Ceremonies play a big part in our Army lifestyle, and they are a part of our history and traditions. Historically, for us as Soldiers, the day starts and ends with a flag ceremony called reveille and retreat.
Reveille is the time our flag is hoisted and the bugle sounds, signifying the beginning of our duty day. It originates from the French word “wake up” and was used at one time to wake military personnel at dawn for assembly of the troops and roll call.
Retreat was first used by the French army and dates back to the Crusades. Since the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Army has used this bugle call, which originally sounded at sunset. Its original purpose was to notify guards to start challenging until sunrise, meaning to “halt” and demand identification, and to tell the rank and file to go to their quarters and stay there. Here at Fort Bragg, retreat is sounded at 5 p.m.
At the last note of retreat, a gun is fired, followed by the playing of “To the Colors” concurrent with the lowering of the flag. The flag will be lowered to ensure completion at the last note of the music. The same respect is observed by all military personnel whether the national anthem is played or “To the Colors” is sounded.
When reveille, retreat and “To the Colors” are sounded, protocols must be adhered to by all Soldiers, Families and civilians.
Military personnel in uniform but not in formation, according to AR 600-25, will face the flag and render a hand salute at the first note of reveille and end their salute on the last note. If the flag is not in view, they will face the direction of the music and salute.
All men, both military and civilian, wearing civilian clothes will remove their headgear with their right hand and hold the headgear over their left shoulder with their right hand on their heart when reveille is sounded. If the flag is not in view, they should face the direction of the music. At the first note of retreat, they should remove their headgear with their right hand and stand at attention until retreat and “To the Colors” have played. Women wearing civilian clothes should never remove their headgear during ceremonies, according to AR 600-25.
Military personnel and civilians in civilian attire without headgear will stand at attention with their right hand over their heart during the duration of reveille. If the flag is not in view, they should face the direction of the music. At the first note of retreat they should face the flag, stand at attention and remain at attention until retreat and “To the Colors” have played, according to AR 600-25.
It is while driving on post when reveille and retreat are sounded that people appear to be most confused about what they are to do. All vehicle drivers, both military and civilian, will halt their vehicles during reveille and retreat. Many times people may be talking on a cell phone or the music inside their vehicle is too loud or they have ear buds from their phone or music player in their ears. If you see the vehicle in front of you stop and not move, that may be your clue that something is happening. When you hear reveille or retreat, you should bring your vehicle to a complete stop and for safety put the car in park. Everyone inside the vehicle, including the driver, should remain seated at attention. This protocol applies to all people on post to include military and civilians.
The only exception to this policy here at Fort Bragg applies to vehicles traveling on roadways and streets where the posted speed limit is above 25 mph, according the installation Provost Marshal’s Office. In cases where the posted speed limit is above 25 mph, personnel are advised to not stop their vehicles for safety reasons.
Reveille and retreat are a part of our customs and courtesies, which is tradition and a big part of serving in our armed forces. It takes a small amount of time – reveille takes 110 seconds and retreat takes 122 seconds – to honor our nation’s flag and the sacrifices it symbolizes. Bearing honors to our flag is about representing our military values, and it’s about following good order and discipline. The policies need to be disseminated down to the lowest level to both military personnel and civilians.