Etiquette for the sound of music

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shawn Nickel
  • 9th RW Public Affairs
The giant voice system echoes music across the base four times throughout the day. What does the music signify and what is each Airman expected to do?

Recently questions have arisen as how to properly show respect during these ceremonies. Col. Phil Stewart, 9th Reconnaissance Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Robert White, 9th RW command chief, have strict expectations for these times of respect and remembrance.

"It is a privilege to be able to hold our chins high and pay respect to this great nation every day," said Stewart. "Respect is a verb... an action. By knowing the proper actions, we pay respect to the heroes who have served before us and we should be proud to do so each day."

Reveille and To the Colors

Reveille was originally conducted as "Troop" in 1812 and was designed to muster a unit for roll call. Here Reveille is sounded at 6:30 a.m. and signals the start of the official duty day.

Upon hearing the first note of music played, while in uniform or civilian attire, if on foot and outside, stand at parade rest until the end of Reveille. Once the first note of To the Colors plays, quickly stand at attention and salute the nearest flag or the direction of the music.

The Air Force Song

The Air Force Song plays at noon. Senior leadership expects no courtesies at this time. Continue with duties and do not stop if outside on foot or pull over in a vehicle.


The bugle call sounded at retreat dates back to the Crusades. Retreat was sounded at sunset to notify sentries to start challenging until sunrise and to tell the rank and file to go to their quarters. The ceremony remains a tradition today. Retreat is sounded at 5 p.m. followed immediately by the playing of the national anthem.

This ceremony signals the end of the official duty day and serves as an opportunity to pay respect to the flag. Individuals outdoors and in uniform should face the flag or the sound of the music and stand at parade rest during the sounding of Retreat.
Upon hearing the first note of the national anthem, come to the position of attention and salute. Maintain that position until the last note of the anthem is sounded.

When in civilian attire outdoors, both military members and civilians, take the same actions as when in uniform, but use the following manner to show respect. Men remove their hats with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder with the right hand over the heart. Men without hats and women should stand at attention and placing their right hand over their heart.

If on base, in a vehicle and Retreat or the national anthem is sounded, safely stop the vehicle and sit quietly at the position of attention until the last note of music is played.


Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than the 24 notes of Taps. Although the origin of Taps is somewhat clouded in history, some say it most likely traces back to the early days of the Civil War.

Evening Taps differs from formal military ceremonies and is sounded at 10 p.m. Proper protocol dictates no formal procedures during this time.