Time honored traditions maintain discipline, effectiveness

  • Published
  • By Col. (Dr.) Otha L. Solomon Jr.
  • 71st Medical Group commander
Military customs and courtesies are time honored traditions. These observances aid Air Force personnel in maintaining discipline, promoting and improving the conducting of affairs in the military establishment.

Proper customs and courtesies have resulted in good order, mutual respect and a sense of camaraderie. These positive attributes assist in building morale, esprit de corps, self-discipline and mission accomplishment.

There are many courtesies and customs commonly extended to commanders, supervisors and associates, and symbols utilized in ceremonies. I will concentrate on a couple of areas:

Saluting -- The salute is a courteous exchange of greetings, a gesture and sign of respect and trust among Airmen. It is recognition of each member's commitment, understanding and professionalism.

The salute is an expression that recognizes each other as a member of the profession of arms and each other's personal commitment of self-sacrifice to preserve our way of life. There are several explanations of the genesis of the military salute.

History tells us that the hand salute began in late Roman times when assassinations were common. If anyone wanted to see a public official they had to approach with their right hand raised to show that they didn't have a weapon.

Also during this era, knights in armor raised their visors with their right hand when greeting another comrade. The practice of raising the right hand evolved into a way of showing respect.

Another theory is that the salute evolved from men raising their hats in the presence of officers. The tipping of an individual's hat when greeting a social superior was a civilian sign of respect. This practice of raising the right hand when greeting another person has become the hand salute that we use today in our military.

All Airmen in uniform are required to salute when they meet and recognize persons entitled to a salute in an outdoor area. This includes officers in uniform from all branches of the military. The junior member initiates the action.

Salutes are also rendered to the commander in chief and when greeting an officer of a friendly foreign nation. Uniformed service members on foot will salute senior officers whose automobiles -- staff vehicles -- have rank plates on their bumper.

Respect for the flag - Outdoors, all personnel in uniform must face the flag and salute during the raising and lowering of the flag. Upon the first note of the national anthem, all personnel in uniform, but not in formation, should stand, face the flag and salute. When the flag is not visible personnel should face the direction of the music. The salute should be held until the last note is played.

All vehicles should come to a stop at the first note of the music and all occupants should sit quietly until the music ends.

Civilians, and military in civilian clothes, should face the flag, or the music if the flag is not visible, and stand at attention. Civilians should place their right hand over their heart. A provision of the 2009 Defense Authorization Act changed federal law to allow U.S. veterans and military personnel not in uniform to render the military hand-salute when the national anthem is played.

Reveille and retreat at the beginning and ending of the duty day -- When outdoors all personnel should face the direction of the music and stand at attention. All vehicles should come to a stop until the last note of the music is completed.

Military traditions are rich in culture and value. Customs and courtesies are time-honored traditions that show respect for one another. I encourage each of you to take a good hard look at your display of customs and courtesies. Take pride in showing your respect and trust in your fellow Airmen. Boldly show your commitment, understanding and military professionalism.

Honor and respect are extraordinary attributes of a military professional. Let's keep it that way.