A simple salute

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- As Airmen, we stand out from the rest of society for a number of reasons - the way we look and dress; the language, terms and phrases we use; our ranks, titles and terms of address; the rules and regulations which govern our conduct and behavior; and most especially, our unique customs and traditions.

These traditions and customs include such time-honored activities as reveille, retreat and ceremonies to suit every occasion. But perhaps the custom which most distinguishes our way of life in the profession of arms is the simple, but dignified salute.

Handed down from ages past as a sign of discipline and mutual respect between comrades and fellow warriors, the salute is the most recognizable and identifiable act of our military culture.

The value of that simple act cannot be overstated. The positive effects of a sharp, crisp and professional salute are sure signs of the force's discipline, spirit, morale and loyalty.
The following story told by Field Marshal Viscount Slim, the commander of the China-Burma-India Theater in World War II, provides a perfect case study:

"One morning long ago, as a brand new second lieutenant, I was walking on to parade. A private soldier passed me and saluted. I acknowledged his salute with an airy wave of the hand. Suddenly, behind me, a voice rasped out my name. I spun around. There was my Colonel, for whom I had a most wholesome respect, and with him the Regimental Sergeant Major, of whom, if truth be told, I stood in some awe. 'I see,' said the Colonel, 'you don't know how to return a salute. Sergeant Major, plant your staff in the ground and let Mr. Slim practice saluting it until he does know how to return a salute.'"

"So to and fro I marched in sight of the whole battalion, saluting the Sergeant Major's cane, and with my fellow subalterns grinning at a safe distance. At the end of 10 minutes the Colonel called me up to him. All he said was, "Now, remember, discipline and respect begin with the officers."

Discipline, professionalism and mutual respect are all bound by the simple act of saluting. It is important for all warriors to understand its value and influence. Take pride in rendering and returning salutes as a privilege granted to us in uniform. Make them sharp, crisp and professional. Don't allow fellow warriors to become complacent when rendering the salute - either officer or enlisted.

As for me, I'm going to get a good cane and plant it in the ground. See you on parade!