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Dishonorable Dashing

By Master Sgt. Michelle Joseph 2nd Medical Support Squadron superintendent

A few weeks ago, I was leaving the Base Exchange and the first note of retreat began to sound off. Just as I would normally do, I immediately turned towards the music anticipating the playing of the national anthem. Through my peripheral vision, I saw two Airmen sprinting toward the main entrance and another individual, dressed in civilian attire, dive into a parked car. This daunting move, one in which I have labeled the dishonorable dash, violates our core values - Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

The retreat ceremony serves two purposes - to signal the end of the duty day and to pay respect to the flag of the United States.

The official end of the duty day has been designated as 5 p.m. at Barksdale Air Force Base. The sounding of retreat is a 122-second ceremony that imparts deep meaning and symbolism. Unfortunately, some individuals have lost sight of our heritage, the shear lack in customs and courtesies appears in the form of the dishonorable dash.

I have encountered Airmen waiting in foyers a few minutes before retreat; individuals speeding towards the gate to exit; and even an Airman blocking an exit door warning, "The music is about to start playing," just to avoid stopping for retreat. The retreat ceremony requires a simple rendition that lasts a couple of minutes, which symbolizes respect for the uniform and our flag.

Common acts of courtesy are the foundation of maintaining discipline and order in military establishments. Rendering a salute to the U.S. flag is a courteous exchange that signifies respect.

To me, retreat is a symbolic gesture honoring those who sacrificed and serve, both past and present; a value-added measure. What does retreat mean to you?

I am often baffled at some of the responses I get after I confront a dishonorable dasher. Sometimes I hear the usual "I'm sorry, I was in a hurry." I use this as an opportunity to mentor by reiterating the importance and meaning of retreat.

I mentor in this situation first by incorporating our core values in regards to the retreat ceremony.

Integrity First - Doing the right thing even when no one is looking. You never know who may be watching; a veteran, junior Airman, child or civilian. I challenge those dishonorable dashers to put in an honest effort and respect those who sacrificed.

Excellence in All We Do - Put your best foot forward. Step outside from that foyer before retreat and encourage individuals to join you in celebrating the end of the duty day and to honor our flag.

Service Before Self - Place those selfish thoughts aside. A little reminder is all it takes sometimes.

The U.S. flag represents what our nation stands for and believes in and is often ignored by the dishonorable dasher. The flag is embellished with stripes representing our nation's thirteen original states. The field of blue symbolizes the freedom to expand and explore. The stars represent hope and prosperity existing in our fifty states. The red, white and blue colors of the flag are our national colors, each with a meaning. Red signifies valor, white represents purity and blue stands for justice.

A dishonorable dasher once told me he avoided retreat because he was confused by the procedures. Air Force manual 36-2203, "Drill and Ceremonies", outlines retreat ceremony procedures. At the sound of retreat, uniformed members must face the flag, if visible, or turn toward the music and assume the position of parade rest. At the first note of the national anthem or "To the Colors," snap to attention and render a salute until the music ends. Members wearing civilian attire will face the flag or turn toward the music until the last note of the national anthem or "To the Colors" finishes playing. Individuals operating a vehicle will safely come to a stop at the first note signifying retreat and will proceed after the national anthem or "To the Colors" stops playing.

Bottom line, dishonorable dashing is a disrespectful, selfish and lazy act. Retreat signifies the official end of the duty day, but more importantly, respect to our flag - a proud heritage. As I stated earlier, retreat is just a 122-second ceremony. I encourage you to remember and enforce our core values to the dishonorable dashers. Challenge individuals in entryways, encourage the sprinters and dodgers to stand outside with you and honor an upstanding heritage - the retreat ceremony.