No one knows for sure how, why or where the salute originated from. Many historians go back to the days of the Romans, and claim that whenever someone would approach a Roman officer, they would have to raise their hands to show that they did not carry a weapon. Others claim that it generated in the days of the Knights when they met in greeting, they would raise the visors showing their face which meant friendly intentions.
No matter where salutes originated, they are a courtesy that is used in the United States military, along with the majority of other world armed forces. There are certain rules to saluting, both written and unwritten.
While the majority of soldiers should know the rules for saluting Army officers, I believe it is always wise to reexamine these rules. Sometimes slight mistakes are made. Also, it can help to know and understand these rules before you enlist in the Army so you will have it in your mind and Basic Training may come just a little easier on you.
So in this post, I am going to cover the rules for saluting Army officers, and what every soldier should know. Do know that you can find many of the rules for saluting in Army Regulation 600-25. I am not using any certain order for these rules; they are just as I research them, or they come to my mind, so it is wise to read them completely, and you may want to print a copy so you can keep it as an easy reference.
Commanders and saluting policies. As a soldier, you should review the policies of the Commander at the installation you are assigned to. Commanders have the right to review and adjust saluting policies. The reason for this is in high traffic areas, soldiers may spend more time saluting than getting their assigned tasks completed.
Indoors saluting. When indoors, the only time a salute is called for is when you are reporting to an officer. You hold the salute and state your rank and name with reporting behind it. You hold the salute until the officer salutes back.
Who should be saluted. This is where mistakes are often made. Naturally, you salute any superior officer and give a simple greeting. Officers should always salute other officers with the junior officer initiating the salute. If you are in the Army and meet a Marine Officer you should salute them. If you meet an Air Force officer, you should salute. It is also recognized that you should salute officers of allied armed forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and commissioned corps of the Public Health Service.
It is always wise that if you are unsure whether to salute or not, salute! You may get reamed for it, but not as bad as if you did not salute when you should have.
If by chance, you meet the President of the United States, you should absolutely salute. He/she is the Commander in Chief, and just because they do not wear a uniform, they should be saluted.
Saluting from in and out of vehicles. An enlisted soldier acting as a driver does not have to salute. If you are marching or walking past a vehicle that is clearly marked as carrying an officer, it is proper to salute that vehicle and the officer within it.
Saluting when bearing arms. Each weapon that soldiers carry also come with prescribed ways to salute. In some cases, it may be with the left hand. Be sure to understand the proper saluting methods depending on the arms you are carrying.
When salutes are not required. There are some circumstances when a salute is not required. They are:
When either the enlisted or officer is in civilian clothing. (unless it is the President of the United States)
When in formation ranks.
When performing work duties that a salute would interfere with the job. It is still common sense to give a vocal greeting.
In certain public places such as church, a restaurant, movie theater, etc…
When both hands are being utilized such as carrying a box in which a salute would be impracticable. Again, a greeting is still the best approach.
When engaged in a sporting event or some other detail that a salute would be a risk to safety.
It is also recognized that when in the presence of possible enemy snipers, saluting is discouraged as this would “tip off” the sniper to a United States Army officer.
While not an officer, the Flag which is our nation’s colors should always be saluted when it is flying outdoors. Also, during any rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem, soldiers should salute if they are in uniform.
The salute you provide can tell a lot about you as an individual. It should a reflex movement that is quick and crisp. The tip of your forefinger should just graze your visor, and the back of your hand should just slightly dip forward creating a solid line. Neither the back of your hand or the palm should be visible. I have had leaders tell me they can tell just what type of soldier the person would be just by their salute. If their salute was sloppy, they would be sloppy. If they provided an excellent salute, they normally would be excellent soldiers.
The picture at the right shows what I would say is a perfect salute performed by SPC Chris Raynor at Fort Gordon. Thanks to The Augusta Chronicle for posting this and staff writer Kyle Martin writing about proper hand salutes.
Just as an added thought, when enlisted personnel are walking with an officer, the officer should be on the enlisted soldier’s right side to allow an ease for saluting.
While I believe I covered the majority of rules in saluting, there is a chance I may have missed something. If you can add to this post, feel free to do so in the comments area below. Also, if you have any questions, you can post those and I will do my best to provide an answer.
I am also installing several great links that add to this post. Thank you all, and I salute you!