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‘Reveille’ and ‘Retreat’: if you hear it, here’s what to do

By Chief Master Sgt. Jose A. LugoSantiago | Air Force Installations & Mission Support Center | Aug. 14, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTNOIO-LACKLAND, Texas. —

One of our oldest and most solemn military traditions is to honor our flag.

When we think of our flag for example, all of us come together as Americans and reflect on those values we hold dear: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

On military bases all around the world, we are afforded this solemn opportunity to come together as Americans and reflect with the playing of “Reveille” and “Retreat.”

“Reveille” and “Retreat” play every day to signal the beginning and end of the duty day. This is our opportunity to reflect and show gratitude.

Throughout Joint Base San Antonio, you will hear “Reveille” at 5 a.m. daily at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, 5:30 a.m. at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and 6:30 a.m. at JBSA-Randolph. This signifies the beginning of the duty day.

The end of the duty day is announced with “Retreat” at 5:30 p.m. daily at all JBSA locations. During this time, you will hear retreat, followed by the national anthem, or at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, retreat followed by “To the Colors.”

During these times, all of us are required to afford the appropriate courtesies. So what is the appropriate courtesy?

Personnel in uniform and outside must face the flag (or the music if the flag is not visible) and salute during the raising and lowering of the flag. Specifically, on the first note of the national anthem or ‘To the Colors,’ members in uniform must render the hand salute.

Members must hold their salute until the last note of either the national anthem or “To the Colors.”

Regarding courtesies while in civilian attire and while outdoors, face the flag (or the sound of the music) and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Drivers in vehicles during “Reveille” (when the flag is being raised), or “Retreat,” should pull the car to the side of the road and stop.

What to do while the vehicle is at a complete stop differs among the services. Members are expected to follow the customs of their services.

For example, JBSA senior enlisted leaders for the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force stated the expectation for vehicle occupants is to sit quietly until the last note of the music has played or the flag is fully raised or lowered.

Army personnel are expected to stop the vehicle as well, but then Army personnel exit the vehicle and render the same courtesies as all the services do when a service member is outdoors.

If indoors during “Reveille” or “Retreat,” there is no need to stand or salute. However, everyone must stand during the playing of the national anthem before a showing of a movie while in the base theater.

Courtesies to our flag are not only a venue to honor our flag, but are also a sign of our professionalism.

The next time you hear “Reveille” or “Retreat,” go ahead – do the right thing. Show you’re a professional – a proud heir of a rich military heritage.