Retreat ceremony
Soldiers from the 472nd Military Police Detachment, Fort Wainwright lower the United States flag and fire a canon daily at 1700 hours to signify the end of the work day. The "Retreat" ceremony is a historic military tradition. The United States Army Alaska policy requires all Soldiers pay due respect. Everyone else witnessing the event is encouraged to do the same. (Photo by Brian Schlumbohm/Fort Wainwright PAO)

When you work on the north side of post until 5 p.m. each day you have the privilege of participating in a time-honored tradition called Retreat. I often pack my bag and head toward my car knowing that I will be able to hear the bugle, feel the cannon concussion and watch the United States flag being lowered. I stand still with my right hand over my heart as a cadre of Soldiers grab onto old glory and meticulously fold her. I feel patriotic and proud to be an American -- most of the time. Other times I am angered by the disrespect, thoughtlessness and disregard of people, in and out of uniform, who stroll around with their head in the clouds or just whiz by the parade field in their cars, oblivious to what's going on. Fortunately there is an outlet for my rage and an opportunity to educate those who just don't know better.
A letter to the editor we got a couple years ago still makes a solid point. Thank you (Capt.) Michael Deems, wherever you are.
The other day I was in one of the housing areas on post watching my kids play on the playground when the retreat ceremony started at (5 p.m.). As the bugle played, wearing my civilian clothes I turned towards where I knew the flag pole was, removed my hat and placed it over my heart. My children (3 years and 1 year) mimicked my actions as they had done many times before. During this time I also saw vehicles, older kids and even adults outside, continuing on with their daily lives as this very important ceremony was being conducted. So I wanted to take a moment to re-educate readers on what exactly "Retreat" is and what it means.
The bugle call sounded at retreat was first used in the French Army and dates back to the crusades. When you hear it, you are listening to a beautiful melody that has come to symbolize the finest qualities of Soldiers for nearly 900 years. Retreat has always been at sunset and its purpose was to notify the sentries to start challenging until sunrise, and to tell the rank and file to go to their quarters and stay there.
The retreat ceremony consists of a bugler playing "Retreat", the firing of a cannon and then the bugler playing "To the Colors" while the flag is lowered. It is the accompaniment for the Stars and Stripes as they are proudly lowered, removed, folded and placed under safe keeping of the charge of quarters until the following duty day when the flag will be returned to its place at the top of the pole as a marker of land that has been secured by our country.
First I would like to remind all Soldiers what United States Army Alaska policy says. USARAK Pamphlet 600-2, pg. 23, Paragraph 8 (Military Courtesy), d., 1 reminds us: "(1) when outside, in uniform, (not in formation) and you hear "Retreat," you should face toward the Colors, if visible. If the Colors are not visible, face towards the U.S. Flag on the flagpole and assume the position of "Attention." During retreat ceremonies all vehicles in the area will stop. Military occupants will dismount the vehicle and render the proper courtesy. When required, the senior Soldier should bring the formation to attention and salute. If you are in civilian attire and hear "To the Colors" or the National Anthem you are expected to place your right hand over heart and remove all headgear."
Our Families and civilian friends on post may not necessarily fall under the same regulation as the uniformed Soldier, as far as needing to do anything for this ceremony. I would, however, like to remind everyone on post, both civilian and military, how much this flag means to us all who have shed blood for it; the honor of those who gave their life for it and countless millions who have been liberated by it. We should not honor and respect the retreat ceremony and teach our Families and friends about it because we have to, but because of the powerful respect that our nation's flag deserves for those 90-seconds every evening.
So, I charge us, the Fort Wainwright and Fairbanks Community, to pay respect where it is due. If you hear "Retreat" or "To the Colors", do not be afraid to pull to the side of the road and step out regardless of what others may be doing; don't wait to educate your Families on doing the right thing at (5 p.m.) and politely remind those who may not be aware of the importance of their ceasing action for just a short while each day.
The bugle calls are very difficult to hear from the south side of the airfield, but I believe that success can be defined here as the whole post stopping actions each day at 1700 and remembering what our flag has seen, on many different ramparts and standards and what it means to the freedoms we have fought so hard to secure.
Now it is up to you. Demonstrate Army values and show some respect.

Page last updated Thu July 12th, 2012 at 00:00