The Salute

The salute is a common and basic form of military courtesy used in the armed forces around the world. A person who is junior in rank is required to salute when an officer approaches.

I was taught in basic training to salute all officers except when you are indoors or when dressed in civilian clothes.  You also would salute officer’s cars and a whole lot more.  I also understood that you do not need to salute if your hands are occupied by carrying something.

It did not take long to find out you don’t salute in a combat zone. The reason is that a salute identifies who is in charge for enemy snipers or spies. Theoretically, this is accurate, but the protocol for saluting in a combat zone is created by the unit.  But we did not salute, especially in the field.  When I was in the Army the enlisted saluted each other and called out “Sniper Check!” for a laugh.

I had only two days in basecamp to get signed off before I was to go back to “The World”.  After I got my orders and signed out put on Khakis put my duffle bag on my shoulder and carried a “Vietnamese Airlines” bag in my other hand.

Walking from the company area to the location to catch a bus to the Pleiku Airbase a major was walking towards me.  He was in starched Khakis and was pasty looking so I knew he had only just arrived in Vietnam.  Since my hands were occupied I did not bother to salute.  And anyway, was so used to not saluting that I just kept walking and said “Good Morning, Sir”.

The major stopped me and started chewing me out about not saluting.  He chewed and chewed.  He asked me where I was going and I told him “Home, Sir”.  He then said “Good Luck, Soldier” and he started walking again.

When he was about 10 meters away I put my bags down and said “Sir” and when he turned around I gave him the best salute I had ever given.  I would have said “Sniper Check!” but he would not have understood.

…if any officer demands a salute in an active theatre then they need a reality check…

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