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Air Force Customs and Courtesies: It's a year-round tradition

Students from the Andersen Airman Leadership School participate in a retreat ceremony at the end of the duty day on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, June 19, 2013. During ALS, Airmen hone their knowledge of military customs and courtesies and practice skills like marching formations, flag folding, and reveille and retreat ceremonies.

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JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --

Customs and courtesies are time honored traditions and ways of showing respect in the Armed Forces. Each branch of military service has its own version of customs and courtesies, though many are the same. U.S. Air Force's customs and courtesies derive mostly from the U.S. Army, but since the origin of the Air Force on Sept. 18, 1947, the Air Force has developed customs and traditions of its own. AF customs and courtesies include saluting a higher ranking officer, paying respect to the U.S. Flag or Air Force Song, and the way one should or should not behave whether in uniform or not.

A salute is a courteous exchange of greetings. When saluting, the junior member always salutes the senior first. The salute should be initiated with enough time to allow the senior officer to return it. There are times when saluting may not be possible, in this case, a verbal greeting or head nod may suffice. When indoors and a higher ranking officer enters a room, the first person to see him or her should call the room to attention, unless someone is assigned to do so.

Rendering courtesies also applies to the U.S. Flag, National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, Air Force Song, and other services. All military personnel in uniform outside must face the flag and salute during the raising and lowering of the flag. Also, when the first note of the national anthem or "To the Colors" is played, all personnel in uniform should stand, face the flag, and salute. The salute must be held until the last note of music is played. When driving, all vehicles should come to a stop while all passengers sit quietly until the music ends. While in civilian clothes, military members should stand at attention, face the flag, and place the right hand over the heart.

Other than saluting and rendering courtesies to the U.S. Flag and certain songs, there are many other customs and courtesies that should be followed. When walking with senior members, the junior member should walk on the left side. Allowing the senior member to be on the right side is a form of respect. While in uniform, members should not put their hands in their pockets unless they are retrieving something from them quickly. Members should always act with professionalism, especially when in uniform, because they represent the Air Force and what it stands for. Show respect to the uniform and fellow members in it. The world is watching and the way members behave is how they perceive the military as a whole to be, so make a good impression!