Saluting is more than an obligation

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
Saluting is at the core of military customs and courtesies and is engrained in all service members during early stages of basic officer and enlisted training programs.

There is no definitive history on the origin of the hand salute, said Kenneth Dodd, 81st Training Wing historian, although there are many references that may be attributed to its implementation.

Whether the tradition comes from knights of Middle Ages raising their visors to identify themselves or British soldiers removing their headgear in the presence of superiors, the salute is a quintessential military honor.

Salutes are used as formal greetings with junior members saluting first. Salutes are given outdoors, both while in motion or at the position at attention depending on circumstance.

Air Force Manual 36-2203, Drill and Ceremonies, paragraph 3.6, reviews all instances of formal greetings, including harder-to-judge scenarios like sporting events or pedestrian-to-vehicle exchanges.

Paragraph 6 states, "Exchange of salutes between military pedestrians (including gate sentries) and officers in moving military vehicles is not mandatory. However, when officer passengers are readily identifiable (for example, officers in appropriately marked vehicles), the salute must be rendered."

Air Force Instruction 34-1201, Protocol, paragraph states, "When the salute is rendered to a senior officer in a vehicle, hold the salute until it is returned by the officer or after the vehicle has passed."

A salute is not the same as a wave, which is informal and not required. Although it is an obligation to salute, it is also an opportunity to honor current superiors and military tradition.