Retreat and To the Colors are played when the flag is lowered. Currently, they’re played at 1700; however beginning June 2, Retreat and To the Colors will play at 1800. (Reveille is played when the flag is raised at 0700.)
The retreat ceremony serves a twofold purpose. It signals the end of the official duty day and serves as a ceremony for paying respect to the flag. The schedule is being changed because Service Members are usually still doing Physical Training (PT) or engaged in class work at 1700.
Reveille, Retreat and To the Colors music will be played over the Mass Notification Speaker System Monday through Friday and will not be played on weekends, federal and training holidays although the national flag will still be raised and lowered.
Taps, which began as a way to signal “lights out” at the end of the day, now is played as a form of respect at military funerals and military honors. Taps will continue to play at 2200 hours Monday through Sunday.
The adherence to military tradition should come as no surprise to anyone with military roots and anyone currently serving. Our structure has broadened and now includes Civilian employees and Contractors. The expectations associated with Reveille, Retreat and To the Colors are worth revisiting to renew commitment to military tradition and to educate individuals who are new to the military community.
The bugle sound of Reveille signifies the start of a new day and signals to all who hear it that the flag is being raised. Reveille comes from the French and it means to awaken from sleep. Retreat and To the Colors, in this context, mean the securing of the American Flag, signaling the end of the duty day and provide an opportunity for paying respect to the flag.
During the daily playing of Reveille, Retreat and To the Colors, both Civilians and Service Members, whether in uniform or in Civilian clothes, must stop and face the flag if walking, or stop their vehicles safely if driving. Drivers should also turn off their radio/music so that they can render the proper respect. If you are sponsoring guests; including Contractors, inform them of the requirements to adhere to established protocol.
Q: What do I do when Reveille or Retreat is played?
A: Whether in uniform or not in uniform: At the first sounds 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 the sound. If in uniform, stand at parade rest and then come to attention and render a salute when you hear the first note of To the Color. If not in uniform, protocol still dictates that you stop and face the flag or the music out of respect.
Q: When do I come to attention and salute the flag?
A: In uniform: When the Retreat music is played, stand at parade rest, then come to attention and render a salute when you hear the first note of the To the Color.
Not in uniform: Do not salute if you are not in uniform. Come to attention and place your right hand over your heart. Remove your hat with the right hand and hold it at the left shoulder while your right hand is over the heart.
Exception: Service Members and veterans not in uniform may render a salute during the hoisting, lowering or passing of the flag; this was changed by the 2008 Defense Authorization Act; Congress realized they omitted the National Anthem and have added an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2009 (S. 3002, section 1081) to amend title 36, USC, to allow Veterans and Service Members not in uniform to salute during the National Anthem if they so desire.
Q: How long do I hold my salute?
A: To the last note of To the Colors.
Q: What if I’m wearing my physical training uniform (PTU)?
A: Proper military customs and courtesies apply while wearing the PTU during Reveille and Retreat (attention and saluting)
Q: What do I do if I’m driving at the time of Retreat?
A: At the first note of Reveille, Retreat and To the Colors, you should bring your moving vehicle safely to a complete stop as you would if an emergency vehicle were approaching and put the car in park. Garrison’s guidance is that personnel turn off any music playing in the vehicle. Everyone inside the vehicle, including the driver, should remain seated at attention except for Army personnel. The Army personal will dismount the vehicle. When the Retreat music is played, stand at parade rest, then come to attention and render a salute when you hear the first note of the To the Color.