KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Anyone driving across Kirtland at 7 a.m. or 5 p.m. on a weekday may notice a degree of confusion among motorists when “Reveille,” “To the Colors,” “Retreat” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” are played. Some cars stop. Some cars keep moving. Some even maneuver around or impatiently honk at those stopping their vehicles during the playing of the music.
AFI 34-1201, Protocol Services, clearly outlines what persons on any Air Force installation, both civilian and military (in or out of uniform), whether walking or in a vehicle, are to do when Reveille, “To the Colors”, “Sound Retreat, or our national anthem are played. It also details proper respects due to the U.S. Flag, which is being raised and lowered during the playing of the music.
During Reveille or Retreat, all persons should stop and face the flag if visible, or the music. Military personnel should then stand at Parade Rest. When accompanied by the “To the Colors” or the national anthem, the following applies: when outside and in uniform, face the flag if visible or face the direction the music is played, stand at attention and salute on the first note of the music, drop your salute after the last note of music.
Civilians should stand still, remove your hat, and place the right hand over the heart while the music is playing. If in a vehicle, the AFI states, “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 “To the Colors” or the national anthem is played or the flag is fully raised or lowered.”
During weekday mornings at 7 a.m. on Kirtland, “To the Colors” follows “Reveille.” At 5 p.m. on weekdays, the national anthem follows “Sound Retreat.” Since most people moving across the base at these times will not be able to see the flag, the music is the primary cue. If you will be traveling on base at these times, we recommend you leave the window open slightly to hear the music and pay proper respects to our flag.
Lastly, if you happen to be on Kirtland at 10 p.m. each night, you will hear “Taps” being played. There are no formal protocols for “Taps” played in the evening. However, when “Taps” is played as a part of military funeral and memorial ceremonies, it requires Airmen salute during these events.
In short, during "Reveille" and "Sound Retreat" we stand at parade rest; during “To the Colors” and the national anthem, we salute while facing the flag, or the sound of music if you don’t see the flag. If you are driving, pull to the side, and wait through the playing of the music.
Col. Richard Gibbs, commander of Kirtland’s host 377th Air Base Wing, said pausing when Reveille and Retreat first sounds is not only a matter of respect, but a matter of safety.
“Military personnel are required to observe proper protocols during Reveille and Retreat. Others may observe the proper protocols out of love of country, or appreciation for Team Kirtland and all it represents,” Gibbs said. “People paying respects to our flag, especially in traffic, should not be put at risk by people who are unaware or not observing these protocols.”
People are advised to anticipate the playing of the music at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“I would ask that people have their windows open and radios down so they can hear when the music begins and ends,” Gibbs said. “Certainly, if you see traffic stopping during these times, please join us in showing respect to our flag and keeping everyone safe on base.”
Editor's note: the official ceremonies of Reveille and Retreat are differentiated from the song titles, "Reveille" and "Sound Retreat" with quotation marks.