Sunrise Reveille

Friday , August 06, 2010 - 11:14 AM

Lee Anne Hensley - Hilltop Times staff

A t 7:15 a.m. last Monday, while a majority of workers were driving to work in the dark, the 649th Munitions Squadron members fell into formation in a snowplowed area in front of their building. The crescent moon still hung overhead in the clear 16-degree air and the only audible sounds were those of boots crunching on the snow and the commands from Maj. Mark Sotallaro, the squadron's commander, perfecting the rank formations. By 7:20 a.m., the ranks of 120 Airmen were facing north, toward the squadron's new flagstaff that was lit by two large spotlights. Its American flag was still folded and being held nearby by an Airman, who was delegated flag security detail along with a noncommissioned officer and another Airman.

"Parade rest," Sotallaro commanded.

The Airmen stood quietly at parade rest, still facing the bare flagstaff. Only occasional sniffs could be heard as the Airmen reacted to the cold, but no one moved or spoke loudly.

The sun finally began to rise over the Wasatch mountain range as 7:30 a.m. approached.

The first few notes of Reveille punctuated the cold air, signaling the squadron to snap to attention. When "To the Colors" began to play over the base public address system, the two Airmen on flag security detail raced to raise the flag up the pole before the bugle song ended while those in formation held a salute.

By 7:31 a.m., the sun illuminated the waving American flag and the 649th MUNS formation standing once again at attention.

Sotallaro briefly thanked the Airmen for participating in the squadron's first Reveille ceremony of the year and dismissed them to their daily duties.

"We wanted to get back to the basics and focus on what we are doing here in the squadron" Sotallaro said about the squadron's plans to hold this reveille ceremony the first Monday of each month. "To me, it doesn't get any more basic than doing a reveille formation to get the squadron together to honor the flag and to honor what we do in the Air Force."

Although the Jan. 11 ceremony was technically held on the second Monday of this month, Sotallaro said "with last Monday following the weekend after New Year's, it did not seem appropriate, so we held it (Jan. 11)."

According to Army Field Manual 36-2203, Drill and Ceremonies, reveille was originally conducted as "Troop" in 1812 and was designed to muster the unit or for roll call, as well as to signal sentries to leave off night challenging. It was not originally intended specifically as honors for the flag. Today, reveille is conducted to honor the U.S. flag as it is raised in the morning, with the salute rendered during reveille similar to the procedure for Retreat.

The 649th MUNS leadership chose the reveille ceremony over other possible ceremonies because "it is the first part of the duty day and it is the only part of the day that we are together as a squadron," said Sotallaro.

"We are dispatched among different work locations and we don't get to see each other or do things together throughout the day as we go about our daily duties."

Master Sgt. Derek Madsen, superintendent of Munitions Shipping and Receiving and NCO of flag security detail of last Monday's ceremony, admitted that not everyone in the squadron was on board with the early morning squadron activity.

"First they were kind of reluctant (about the ceremony) because it is a new thing for the squadron," said Madsen. "But seeing their eyes after we got done with this morning's ceremony, you could see they were thinking, 'this is all right.'ââ"

Chief Master Sgt. AJ Johnson, 649th MUNS Maintenance superintendent, agreed with Madsen's assessment. "A few of the Airmen told me they have never participated in a reveille ceremony and were a little nervous since they have not done any drills since basic and technical training. However, in true 'AMMO' fashion, they were able to endure the breezy cold conditions to pay their respects to our flag."

Madsen said that respect for the flag goes deep once an Airman participates in a ceremony like the one held last Monday.

"It's great to see that flag go up and to see what they are fighting for and working for every single day, and to see something bigger than them. That flag going up (the staff) represents our Air Force brethren and other military brethren as well."

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