.m. daily, and taps, which is played at 10 p.m. daily. On Wednesdays, the German Nation Anthem "Das Lied der Deutschen" ("The Song of the Germans") will continue to be played prior to "The Star Spangled Banner." Because of this upcoming change in routine, it's important that Team Holloman understands not only the meaning behind Reveille, Retreat, the anthems, and taps, but also - most importantly - the proper protocol, what to do when the music is played, and why we do it.

During the sounding of Reveille or Retreat, personnel should follow the instructions outlined in Air Force Instruction 34-1201, which states, "When outside and in uniform, face the flag (if visible) or face the music. Stand at attention and salute on the first note of the music (or if no music, when you see the flag first being raised or lowered). Drop your salute after the last note is played, or when the flag has been fully raised. If in a vehicle during Reveille or Retreat, pull the car to the side of the road and stop. All occupants sit quietly at attention until the last note of the music has played. When in civilian clothes and outdoors, stand at attention and place your right hand (with a hat if wearing one) over your heart." Additionally, "During the playing of national anthems of friendly nations, military members and civilians should render the same customs and courtesies as those given during the playing of the United States National Anthem." This is as black and white and straight-to-the-point as an AFI can be, and directly answers the question, "What do I do?"; however, there is still the "why" portion of the question to address.

The German Air Force has been part of the Holloman community since 1992. They are our brothers and sisters in arms, and a wonderful part of our community. The country of Germany has been considered a friendly nation and one of America's allies for decades, and their contributions to the Global War on Terror are tremendous and nothing short of heroic. Considering of all these facts, it's no wonder we pay equal respect and honor to the German Nation Anthem as we do our own.

Reveille originates from the French word for "wake up," and was originally used as a wakeup call for military personnel for assembly and roll call. In other words, it signaled the beginning of the official duty day. It wasn't originally intended as honors for the flag. However, as with many of our other military traditions, over time, procedures evolve to not only serve the needs of the day, but also to remind us of our history and tradition. Today, we honor the flag each time it is raised and use that time as a brief moment to reflect on those who have served before use preserving the ideologies embodied in the flag itself.

Retreat was first used by the French Army, and dates as far back as the 11th century and the Crusades. Its original purpose was to notify the sentinels to begin challenging (meaning to "halt" and demand identification) until sunrise, and to inform the troops to head back to their barracks and sleep safely. The modern retreat originated in the 16th century during the Revolutionary War, when it was called "watch setting." The drum major of a regiment would advertise the changing of the watch by the beating of the drum. On the battlefield, sunset signaled the end of fighting for the day, and thus, retreat (which was played at sunset) signaled the end of the duty day. Retreat embodies and symbolized the finest qualities of soldiers for nearly 900 years.

Taps is played at 2200 hours every Monday through Friday. It is a bugle call used to symbolize lights out or quite hour and when played for this purpose, no official action is required.

As you circulate Holloman AFB, I ask you to never forget their meaning and to do the right thing. Our American flag represents freedom. It reflects a country that is greater than all others - greater because of the tremendous war fighters who came before us and because of each one of you serving today, preserving the liberties our children and grandchildren will enjoy.

When you hear these tributes, stop, reflect, and pay the proper respect.