Nothing is more exciting for new military families than having visitors. It feels like a little piece of home and oh, how you miss home! If you are like me, having guests on base can also be a little nerve racking. Base etiquette can become second nature after a while, but for someone unfamiliar with military customs, it isn’t that easy. You, yourself, might still be learning! The first time I stepped foot on a base I was scared I was breathing air the wrong way. I was that nervous! So, you can imagine how I felt when we had family fly out to see us. I was nervous for them too. They also came with a ton of questions! It was like they were visiting a zoo. I barely knew the rules, now I was responsible for a group of tourists. If you can learn just some of the very basics, maybe you won’t have my experience.
Most installations have loud speakers strategically placed around the base, which come in pretty handy when your little one lays down for a nap! All jokes aside, they do serve a purpose. One of those purposes is to observe military customs and traditions. These traditions not only show respect to our flag, but also to the brave men and women who serve our country. Your visitors might appreciate a little heads up on some of these things.
Usually, at 0730, Reveille will play over the speakers. Reveille is a bugle call that marks the beginning of the duty day and the raising of the flag. Retreat, in most cases, is at 1700(5:00p.m.). Retreat signifies the end of the day and the evening retirement of the colors. If you are outdoors, as a civilian, it is respectful if at the first sounds of Reveille or Retreat, you stop where you are and turn to face the flag, or in a case where the flag is not visible, turn in the general direction of the flag or the sound. If you are in a car, pull over and turn down your music. When in doubt, look around and follow the crowd. In this case, if everyone else is jumping off of the bridge, you jump right behind them! Otherwise, you are going to look like fool walking around on your cell phone talking about what you had for lunch yesterday, while everyone else is looking at you in disbelief. I have seen this happen, don’t be that person. Lastly, Taps plays at 2200(10:00p.m.). This tradition started over 150 years ago as a signal for lights out. It is courtesy for civilians to place their hand over their heart. I am always in awe that for a few moments, everyone stops in unison to observe these traditions. If you or your guest happens to take an extra moment to figure out what to do, don’t panic.
Discussing speed limits, stop signs, and phone use while driving might be a good idea to do with your guests. Traffic signs on base or not merely suggestions, in fact, I think they are more strictly enforced than in the “real world”. I personally, am thankful for it. To this day, when I am at a stop sign on base I always count backwards in my head. 3..2..1..Go! Just like Mario Kart! I do this because I was pulled over as a new spouse. A very friendly member of security forces let me know that I did not have the proper stop sign etiquette. Learn from my mistake and count to three before you proceed. Furthermore, just use common sense and don’t speed. That one seems like a no brainer to me, but then again, what do I know, I used to roll through stop signs. Also, phone use is prohibited while driving on all installations. That doesn’t mean text in your lap where no one can see or throw your phone away from your ear when you see a cop. Just don’t do it! One last important tidbit, be courteous to the gate guards and security forces. They often have a thankless, monotonous job. If they are backed up in the morning or you happen to get picked for a random check, being a jerk probably isn’t going to help you. So, remember what your momma taught you and be nice. The guards will not only appreciate it, but nice people generally live longer…so that’s a bonus.
The most important rule is to have a wonderful visit! Your spirits will be lifted and you will be counting down the days until you get to see family and friends again. It really is a magnificent feeling and is so important for your emotional well-being. Happy visiting!
By Dana B.