WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. – Across the Air Force, reveille and retreat are sounded over the base voice systems each morning and each evening to signal the raising and lowering of our nation’s flag and to signal the beginning and end of the duty day.
Historically, Reveille was originally designed to muster a unit for roll call. As time passed however, it evolved into announcing when the flag is raised on an installation and the honors paid to it.
Nestled within the Ellipse, standing high and proud above the 50 state flags that encircle the track, Westover flies a 24-hour, stationary, American flag.
Since Westover flies the flag continuously, no courtesies are required in the morning when reveille sounds. Reveille instead just signals the beginning of the duty day. Which for Westover, is at 8 a.m. daily. Reveille also sounds on weekends, both UTAs and non-UTAs, at 8 a.m. as well.
Traditionally, retreat is seen as a time to secure the flag and pay respect to what it stands for.
For Westover, retreat is played as a prelude to the National Anthem. This is played daily at 5 p.m. to signal the end of the duty day. Retreat also sounds on weekends at 5 p.m., both UTAs and non-UTAs, as well. Considering the anthem is being played, proper customs and courtesies are required.
These customs and courtesies include:
- Service members in uniform should stand at attention and salute.
- Service members out of uniform should stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart or may also render a salute.
- Service members performing physical training and wearing a PT uniform outdoors should stop, stand at attention and render salute.
- Civilians should place their right hand, with a hat (if applicable) over their heart.
- Vehicles in motion should pull over safely and stop.
Originally, taps began as a signal to extinguish lights at the end of the day.
Many Air Force installations play taps to signal lights out or to begin quiet hours. Considering the song is played for those purposes, saluting is not required.
Seeing Westover is an Air Reserve base and does not accommodate any on-base housing, taps is not played daily to signal lights out or quiet hours.
However, if taps is being played at a military ceremony (military funeral, memorial ceremony, wreath laying, etc.) proper protocol should be followed.
Protocol for taps at military ceremonies include:
-Service members in uniform and outdoors should stand at attention and salute for the duration of Taps.
-If indoors and uncovered, service members in uniform should stand at attention for the duration of the song.
-Civilians should remove their headgear (if applicable) and place their hand over their heart during that time.
Additional information regarding U.S. Flag customs and courtesies can be found in Air Force Instruction 34-1201 Protocol.