Don’t be this guy either…

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- You've all seen the advertising campaign pointing out how ridiculous most people look and act when they've had a little, or a lot, to drink. Unfortunately, it doesn't take alcohol to make people do some pretty silly things, especially when it comes to some of the unique aspects of our military culture.

I couldn't believe it, but I actually saw this one the other day - the pinky salute. I walked by an Airman in the parking lot of the base exchange who was talking on their cell phone , holding it with their right hand. I could see the big question mark floating over their head when they recognized that they should render a hand salute. "I need to salute but I really don't want to interrupt my conversation ... what do I do?" Yeah, you get the picture. Apparently, they felt that a tap on the eyebrow with their pinky finger, without lowering the phone, was the solution. Wow, really? I won't go into quoting the AFIs, but you all know what's wrong with that.

We Airmen who share the profession of arms for our nation recognize that there are certain elements of our profession that are unique to what we do and who we are. We are proud of the jobs we do and the military lineage we hail from. The military hand salute is easily one of the most time-honored and recognizable of our traditions by virtually anyone, military or not, around the world.

Just for the fun of it, I googled "military hand salute." Google responded that in 0.23 seconds my search resulted in "about 17,000,000 results." Another couple of mouse clicks and I found this on the U.S. Army Quartermaster Center and School Web site:

"Whatever the actual origin of today's hand salute, clearly in the tradition of the US (Military) it has always been used to indicate a sign of respect - further recognition that in the profession of arms military courtesy is both a right and a responsibility of every soldier."

I think that answer is missing one word - mutual. We in the military render a hand salute as a customary display of mutual respect. After all, as the custom dictates, the salute must be returned, right?

Sure, there are rules about when, where, who initiates, etc. There has to be, otherwise we'd all walk around outside looking at each other funny and wondering if we should do something. But the act of saluting is more than just a thing we do. It says a lot. When rendered properly it should say "I respect this uniform, this profession and this bond of service to our nation." The return salute should always be rendered with the same respect - it says exactly the same thing. Whether saluting the Commander in Chief or returning a salute from the most junior military member, it's always the same.

So think about that the next time the opportunity for a salute presents itself. You can take half a second to respect our chosen profession, or you can turn your back, pretend you didn't notice, and get very interested in anything that keeps you looking away from that higher-ranking officer. Either way, it says a lot about what kind of Airman you are. Which "guy" do you want to be?