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NEWS | April 11, 2013

What's your integrity compass?

By Master Sgt. Mark Thompson 628th Comptroller Squadron/Air Base Wing additional duty first sergeant

I've often wondered why some Airmen would rather run indoors at the sound of Retreat, as opposed to standing outside and rendering the proper respect to our nation's flag. With the exception of lightning, rain, or heat index, there are no plausible or logical explanations especially for military members in uniform. Some Airmen morph instantly into world-class Olympic sprinters at 16:59. These acts provoke the exact same personal emotions no matter how many times I witness individuals running away. All military members should have a profound knowledge of the meaning behind Retreat. I had a candid conversation after-the-fact with an airman first class who abandoned his duty to pay respect to our flag.

A couple months ago, I was waiting at the base flagpole for the remaining detailed squadron members to show up for Retreat rehearsal. The sounding of Retreat was imminent. An unknown airman first class from another squadron approached the base flagpole dressed in blues. I was very puzzled as to why this Airman was showing up for my squadron rehearsal. He ran indoors the day prior as Retreat sounded across the base. He was ashamed of his personal actions and wanted to make amends for his infraction.

According to the Airman, He was not required to wear blues, nor was he coerced or directed to show up at the base flagpole for Retreat that day. We both stood at attention and rendered the proper customs and courtesy during Retreat.

Retreat ceremony serves a twofold purpose. This time honored tradition signifies the end of the official duty day and provides the opportunity to pay proper respect to the United States flag. Additionally, Airmen are afforded the opportunity to reaffirm our total force commitment to our nation and recognize the countless sacrifices paid forward by selfless American service-members in defense of the United States. Every Airman is inherently responsible for knowing the proper customs and courtesies associated with Retreat and to lead by example. The following are applicable protocol procedures.

When outside and in uniform, face the flag (if visible) or face the direction the music is being played. Stand at attention and salute on the first note of the national anthem. Drop your salute after the last note of the national anthem is played, or when the flag has been fully lowered. During the playing of Sound Retreat which precedes the lowering of the flag, stand at Parade Rest.

Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present, but not in uniform, may render the military salute when outdoors.

All other individuals will stand at attention and place their right hand (with a hat if wearing one) over their heart.
Airmen wearing the Air Force's physical training uniform should render the same courtesies appropriate when wearing other Air Force uniforms.

In the future, you should not have to think twice about standing outside and rendering the applicable customs and courtesies during Retreat. One of our core values is Integrity First! The moral courage to do what is right and lead by example. The sounding of Retreat and the national anthem last approximately 108 seconds. Countless men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country, never thought twice about running away.

Its peace time on Joint Base Charleston, there's no need to run for cover!