What retreat means to me

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Robert Smith
  • 82nd Training Wing Training Operations
Today, I was reminded about how special an event retreat is and what it means to me. I have the privilege of holding the position of Senior Military Training Leader for the largest Technical Training Wing in the Air Force - Sheppard Air Force Base. Every Tuesday, I am responsible for assembling a ceremony where approximately 200 Airmen attending tech training participate in a formal retreat ceremony.

This is actually a very big production. Two separate formations of 145 Airmen, led by a Military Training Leader and Airmen Leaders, with approximately 40 Airmen in the wing's band performing The National Anthem and 15 Airmen making up the Color Guard. A lot of training and preparation goes into ensuring this event is treated with the level of professionalism it deserves.

Recently, I invited a group of cub scouts to view this ceremony. Beforehand, I explained the significance of Retreat to the scouts, whose ages ranged from eight to 10 years old.

According to Air Force Manual 36-2203 Drill and Ceremonies, the retreat ceremony serves a twofold purpose. It signals the end of the official duty day and serves as a ceremony for paying respect to the flag. I think, to people who serve in uniform, they can appreciate this. But to an 8 year old, how can you paint the right picture of why it is important to "respect the flag"?

This is where it struck me; what retreat means to me. It means the following: it's me saying, "I admire your courage Abraham Lincoln." It means, "I respect your sacrifice and leadership , Col. George "Bud" Day." It means, "I will do my best to teach, lead and take care of your son and daughter, mom and dad." It means, "I will strive to merit the respect of all whom I serve and serve with." It means, "I am proud to wear the same uniform as people like Tech. Sgt. Israel Del Toro."

It means, "thank you, Dad, for serving and teaching me the importance of honor, respect, duty, and service." It means, "I'm mad as hell about the events of Sept. 11 and I want to pull my weight to make sure it never happens again." It means, "Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, you made a tremendous difference." It also means, "honey, boys, you incur a sacrifice too - the sacrifice of having a husband and dad in the military. Thank you for your sacrifice, too."

In the many successes, liberties, freedoms and opportunities that we have, we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us; people who had the courage to give their last full measure of devotion because it was their duty; people who were courageous and did what was right; and people whom we are surrounded by every day.

We owe a lot to each of them. On Sheppard Air Force Base we say "Thank you" every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. That's what retreat means to me.