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What to do during reveille, retreat, and taps

The Minot AFB Honor Guard covers approximately 69,000 square miles across North Dakota.

A guardsman from the 5th Force Support Squadron Honor Guard salutes a flag at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Mar. 29, 2017. The Minot AFB Honor Guard covers approximately 69,000 square miles across North Dakota.

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, Louisiana --

Death and taxes are often cited as two things that are certain. Military members might add the daily playing of Reveille, Retreat and Taps to that list.

Reveille is the raising of the flag signifying the start of the official duty day and Retreat is the retirement of the flag, signifying the end of the official duty day. Both serve as a ceremony to honor the flag. Taps signifies "lights out" at the end of the day.

According to Air Force Instruction 34-1201, "Protocol", if the base flies the U.S. flag continuously for 24-hours with only Reveille or Retreat played, but no action with the flag, individuals are not required to stop and salute. If Reveille or Retreat is followed by the national anthem or "To the Color" or the flag is being lowered or raised, rendering courtesies is mandatory.

The following is mandatory protocol:

- Air Force Manual 36-2203, "Drill and Ceremonies", states when military members are not assigned to a formation outdoors and in uniform, on the first note of retreat, they should face the flag, or the direction of the music, and assume the position of parade rest. Stand at attention and salute on the first note of "To the Color" or the national anthem. Drop your salute after the last note.

- Military members and veterans not in uniform should stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart or may render a salute. Civilians should stand at attention and place their right hand, with a hat if wearing one, over their heart.

- If in a vehicle, pull to the side of the road and stop. All occupants sit quietly at attention until the last note of music has played.

According to AFI 34-1201, "Protocol", "Many Air Force installations play Taps to signify lights out or to begin quiet hours. For these purposes, there is no formal protocol procedures required."

When Taps is played at a military ceremony, military members in uniform will follow proper protocol to render courtesies until the music ends. Civilians should place their right hand over their heart during this time.

Airmen and family members are encouraged to take the moment and pay proper respect to the U.S. flag by not rushing in or out of a building or continuing to drive down the street.


More information on customs and courtesies can be found in Air Force Instruction 34-1201, Protocol.

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