Air Force life ... a season of change, customs and courtesies ageless as ever

  • Published
  • By Maj. James Petrick
  • 33rd Maintenance Operations Squadron
I remember attending basic communications technical training at Sheppard Air Force Base in September of 1987. Our training squadron and the rest of the base for that matter was preparing for the Air Force's 40th anniversary.

My role in the celebration was to display a flag in a ceremony honoring the greatest Air Force in the history of the free world. Fast forward to today.

Looking back, a lot of things in the Air Force have changed. We've gone from olive drab uniforms to battle dress uniforms, from Airman Performance Reports to Enlisted Performance Reports, from blue staff cars with white tops to gold, silver, blue or tan sedans, and from a continental United States based cold-war force to a highly deployable expeditionary Air Force.

In light of everything in the Air Force that's changed, some things remain constant- customs and courtesies and military tradition. Here are a few important examples that I think everyone should keep in mind during our busy daily operations:

Retreat ceremony - It goes without saying that at the first note of the national anthem any military member in uniform will stop, face the flag or music and render the appropriate salute until the last note is played.

If you're driving, pull over, stop the car and don't proceed until the music is over. It's also appropriate to correct anyone who fails to provide respect to our nation's flag.

Staff cars - As I mentioned earlier, styles and colors of staff cars have changed. However, the driver is still afforded the proper respect. Keep an eye out and don't let that silver eagle or stars on the license plate get by you without a salute.

Proper military address - Enlisted members of higher rank should be addressed by rank and last name (i.e. Master Sgt. Jones). It's not appropriate for lower ranking members to address superiors by their first name. It's correct to address chief master sergeants as 'Chief' and officers by either 'Sir', 'Ma'am,' or rank and last name. When addressed by an officer or chief, responses should be followed by sir or ma'am or chief. For example: "Yes Sir!", "Thank you ma'am", "I'm all over it, chief! and "I'll take it from here, lieutenant!" ('LT'can also replace "lieutenant" in the last one). This also applies when speaking on the phone. Believe me, I've tested every one of these responses personally and they've all worked great.

Reporting to commanders - it is still appropriate to report into the commander's office unless directed otherwise. This includes salute, reporting statement, facing movements - the whole nine yards. Reporting is not a 'basic training thing', 'only in Air Education and Training Command,' or stopped upon entering active duty. This is an established Air Force procedure. If you're not sure of your commander's stance on this policy, follow Nike's advice and 'just do it.'

Customs and courtesies have always been important and will continue to be important. Nothing says 'pride' more effectively than a sharp salute or addressing another military member in the proper military manner. As I mentioned before, a lot has changed in the Air Force but a few important things will never change. I still get a familiar sense f pride saluting our nation's flag during retreat and we're still the greatest Air Force in he world! Charge it up!