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Retreat/Reveille customs and courtesies

  • Published
  • By Command section
  • 96th Test Wing

Those new to the base may not be aware of some military traditions. The expectations behind reveille and retreat and some differences here may be  worth revisiting.

The terms "Reveille" and "Retreat" can refer both to the ceremony that is used to show respect to the flag and to the music that initiates the event. Reveille signifies the start of the duty day and is initiated with a bugle call, which is followed by the playing of "To the Colors."

Retreat signifies the end of the duty day and is a signal to pay respects. It is initiated with the playing of "Retreat" followed by the National Anthem.

During reveille and retreat, all personnel here participating in outdoor activities (to include, but not limited to, walking, individual/unit physical training) should stop their activity to show respect for the flag, according to AFI 34-1201.

In the interest of safety on base, drivers are directed to not stop on Eglin Boulevard during reveille or retreat. On all other streets however, stopping is required once it is safe to do so.

If sponsoring guests, including contractors, one should inform them of these requirements and protocols.

Below are some common questions regarding the proper protocol to follow during reveille and retreat.

What do I do when reveille or retreat is played?

At the first notes of "Reveille" or "Retreat," stop where you are and turn to face the flag. If the flag is not visible, turn in the general direction of the flag or towards the direction of the music.

If in uniform, come to parade rest at the first notes of "Reveille" or "Retreat." Come to attention and salute at the first notes of "To the Colors" or the National Anthem.

If not in uniform, come to attention and place your right hand over your heart at the first notes of "To the Colors" or the National Anthem. If you are wearing a hat in civilian attire, remove it with your right hand and hold it at the left shoulder while your right hand is over the heart.

Service members and veterans, even if not in uniform, may render a salute during reveille or retreat.

What if I'm wearing my physical training uniform?

Proper military customs and courtesies apply while wearing the PT uniform during reveille and retreat.

Required flag protocol for each branch when in PT Uniform:

USAF/USA:  In accordance with service protocol, will face the flag or music, stand attention and salute at first note of the National Anthem and hold the salute until national anthem is finished.

USMC/USN:  In accordance with service protocol, will face the flag or music, stand attention and remain at attention until the National Anthem is finished.

What do I do if I'm driving at the time of reveille or retreat?

As stated above, in the interest of safety on base, drivers will not stop driving on Eglin Boulevard during reveille or retreat. Stopping is required within the limits of safety on all other streets.


According to AFI 34-1201, Taps began as a signal to extinguish lights (lights out) at the end of the day. Many Air Force installations play Taps to signify lights out or to begin quiet hours. For these purposes, and currently here, there is no formal protocol procedures required. Taps is played daily, respectively at 10 p.m.

NOTE:  It is customary for those not in uniform to stand remove headgear and place their right hand over their heart, upon hearing Taps at the a military ceremony (funeral/memorial) proper protocol dictates those in uniform to stand at attention and salute.