Do You Know Proper Saluting Etiquette?

By: John Miller
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Saluting is a time-honored rite of passage in militaries all over the world. It’s a way for soldiers to learn discipline and respect, and a means for those in uniform to show their appreciation for the other men and women who are offering their time and service to their nation. In the United States Armed Forces, service personnel quickly learn to master saluting etiquette, or they become outcasts who inspire derisive eye rolling from drill sergeants. In this extremely formal quiz, do you think you really know American saluting protocol?

Saluting has a long and rather vague history. Some people believe it originated with the Roman Empire, but suffice it to say, the practice and execution of this simple act has evolved in countless ways over the centuries, even in the U.S. What started as a much more formal act is now a more efficient (yet still formal) courtesy. Do you remember anything at all about saluting history?


Salutes have exacting standards. If you drop your fingers or your arms at an improper angle, people will think you’re lacking in pride, disrespectful, or perhaps just daft. And God help you if you snap off a comic salute in the wrong situation. Snap into this fascinating saluting etiquette quiz now!

True or false, is saluting prescribed by U.S. military regulations?

Ten hut! Before you Semper Fi yourself into eternal glory on the battlefield, you’re going to have to learn the basics of soldiering ... and that includes saluting. In America, it’s a requirement.

Saluting supposedly started in Roman times. Why?

As the legend goes, saluting started with the Romans. They required citizens to salute public officials as a means of proving they weren’t hiding weapons that could be used for assassinations.

Which person offers a salute first?

Junior soldiers and sailors are the first to offer salutes to superior officers. It’s a sign of respect for the commanding officer’s power.

When you salute an individual, where do you direct your eyes?

Don’t drop your eyes, soldier! Salute like you mean it, and keep your eyes on the person you’re saluting.

If you’re driving a Jeep and realize that a general is in the back, what should you do?

Sure, you can always salute the general later, but not if you’re all dead because you tried to salute while driving. Keep both hands on the wheel.

Soldiers should NOT salute when which song is played?

Sure the "Airwolf" theme song will make you FEEL like saluting ... but for soldiers, it’s not really appropriate. However, they should always salute when "Top Gun" is played on TBS.

Salutes ARE required indoors for which situation?

Indoor salutes are rare. But if you’re addressing a superior officer, better have that salute sharp and ready to go.

Soldiers should salute during which of the following actions?

Soldiers must remember to salute in a wide variety of situations. And they must always salute during the raising and lowering of the flag.

When you drop your salute, what should you do?

Better shelve the theatrics when you’re saluting a fleet admiral. Any flourishes make you look like a rank amateur.

During which of the following actions should soldiers salute?

Soldiers almost never salute indoors. One common exception is when they offer reports to the higher-ups -- in this case, a sharp salute is necessary.

True or false, do American soldiers salute when foreign national anthems are played?

The salute isn’t just for "The Star-Spangled Banner." It’s also used to honor the national anthems of other nations, too, just before American warbirds bomb them into oblivion.

How did early American soldiers salute superiors?

Some customs were more formal in the early days of the country. Back then, soldiers removed their hats as a sign of respect to their superiors.

You do NOT have to offer a salute to which of the following people?

Prisoners don’t get the same respect as other people. And as such, you don’t have to offer them salutes.

Which of the following people is always entitled to a salute?

Medal of Honor recipients are the people who’ve sacrificed mightily for their country. As such, they are always entitled to a crisp salute.

True or false, should you salute the officers of an enemy nation?

For officers of a friendly foreign nation, you should offer a salute. For enemy officers, salutes should include a complimentary body bag.

How did ancient knights perform salutes?

Ancient knights had all manner of customs and courtesies. They saluted people by raising their visors with their right hands.

When you salute, your fingertip should touch what?

A proper salute finds you touching your forefinger to the outer edge of your right eyebrow. And keep those fingers straight, soldier!

How should your upper arm be aligned during a proper salute?

A sharp salute requires a bit of effort. It means your upper arm (elbow to shoulder) should be parallel to terra firma.

Before the modern salute, how did U.S. troops salute their superiors?

U.S. soldiers started by removing their hats. Gradually, that custom gave way to a simple hat touch. Finally, that gesture gave way to a salute.

You do NOT typically salute in which situation?

Saluting is primarily an outdoor activity. But in limited situations, like offering up reports, you’ll still have to have your salute at the ready.

When should civilians offer a crisp salute?

Civilians look ridiculous when they’re saluting. That’s just one of many reasons they should never do it.

When junior soldiers salute superior officers, they should also offer what?

Junior soldiers saluting superior officers should salute and also offer an appropriate greeeting. "Good morning, sir/ma’am" is a good start.

True or false, are veterans allowed to salute?

Saluting is considered an honor. And it is one that’s extended to veterans and former service members.

If two soldiers greet one another in civilian attire, what should they do?

In uniform, saluting isn’t optional. But if two soldiers are wearing civilian clothes, the salutes aren’t necessary.

If you’re in the brig for a ship violation, when should you offer a salute?

You’re behind bars, and thus, you’ve lost the privilege of saluting. You’ll have to earn that privilege back, swabbie.

What should veterans do when the national anthem is played?

In the past, veterans were supposed to put their hands over their hearts for the national anthem. These days, though, it’s considered just fine if they snap into a salute instead.

Where should your thumb be when you’re saluting?

All of your fingers should be straight and in a single plane. That includes your thumb, soldier.

If you’re a POW and addressing an enemy officer, what should you do?

You don’t salute anyone when you’re a POW. And if given the chance, you take down every enemy officer you can.

How should civilians offer salutes?

Civilians aren’t really allowed to salute, per se. But they can put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem and during other displays of patriotism.

If a child salutes a soldier, what should the soldier do?

Kids mimic adults and often salute soldiers. There’s no formal regulation for this one, but soldiers agree that it’s very disrespectful not to return the salute of an innocent child.

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