Keep your back straight when saluting.
Keep your back straight when saluting.

A military salute is a formal greeting between two members of the armed forces. When dealing with unequal ranks, the lesser-ranking member initiates the salute. To master the art of a proper salute, pay attention to posture, hand position, eye contact, and location and occasion. A poorly executed salute or a properly formed one at the wrong time is embarrassing and unacceptable behavior.

Posture and Eye Contact

Keep your shoulders straight and arms at your side before beginning the salute. Turn the body, head and eyes toward the person or flag. This is done in a crisp, smart motion. Keep eye contact with the object of your salute until she completes the action. A steady gaze is just as important as proper hand position and posture.

Hand Position

With or without headgear, the proper hand position is with your right forefinger just above the right eyebrow, on the edge near your ear. Always use your right hand and keep your fingers together with your arm at a 45-degree angle. With headgear, place your right forefinger just above and to the right of your right eye. To finish the salute, bring your hand down to your side but don’t hit your leg. Control your movements at all times. A sloppy salute is a sign of disrespect to yourself as well as disrespect for the person or flag you are saluting.

Appropriate Use

Besides greeting one another, military personnel should salute during the raising and lowering of flags at reveille and retreat ceremonies, the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem outdoors, or to greet officers of friendly foreign nations. A salute is used to turn over control of formations, to render reports and during the sounding of honors.

Inappropriate Use

A salute should not be conducted indoors except when reporting to an officer or when serving as a guard in a building. It is not necessary for military personnel to exchange a salute when in civilian clothes or in an inappropriate or impractical situation such as in crowded public areas or while operating machinery. Members of the armed forces are not required to salute when they are prisoners.