What to do when reveille, retreat and taps is played on base

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Patricia Hickey
  • Hanscom Command Chief
Reveille, retreat and taps is played each duty day over the base giant voice system. Are you familiar with the proper protocol for each when played?

Reveille is played as a bugle call to signal the beginning of the duty day on base. Retreat is played to mark the end of the duty day and precedes the playing of the national anthem. Taps is played to mark the start of quiet hours on base, which is 9 p.m.

Hanscom displays the U.S. flag 24/7 instead of raising it each morning, meaning reveille is just a traditional bugle call to indicate the start of the official duty day. Therefore, personnel are not required to stop or salute.

At Hanscom, the installation commander has designated 7:30 a.m. as the official start of the duty day.

Air Force Instruction 34-1201, states in part, "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. Reveille and Retreat on their own are bugle calls only. The playing of ―To The Color, the national anthem or the raising or lowering of the flag is what requires proper honors to be displayed to the flag."

Retreat signals the end of the official duty day. The national anthem is played immediately after the retreat bugle call.

The installation commander has designated 5 p.m. as the end of the duty day at Hanscom.

At the first sound of the retreat bugle call, all personnel outdoors should stop and face the flag, or when not visible, in the direction the music is played. If in uniform, protocol is to stand at parade rest. If not wearing a uniform or a civilian, protocol is to stop and face the flag or music only.

When the national anthem is played and the U.S. flag is lowered, the proper etiquette is as follows:

- Service members in uniform should stand at attention and salute.
- Service members out of uniform should stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart or may also render a salute.
- Civilians should place their right hand, with a hat if wearing one, over their heart.
- Service members performing physical training and wearing a PT uniform outdoors should stop, stand at attention and render salute.
- Vehicles in motion should pull over safely and stop.

Many Air Force bases play taps to indicate lights out or to begin quiet hours. There are no formal protocols required when taps is played.

Taps is a critical part of military funeral and memorial ceremonies. When at a military funeral in uniform, a salute should be rendered during the playing of taps. Civilians should remove their headgear and place their hand over their heart.

Personnel can find additional information on U.S. flag customs and courtesy in Air Force Instruction 34-1201.