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Daily observances keep centuries-old traditions alive

Soldiers of the NCO Academy fold the flag during the “Retreat” ceremony on Howze Field Jan. 26. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Soldiers of the NCO Academy fold the flag during the “Retreat” ceremony on Howze Field Jan. 26. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: January 28, 2016

FORT RUCKER, ALA. (Jan. 28, 2016) -- Fort Rucker is no stranger to tradition, from the pageantry of change of command ceremonies to graduations, and one tradition continues to Soldier on as it sounds the beginning and end of the work day on the installation.

“Reveille” and “Retreat” can give many service members a sense of nostalgia with its familiar bugle call in the morning signaling the start of the day and cannon fire in the evening to close it out, and the centuries-old tradition is something that returned to Fort Rucker in 2011 after an extended absence, according to Sgt. Maj. Marvin Pinckney, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence G-3 sergeant major.

“Customs and courtesies, and rendering honors to the flag and nation, are obviously big parts of being in the military, and tradition is what runs our Army,” said Pinckney. “’Reveille’ and ‘Retreat’ have been used by the military for centuries, but more importantly it was used by the United States forces during the days of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War to communicate to the troops and make sure they were up in the mornings, went to mess and make sure they were bedded down at night.”

Today, the familiar sound of the bugle and boom of the cannon are mostly ceremonial, but technically do signify the beginning and end of the duty day on the installation, added the sergeant major.

“Today, we can communicate readily, but back then they needed other means to communicate with the Soldiers,” said Pinckney.

The daily ceremony takes place on Howze Field where a seven-man group of Soldiers raise the flag during “Reveille” at 6 a.m. Mondays-Fridays and on holidays. “Retreat” is sounded at 5 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, and 4 p.m. on Fridays and holidays.

The seven-Soldier detail is switched out twice a month and cycled through four different units on Fort Rucker: members of the 1st Aviation Brigade, Warrant Officer Career College, NCO Academy and 110th Avn. Bde.

According to Army Regulation 600-25, during “Reveille,” Soldiers in uniform and not in formation must come to attention and salute in the direction of the flag upon the first note. If the flag cannot be seen, Soldiers should face the direction of the music. Soldiers in formation should follow the command of their senior Soldier who should call the group to attention.

During “Retreat,” Soldiers in uniform who are not in formation should come to attention upon the sound of the first note, remain at attention until the cannon blast is heard, then salute. If no cannon is heard, the Soldiers should salute upon the first note of “To The Colors.”

The same rules apply for Soldiers in civilian clothes, but Pinckney said that a salute is not required. Instead, they should stand with their hand over their heart, facing the direction of the music.

All vehicles on the installation should come to a stop, including civilians, but Soldiers who are in a vehicle during “Reveille” or “Retreat” are required to stop and dismount their vehicle to render honors, added Pinckney.

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