Who Drops Salute First

Who Drops the Salute First? Respect in Military Greetings

Last Updated on March 26, 2024 by Kimberlee Johnson

When soldiers meet each other, there is a special tradition in the military that occurs. It is a non-verbal exchange that conveys a significant message – the salute.

As I’ve been lucky enough to see this age-old display of respect firsthand, it’s clear that this act embodies discipline and authority.  But have you ever wondered who drops salute first? 

Today, I’ll provide insights about this old tradition and discover who drops the salute first, what it means regarding respect, and who’s in charge.

Who Is The First One To Drop Salute?


In the military protocol, the individual with a higher rank or official status is the first to drop the salute. 

So, if a soldier salutes an officer, they must keep saluting until the officer lowers their hand. 

“It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.” 

Donald Trump, 45th U.S. President

And whether it’s a hand salute or just a nod of the head, the lower-ranking person always does it first, showing respect. The higher-ranking person then responds with a salute. 

This rule is all about following orders and showing courtesy, and it’s a fundamental part of military discipline. But why don’t Marines salute indoors?

Which Officer Should Salute First?

The protocol for saluting is clear and consistent across military traditions. The junior member is always responsible for initiating the salute first. 

The salute must be begun early enough to provide ample time for the senior officer to acknowledge and return it before they pass by. 

Proper military decorum demands this observance to demonstrate respect and maintain discipline [1].

What Does It Mean To Give A First Salute To An Officer?

Giving a first salute to an officer symbolizes respect, and this is a tradition practiced in all U.S. Service Branches. 

In this custom, newly commissioned officers give a silver dollar to the individual, offering their first salute. 

This isn’t just a coin; it shows that the officer appreciates the respect they’re getting because of their new rank. 

Besides, this tradition is a way to say, “Thank you for saluting me,” and it helps build a sense of respect and tradition between officers and enlisted Soldiers. 

It’s all about honor and keeping important customs alive in the military.

Can Anyone Serve As Your First Salute?

Not anyone can be your first salute. It’s customary for officers to adhere to tradition by selecting the enlisted member who made the most significant impact during their training. 

This practice not only upholds military customs but also reflects the officer’s appreciation for the enlisted member who played a vital role in their development.

It’s a way of giving gratitude and recognizing the strong connections formed during training, highlighting the values of respect and appreciation in the military.

Find out the meaning of the phrase “no hat no salute” here.

How Far Apart Should You Stand While Saluting Someone?

Person Standing Wearing US Air Force Uniform

When rendering a salute, military protocol dictates that it should occur when you are approximately six paces away from the person you intend to salute. 

If the distance exceeds six paces, the salute should be performed at the nearest point of approach. 

“Saluting is a choreography of respect, where the junior bows to the senior, and in that, they find the strength of unity.”

Howkapow Gift Site 

It’s crucial to note that thirty paces represents the maximum distance for rendering a salute. 

This practice ensures a respectful and orderly display of courtesy within the military, emphasizing precision and adherence to established customs and standards.

When Is It Not Okay To Salute?

There are specific situations in which saluting is not appropriate in the military. Firstly, you should not salute small national flags held by individuals.

It includes those civilian spectators carried during a parade or printed on solid objects. 

It’s also considered improper to salute when you have an object in your right hand or smoking a cigarette [2], cigar, or pipe. 

Aside from that, soldiers engaged in games or work do not salute. These rules ensure that saluting is done in appropriate contexts, maintaining decorum and military etiquette.

Also Read: Is Saluting A Veteran Respectful?


What’s the punishment for not saluting an officer?

Disregarding the salute protocol and disrespecting a superior commissioned officer can lead to forfeiture of pay and allowances, bad conduct, discharge, and confinement for up to one year. 

What is the final salute to veterans?

The Final Salute is a simple ceremony to show that we continue caring for veterans even after they pass away.

What does the phrase “no hat, no salute” mean?

The phrase “no hat, no salute” originates from military custom. In certain environments, like indoors, service members remove their hats and aren’t required to salute superior officers. 

As such, it emphasizes that if one isn’t wearing a hat, there’s no obligation to salute.

What are the guidelines for saluting officers?

Saluting an officer is an important part of military tradition. Whether you’re on or off duty, you must give a salute on military grounds. 

When walking or standing still, you should salute if you’re about 6 to 12 steps away from the officer. Keep your salute until the higher-ranking officer either salutes back or goes by.

To Sum It Up

The military tradition of who initiates the salute first is all about respect and following the rules. 

As I’ve mentioned above, the lower-ranking members start the salute to show respect to the higher-ranking officer, and these upper-official members will respond to the salute and drop it first. 

This reflects the importance of hierarchy and discipline within the military. 

Plus, newly commissioned officers traditionally give the first enlisted service member a silver dollar to salute them as a sign of appreciation for the salute and recognition of the officer’s new rank.

Ultimately, these traditions highlight the respect shared between officers and enlisted personnel, emphasizing the value of military customs. 


Kimberlee Johnson
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