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If You’re Gonna Salute, Do it Right!

Last night I was watching the news.  One of the guest panelists “signed off” with a salute.  She popped her hand up and back down with her hand coming up at about a 70% angle and touching her forehead almost as if she was dividing her head into thirds.  At first I chuckled and looked at my wife, who must have been gauging my reaction to the salute.  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Well, to start off, if you’re gonna salute, you gotta do it right.  I was in the Air Force, and Lord knows we learned the right way to render a salute.  We learned that the salute began in Medieval  Europe as Knights would pass each other, they passed on the right and opened their visor to allow the other to recognize them.  It became a gesture of respect and in our military, is now a part of our Customs and Courtesies, used to designate and show a constant recognition of rank and authority.

Enlisted render salute to Officers, and low ranking officers render salute to higher ranking officers.  It’s the way we all connect…no matter what branch of service.  We all respect each other.

So, when a news correspondent or informant flips a salute and talks about supporting our troops, etc, they should recognize that all of us Veterans out there cringe when we see loose or flimsy salutes.  It’s “disrespectful,” as my wife always says.

For those who care, here is how it should be done.:

Hand Salute. This is used for training purposes only. The command is Hand, SALUTE, and it is performed in two counts. On the command SALUTE, the individual raises the right hand smartly in the most direct manner while at the same time extending and joining the fingers. Keep the palm flat and facing the body. Place the thumb along the forefingers, keeping the palm flat and forming a straight line between the fingertips and elbows (figure 3.5). Tilt the palm slightly toward the face. Hold the upper arm horizontal, slightly forward of the body and parallel to the ground. Ensure the tip of the middle finger touches the right front corner of the headdress. If wearing a nonbilled hat, ensure the middle finger touches the outside corner of the right eyebrow or the front corner of glasses. The rest of the body will remain at the position of attention. This is count one of the movement. To complete count two of the movement, bring the arm smoothly and smartly downward, retracing the path used to raise the arm. Cup the hand as it passes the waist, and return to the position of attention.

Exchange of Salutes. The salute is a courteous exchange of greetings, with the junior member always saluting first. When returning or rendering an individual salute, the head and eyes are turned toward the Colors or person saluted. When in ranks, the position of attention is maintained unless otherwise directed. Members of the Armed Forces in uniform exchange salutes under the following conditions:

Outdoors, salutes are exchanged upon recognition between officers and warrant officers and between officers or warrant officers and cadets or enlisted members of the Armed Forces. Saluting outdoors means salutes are exchanged when the persons involved are outside of a building. For example, if a person is on a porch, a covered sidewalk, a bus stop, a covered or open entryway, or a reviewing stand, the salute will be exchanged with a person on the sidewalk outside of the structure or with a person approaching or in the same structure. This applies both on and off military installations. The junior member should initiate the salute in time to allow the senior officer to return it. To prescribe an exact distance for all circumstances is not practical, but good judgment indicates when salutes should be exchanged. A superior carrying articles in both hands need not return the salute, but he or she should nod in return or verbally acknowledge the salute. If the junior member is carrying articles in both hands, verbal greetings should be exchanged. Also, use these procedures when greeting an officer of a friendly foreign nation.

Indoors, except for formal reporting, salutes are not rendered.

In formation, members do not salute or return a salute unless given the command to do so.Normally the person in charge salutes and acknowledges salutes for the whole formation.

In groups, but not in formation, when a senior officer approaches, the first individual noticing the officer calls the group to attention. All members face the officer and salute. If the officer addresses an individual or the group, all remain at attention (unless otherwise ordered) until the end of the conversation, at which time they salute the officer.

In public gatherings, such as sporting events, meetings, or when a salute would be inappropriate or impractical, salutes between individuals need not be rendered.

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.

Civilians may be saluted by persons in uniform. The President of the United States, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, is always accorded the honor of a salute. Also, if the exchange of salutes is otherwise appropriate, it is customary for military members in civilian clothes to exchange salutes upon recognition.

Prisoners whose sentences include punitive discharges do not render the salute. All other prisoners, regardless of custody or grade, render the prescribed salute except when under armed guard.

In a work detail, individual workers do not salute. The person in charge salutes for the entire detail.

Any military person recognizing a need to salute or a need to return one may do so anywhere at any time.


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