Thursday, January 6, 2011


My base is a salute zone. It has been for quite some time now, and it’s a well-known fact, however it is very often ignored. Many of the officers don’t actually *want* to be saluted, for one thing. In the first place, in many places it’s a tactical error. You don’t want to radiate importance in the danger zone. It turns you into a target. The other reason is that it’s a pain in the ass. My post is very large-soldiers are everywhere. It’s large enough, contained enough, and peaceful enough that snipers are not a major concern. But, being such a large place with many amenities, it’s also *crawling* with officers. Which means that if everyone saluted every time, we all might as well walk around with our hands up to shade our eyes.

A salute must be rendered to an officer that passes you at a distance of anywhere closer than 10 meters, if I correctly recall. The range is often an eyeballed judgment call, and the ’salute bubble’ will expand and shrink depending on where the officer is looking and how occupied they are at the time. If they lock eyes it doesn’t really matter if they’re too far away, and some officers with confidence issues will actually change course to bring themselves into saluting range. I’ve watched it happen.

Over here, we’ve developed an unspoken body language that’s generally a reliable indicator on what’s expected by that particular officer. Saluted officers are generally walking in a group. Their heads are held high, looking straight ahead. If an officer is indifferent or does not want to be saluted, they’ll shuffle of range as you get closer, cast their heads downward, and try to cover their chest rank with a rifle sling or holster strap. The response by the soldier is to alter course in the opposite direction until we’ve passed one another. It functions as an officer/enlisted force field and deceptively prevents the salute from happening.

Today I hopped off the bus and began walking down the road towards the Living Area. I was carrying a lunch tray in one hand. Heading towards me on the sidewalk were a E-7 and an 0-2. I shifted my load to my left hand so my right was free, but they were engaged in conversation, and started to drift to my left. I shifted mine to the right, beginning the circle. As we passed, the 1st LT turned his head to the side and shifted his rifle sling. The signal. I followed his lead. Took two steps past.

“HEY SPECIALIST!” The Sergeant First class. Damn. Really? I turn at parade rest. The LT had kept going down the road and was now several yards behind his NCO.

“Yes, Sare’nt!”

“That’s a U.S. Army Commissioned Officer over there. Now, I saw you shift hands and I thought you were going to be squared away. How about you render my Officer the proper military courtesy?

Under normal circumstances, I’d have swallowed my pride a little better. I’d have saluted stateside as they passed anyway. But they had started the dance. They’d abused the unspoken code. I snapped to attention, and raised a salute but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Instead of the greeting of the day I barked out something else.

“Sniper-check, sir!”

Some pushups are worth it.

1 comment:

  1. You did the right thing. If that LT had any kind of balls or dignity he would have pulled the leash in on that SFC. As someone who hates to salute and be saluted, I really hate when someone abuses the code and ruins it for all of us.