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Reveille and Retreat times change, courtesies remain

The 30th Space Wing Staff Agencies perform a Retreat ceremony in front of the Wing Headquarters building, Aug. 31, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Retreat is the ceremony for securing the American flag, and signals the end of the duty day while providing an opportunity to pay respect to the flag; beginning March 1, Retreat will play at 5 p.m. with Reveille played at 7 a.m. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tyrona Lawson/Released)

The 30th Space Wing Staff Agencies perform a Retreat ceremony in front of the Wing Headquarters building, Aug. 31, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Retreat is the ceremony for securing the American flag, and signals the end of the duty day while providing an opportunity to pay respect to the flag; beginning March 1, Retreat will play at 5 p.m. with Reveille played at 7 a.m. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tyrona Lawson/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- *Editors Note: This article was edited to include Vandenberg specific courtesies regarding Reveille.*

Starting March 1, VAFB will change the schedule of Reveille and Retreat to more closely align with the beginning and ending of the duty day.

Reveille is played prior to the flag being raised to signal the start of the "duty day". It is currently played at 6 a.m., however beginning March 1, Reveille will play at 7 a.m. 

The flag at Vandenberg AFB is displayed 24 hours a day.  Since the flag is not raised following Reveille no military courtesies, such as stopping, facing or saluting, are required.

Retreat is played as a precursor to the national anthem or To the Colors, when the flag is lowered. Beginning March 1, Retreat will play at 5 p.m., one hour earlier than currently played. 

Taps, which began as a signal to snuff out lights at the end of the day, is also played as a form of respect at military funerals and military honors. Taps will continue to play at 10 p.m.

"The sun never sets on our flag, it is flying all around the world and we have a lot of people in harm's way," said Maxine Fouks, 30th Space Wing chief of protocol. "When that flag is coming down it's the time to stand there and reflect and to think about the people in harm's way. Hopefully that is the one time in the day where you can relax for a second, take a breath and listen to the song and what it means to you."

Paying respects during Reveille and Retreat is applicable to everyone on VAFB.

"Customs and courtesies are across the Air Force, not only for the military force but also for the civilians," said Fouks. "It's important to observe Retreat for all. It doesn't matter if you're wearing a uniform or civilian attire, it's significant for all who serve in one capacity or another."

The bugle sound of Reveille signifies the start of a new day and as a sign to all who hear it that the flag is being raised. Reveille comes from the French and it means to awaken from sleep. Retreat, in this context, means the securing of the American flag, and signals the end of the duty day while providing an opportunity to pay respect to the flag.

"Both Reveille and Retreat are time-honored ceremonies that remain relevant today," said Larry Hill, 30th Space Wing chief of community relations. "These ceremonies are a unifying thread that connects each American serving in the profession of arms. It is an opportunity to reflect on our oath during the playing of Reveille or Retreat, and then render the appropriate respect during the playing of the national anthem or To the Colors."

The military is full of age old traditions with very specific ways of doing things, proper customs and courtesies are both how servicemembers pay respects and maintain good order and discipline.

Proper Customs and Courtesies

What do I do when Retreat is played?

Whether in uniform or not in uniform: At the first sounds of Retreat, stop where you are and turn to face the flag, or in a case where the flag is not visible, turn in the general direction of the flag or the sound of the music and, if in uniform, stand at parade rest. If not in uniform, stop and face the flag or the music out of respect.

What do I do when Reveille is played?

At VAFB when Reveille is played no action is taken since it is only a bugle call and there is no accompanying flag ceremony.

When do I come to attention and salute the flag?

In uniform: When the Retreat music concludes, come to attention and render a salute upon hearing the first note of the national anthem.

Not in uniform: Do not salute if you are not in uniform. Come to attention and place your right hand over your heart. Remove your hat with your right hand and hold it at your left shoulder while your right hand is over your heart.

Exception: Servicemembers and veterans not in uniform may render a salute during the hoisting, lowering or passing of the flag; this was changed by the 2008 Defense Authorization Act; Congress realized they omitted the national anthem and have added an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2009 (S. 3002, section 1081) to amend title 36, USC, to allow veterans and servicemembers not in uniform to salute during the national anthem if they so desire.

How long do I hold my salute?

Remain at attention saluting the flag until the national anthem has finished playing.

What if I'm wearing my physical training uniform?

Proper military customs and courtesies apply while wearing the PT uniform during Retreat. (attention and saluting)

What do I do if I'm driving at the time of Retreat?

At the first note of Retreat and the national anthem, you should bring your moving vehicle safely to a complete stop as you would if an emergency vehicle were approaching and put the car in park. Base guidance is that personnel turn off any music playing in the vehicle. Everyone inside the vehicle, including the driver, should remain seated at attention.

What do I do when Taps is played?

When played at 10 p.m. "as a signal to snuff out lights" there are no formal protocol procedures required. However, upon hearing Taps at a military ceremony, individuals in uniform render appropriate honors (salute when outside, stand at attention inside) until the music is complete. Civilians should remove their headgear and place their hand over their heart.

For more information on the customs and courtesies associated with Reveille, Retreat, Taps and the national anthem, see Air Force Instructions 34-1201 and 36-2903, Air Force Pamphlet 34-1202 and Air Force Manual 36-2203.