Officer trainees are taught the proper way to salute by Tech. Sgt. Chi Yi, Officer Training School military training instructor, during their first day of drill instruction at OTS. Training instructors teach drill and ceremony to instill discipline, attention to detail and military bearing in the offier trainees. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)
The salute - an obligation to take pride in

by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/22/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Rendering a salute is a fundamental military custom and courtesy and is engrained in all service members during the early stages of basic officer and enlisted training programs.

There is no definitive history on the origin of the hand salute, though there are many theories. The practice may have begun in medieval times when knights would raise their visors to each other to show friendly intentions while approaching each other. Another popular theory suggests the salute originated during the time of, and was used by, the Roman Empire. Assassinations were prevalent at the time, and people would raise their right hand to show those approaching that they held no weapons and meant no harm.

"In all probability, tribal chieftains in ages past had their soldiers, the warriors of the tribe, render some sort of respectful gesture toward them that evolved over time into the salute," said Dr. Robert Kane, Air University historian. "Some have theorized that the salute was also the way a warrior showed the chief that he did not have a weapon in his hand and, thus, did not pose a threat to the chief."

Today, the salute is used as a formal greeting and a sign of respect between members of the military, with junior members saluting first. Salutes are given outdoors, both while in motion or at the position at attention depending on the circumstances, or indoors when officially reporting.

"Salutes are important because they are a display of mutual respect between the individuals involved," said Chief Master Sgt. Harry Hutchinson, 42nd Air Base Wing command chief.

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

"When a junior member salutes a superior, the superior then salutes back," Hutchinson said. "They both are acknowledging the other's commitment and sacrifice to the service of our nation. My salutes are not merely a salute to a superior; they are also symbolic of reinforcing my commitment to the idea of freedom."

Officers traveling on official business in staff vehicles, which can be recognized by a two-tone color scheme or rank insignia on the front license plate, require a salute. Saluting the vehicle is not mandatory unless there is an officer in it.

The AFI 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."

"When we salute staff cars, it is a demonstration of respect to the senior officers of an installation," Hutchinson said. "Personally, I look at it as an opportunity of saying thanks for the hospitality and professionalism on your installation. If the people in the vehicle are distinguished visitors, then those saluting are saying, 'Welcome to our installation, take notice, we operate with pride, passion and professionalism.'"