Flightlines

“Here’s Why” of the week

Taking our “Here’s Why” from the paper to the blog. An explanation for why something is the way it is in the Air Force/military.

Saluting. Something so common in the military that service members don’t even have to think twice. But does it always require the right hand?

A salute is a gesture of courtesy given to a superior officer by a subordinate. At Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, WAF Officer candidates find that the salute is more than courtesy. It is a gesture of comradeship, of pride in one’s self and in the Air Force. November 1952 (U.S. Air Force photo).

According to the Naval Officers Guide, “You will normally salute with your right hand, unless an injury or other reason makes this impracticable, in which case you should salute with your left hand. The custom of offering left-handed salutes under such circumstances is unique to the Navy and Marine Corps; Army and Air Force personnel never salute with their left hands. When under arms, Navy members render the appropriate salute for the type of arm.”

It also suggests if both hands are full, you may nod to the officer.

Where did it come from? Well that’s another story. One rumor has it that the gesture began in medieval Europe, when knights would raise their visors as they approached comrades. This identified the knights as friendly.

Another possibility is the gesture originated during the Roman Empire at a time when assassination was common. The display of the right hand showed others that one was unarmed, according to the Army Training Support Center.

How one salutes involves the downward face of the palm: Deckhands would have dirty palms, and to salute with the palm face up would be considered an insult to the officer.

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