Air Force ROTC cadets honor country with reveille and retreat


The Air Force ROTC secured and paid respect to the flag during Retreat on April 4. After Retreat, the ROTC members gathered for awards and announcements. 

Tristan Wade

The Air Force ROTC unit hosts a special reveille and retreat ceremony twice a year at the flag pole on Central Campus.

The ceremony represents a historical and honorable meaning for the cadets involved.

“What [reveille and retreat] really represents is us honoring the country, Americans and all the Americans that have served before us,” Ben Shaw, fifth-year senior cadet, said.

Reveille and retreat refers to the process of putting the flag up at 7 a.m. (reveille) and taking it down at 5 p.m. (retreat). The process happens daily on military bases, and each has a bugle song that plays while the flag is put up or taken down.

The Iowa State Air Force ROTC members don’t host the ceremony daily, instead once a semester, to introduce the cadets to the traditions of the military.

“We do it once a semester here, so us cadets can become more aware and familiar with it since it’s a regular occurrence on bases,” Tyler Laska, a fifth year senior and ROTC cadet, said.

As a fifth-year senior, Laska has been to bases multiple times and knows what the process is like. 

“If you hear reveille playing on base, everything completely stops, people pull over on the road, get out of their cars, stand at attention, it’s a cool experience,” Laska said.

On Central Campus, the effects can be similar. Laska said students walking by will often stop and watch, sometimes taking photos while the cadets go through the process.

“Most people aren’t a part of this, and the military is foreign to them, so it’s interesting to see people watch what we’re doing,” Laska said.

There are meticulous ways in which the ceremony is carried out, from the command to the honor guard to the bulk of the cadets.

First, the cadets who aren’t part of command or honor guard arrange themselves in blocks near the flag pole. The command calls out orders as the ceremony takes place, and each reveille and retreat starts directly on time.

The honor guard is a group of cadets tasked with handling the flag and the actual process of raising or lowering and unfolding or folding the flag.

“Throughout the ceremony, [I’m] always trying to show how proud I am of my role,” Shaw said.

As fifth-year seniors, Laska and Shaw have had a chance to be in each part of the ceremony, including honor guard.

“It’s definitely stressful to be part of the honor guard, but there’s a lot of pride in it if you can do your job right and everyone in the group functions right,” Shaw said.

Laska said that if they have a cadet in the unit who plays trumpet, they will have the reveille and retreat songs played in person, which gives the ceremony a more militaristic feeling.

“If we don’t have anyone to actually play, it’s just a little speaker on Central Campus, and it just doesn’t feel the same,” Laska said.

For the cadets, opportunities like reveille and retreat give them a glimpse into the bigger picture.

“It’s a deep moment, similar to when the national anthem plays, and it just feels so sweet to experience that unique occasion [in] the role I have,” Laska said.