Command Chief reflects on reveille, retreat, taps

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One Saturday while living on base, my 5-year old daughter and I were chasing each other around the yard.

As 5 p.m. came, so did retreat.

I stopped and paid the proper respect, and without hesitation, my daughter mimicked me. She made me so proud, but she also reminded me why paying respect to the symbol of freedom is something that must be done, the brave men and women that fought wars and paid the sacrifice - the Cunningham's, the Jacobson's and the Chapman's - so she could be living free.

Once finished, she asked me a question that I think many people struggle with, "did I do the right thing?"

I let her know, but it made me realize that we all need a reminder from time to time. But, before guidance, it's appropriate to know the foundation of Reveille, Retreat, and Taps.

Reveille originated in medieval times to wake the soldiers at dawn. It calls the soldier's spirit to rise and prepare for another day. It helped fuel the passion that led our great war fighters to ensure the land of America stood free.

Retreat is a bugle call first used by the French Army and dates back to the Crusades. Retreat was sounded at sunset and notified sentries to start challenging personnel until sunrise, and also to tell the troops to head back to their quarters and retire safely.
The modern retreat originated in the 16th century when it was called "watch-setting."

The drum major of a regiment would advertise the changing of the watch by the beating of the drum.

Also, on the battlefield, fighting usually concluded at sunset, therefore, retreat signaled the end of the day.

The troops assembled, roll was taken, and they would honor those who had fallen that day.

Retreat symbolizes the finest qualities of soldiers for almost 900 years.

Taps is considered the most beautiful of bugle calls. Daniel Adams Butterfield, a Union General, created taps during the Civil War. The call to the end of the day was previously a French call, "L'Extinction des feux," which translates to extinguish lights.

The general decided that the music was too long and formal for the end of the day, and for that reason, in 1862 he recalled "Tattoo," which originated during the 30-Years-War signifying the end of nightly drinking.

He hummed the tune, while lengthening and shortening notes, to his brigade bugler, Pvt. Oliver Wilcox Norton, who in turn wrote the music down. He was commanded to play this new version at the end of the night rather than the former French call.

Other brigades heard the tune and asked for copies for their own use, and it was even used by the Confederacy. It was also used to replace the three rifle volleys that were used at the end of burials during battle. Taps was not officially adopted until 1874, when it was also officially named "Taps."

To help us reflect each day, Reveille, Retreat, and Taps are played on Buckley AFB.

Reveille comes to call at 7:30 a.m., followed directly by "To The Colors. "

When played, military members outside and in uniform, to include PT Gear if not mixed with civilian clothing, face the flag, if visible, or face the music. Stand at parade rest during the playing of "Reveille" which precedes "To the Colors." Stand at Attention and salute on the first note of "To the Colors." If there is no music, salute when you see the flag first being raised. Members then drop their salute after the last note is played, or when the flag has been fully raised. 

If in a vehicle during Reveille, pull the car to the side of the road and stop. All occupants should sit quietly at attention until the last note of the music has played.

Military members in civilian clothes and outdoors, stand at attention and place your right hand, with a hat if wearing one, over your heart. Civilians should remove their headgear and place their hand over their heart.

Retreat, which is played at 5 p.m., is very similar.

When played, military members outside and in uniform face the flag, if visible, or face the music. They should stand at parade rest during the playing of "Sound Retreat" which precedes the national anthem and lowering of the flag and then stand at attention and salute on the first note of the national anthem. If there is no music, salute when you see the flag first being lowered. Members should then drop their salute after the last note is played, or when the flag has been fully lowered. 

Military members in civilian clothes and outdoors, stand at attention and place your right hand, with a hat if wearing one, over your heart. Civilians should remove their headgear and place their hand over their heart. 

If in a vehicle during retreat, pull the car to the side of the road and stop. All occupants should sit quietly at attention until the last note of the music has played.

Because Taps signifies lights out or to begin quiet hours, there are no formal protocol procedures required.

However, the playing of Taps continues to be part of a military funeral or memorial honors ceremony.

Upon hearing Taps at a military ceremony while outside, proper protocol dictates those individuals in uniform should stand at attention and render a hand salute until the music is complete. Those in civilian attire should remove their headgear and place their hand over their heart. If inside, military members stand at attention; civilians place their hand over their heart.

These three bugle calls pay homage to America's flag, what it stands for, and America's fallen heroes.

As you circulate the battle space of Buckley AFB, I ask you to never forget their meaning and to do the right thing. Our American flag represents freedom. It reflects a country that is greater than all others, greater because of the tremendous war fighters that came before us and because of each one of you serving today, preserving the liberties our children and grandchildren will enjoy.

When you hear these tributes, stop, reflect and pay the proper respect.