Shirt's Tip of the Week: Mastering the Art of the Three Way Salute

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt Thomas F. Raupach
  • 61st Medical Group
Some things in life never have a clear answer. Four cars in an intersection, with four stop signs, and they all get there at the same time. Who goes first? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, have you ever wondered how to handle the all-so-confusing three way salute?

Follow me here. A master sergeant and colonel are walking through the Schriever Complex. A captain  is walking towards them. Who salutes first? The captain wants to salute the colonel, while the master sergeant is trying to salute the captain. But as you know the junior member can't drop their salute until the senior member drops theirs, right? AF MAN 36-2203, paragraph 3.6, discusses the guidelines for the exchange of salutes but leaves common every day variances up to our discretion.

So, here's how the Shirt would handle the situation. Using the 6/30 rule (salute no further than 30 paces away and no less than 6 paces away), Air Force members usually have enough time to react. Let's use the dilemma mentioned above to work this out. And yes, there is an answer to this.

The master sergeant is walking along with the colonel. The captain is walking towards them. The master sergeant initiates the salute to the captain and holds his/her salute until they return theirs. But remember, when the captain salutes in return, the colonel will salute in response to the captain' s salute. So, when the colonel drops his or her salute, the captain will then drop theirs, which leaves the poor old master sergeant to drop their salute last. The key is, the junior of the three should initiate this whole process early enough to allow for all of the exchanges before they all pass each other.

You see, it's just that easy. And it'll happen so fast!

Furthermore, this first sergeant believes that the chicken did indeed come first. As for the four cars in the intersection; well, I grew up in the Northeast and won't tell you how I solve that one.