Saluting much bigger than it appears on the surface

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Candler
  • 423rd Air Base Group superintendent
I was going to write an amusing, but pointed, message about saluting vehicles marked by appropriate rank symbols. But the story I'll mention is not that hilarious when you critically think about it, and it represents a more strategic issue at hand.

I'm hosting a three-star general officer at one of my previous bases and I hear the jingle on my cell phone. It's him - his mess dress undershirt was not in the bag prepared for him by his aide. I'm not sure what happened to the aide after that, but I grabbed the government vehicle, fully marked with three huge stars on the front, and picked him up on my way to the military clothing sales store since he wouldn't let me go alone.

We arrive, and as we just about stop the vehicle in front of the west entrance to the Base Exchange, an Airman and a Marine were standing and talking, facing the vehicle. Just like you, I would expect them to see the placard on the front and salute with snap - it didn't happen. Lt. Gen. Y exited the vehicle, walked within four feet of them, and asked them how they were doing as he walked by, but still received no salute.

Now, you can bet I was steaming a bit. And while the General was purchasing his shirt, I talked with those two warriors about proper courtesies and the respect we must know and execute. After that, I asked them to stand at attention and wait for the general to come out of the BX, salute, and apologize for not recognizing the rank prior. They executed perfectly this time - issue resolved.

Now, a closer story to you: I'm out with a commander not too long ago. We drive right up to three service members, and no salute. Keep in mind the Colonel placard was clearly visible. Of course, I asked her to proceed in the building and I stayed behind to correct those warfighters.

Incidents like this happen too often, whether it's a group commander, wing commander, or another government vehicle with officer designation on them. "Why" is my question?

I'm not saying I was or am perfect, but I am committed to adhering to our standards and our core values at all times. Are there instances when I lose sight of my surroundings and make an innocent mistake? Sure. And I think that's where it all lies - vigilance. I don't believe for one minute that any warrior signed up to defend freedom wants, or tries to be below the standard. It's my opinion that we sometimes aren't simply paying attention to our surroundings. So, I ask you to be vigilant - know what's going on around you, not only for the saluting of vehicles, but also for force protection, safety of others, operations security, every-day standards, and so on.

Every service member is on point all the time - stay alert and do the right thing!