Skip to comments.No saluting for soldiers in theatre of war
Posted on 11/16/2007 7:16:21 AM PST by Clive
MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - There's nothing quite like a snappy military salute, but here in Afghanistan you don't see it very often.
In fact, a sign on the boardwalk at Kandahar Air Field proclaims that the base that is home to most Canadian troops in Afghanistan is a "no hat-no salute area."
With the notable exception of U.S. forces, the traditional military greeting is pretty much a non-starter in Afghanistan.
The salute has always been a sign of respect. It's origin is unclear but it is believed by some to go back to the Middle Ages when a knight would raise the visor on his helmet and expose his face to the view of another.
This was always done with the right hand and was a significant gesture of friendship and confidence since it exposed the features and also removed the right hand from the vicinity of a weapon.
The virtual abolishment of the salute in the Afghan theatre has more to do with security.
In previous eras, marksmen would target opposing officers, often easily identified by the different uniforms they wore. Killing one of the leaders was an easy way to demoralize and confuse enemy troops.
The fact is, out in the field, the uniforms for all ranks are pretty much identical these days. Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff, was clad in full battle gear during a late October visit to troops in the field and was indistinguishable from his subordinates.
That's the reason the salute was removed as well: to prevent the identification of those in charge since non-commissioned soldiers traditionally salute superior officers.
"That's a policy that we've been putting up throughout," said Master Warrant Officer Michel Carriere.
"It's always been a sign of respect, so if a general would show up in a room, in a confined area there's no reason we wouldn't do that (salute)," Carriere said. "But as a safety precaution we wouldn't do that in the theatre."
The same rule applies for most of the other coalition forces, including the Dutch and the British.
"There are so many different countries here it would be too confusing for soldiers to recognize the various uniforms of the officers," said one British officer. "And there is the matter of safety. We don't want the officers identified when we are out beyond the wire."
"It's security for sure. That's the general idea," added Canadian Warrant Officer Gary White. "If I was an officer I wouldn't want anybody saluting me."
There are exceptions of course. It is still permissible indoors and at the recent Remembrance Day ceremony in Kandahar the assembled soldiers saluted the 71 Canadian soldiers killed in the line of duty since the mission began five years ago.
"On the camp or out in the field we don't salute each other. We don't salute other nations," explained Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky. "Normally in the field you won't salute in order for enemy observers to establish . . . the commanders and the officers."
And in Afghanistan, there are Taliban spies everywhere. There isn't a military manoeuvre that takes place that isn't being watched by someone, with the information often quickly relayed to the Taliban leadership.
"Snipers can be a threat," Babinsky. "But simply observers gathering intelligence can determine our rank structure to identify possible targets for future times. Those are all possibilities."
"The focus here is on operations. Saluting is a courtesy and entrenched in our culture. But here we agreed we would not salute and remain operationally focused and it's working fine."
A sign indicates Afghan-theatre specific
instructions to the troops, at the boardwalk
at Kandahar Air Field, on Thursday.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland
They didn’t salute in the field in Nam either, for the same reason. Nothing new, except to journalists
I don’t think this is completely new. I believe this practice was followed in some areas during WWII (and, I’m sure, other conflicts).
Didn’t they listen to Lt. Dan?
This has been SOP since before I started running in military circles.
Slow news day?
'No saluting for soldiers in theatre of war'
Sorry, but I've gotta do it....
Yep. that's the way I remember it.
I was recently talking to a colleague was was an US Army infantry officer, who served as an exchange officer with the British Army. We talked about the differences in the interaction between officers and enlisted in the US and British armed forces. His suggestion was that the American military had a very formal, enforced, and artificial distinction between officers and enlisted that served a critical purpose, but was unnatural to the people involved (not talking about the relationship between a private and general, but think about Staff NCOs and officers).
He contrasted this with the British system where he believed their was a very deep but unspoken divide between officers and enlisted, which was natural (because of their culture) and was always present, even when the two were interacting less formally.
He made a good case that the US distinction between officers and enlisted was inconsistent with the American civilian culture’s general uncomfortably with social classes (except for famous people). The British, very often, have a some aversion to class identification, but these distinctions still seem to exist overtly, and are accepted (even if the middle class may seem more popular overall). Therefore, there is some natural feeling that officers are of a higher class (which isn’t always the case anymore, but had been true of much of the British military throughout history), that their members of the armed forces are able to fall into their expected roles easier.
I didn’t think you were supposed to salue indoors or when under arms. This simply shows how little the media understand military protocol. “No Hat, No Salute” means that the area is considered indoors. It is also military custom to remove your “headgear” indoors.
So I am supposed to Paint the General instead?
I was taught this very thing in boot camp following ‘Nam. Sheesh, there is nothing new here.
“It’s origin is unclear but it is believed by some to go back to the Middle Ages when a knight would raise the visor on his helmet and expose his face to the view of another.”
This is its origin, why is it unclear? 0-Canada has no knights or history of such honor.
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