Friday, October 30, 2009

Obama's trip to Dover

President Obama went to Dover, Delaware to honor soldiers (and DEA agents) killed in Afghanistan. It's really good to see that our President has first hand experience with the tragic effects of his decision to continue the war. It was also good to see that he clearly took the time to get it right.

The military has regs for everything. In basic training you're taught how to march, how to stand, how to salute, all that. Some of these moves are quite stylized; not stylish, just done in a certain way. When a soldier (and I assume, any member of the armed forces)is told to come to attention, the soldier puts the heels together with toes pointed slightly out. Shoulders back, back straight, arms down at the side.

But wait, there's more. Your hand is cupped; your fingers are curled in and your thumb is pressed into the bend of your finger. The thumb is placed along the center line of the pants, essentially where the seam is, causing your left elbow to jut back a bit.

This posture is basic, and so ingrained that you see it all the time, even when it's not expected. Example; recently I was in a staff meeting with various colonels, majors, and some sergeants major. A soldier was to be given an award. We were all kind of milling around, waiting, when the announcer said loudly "Attention to Orders." Instantly, all these soldiers - some who've been out of basic training for over 30 years, like me - snapped to attention and held the posture I described above. To a person. A former soldier who had retired and is employed as a civilian for the Guard also snapped to that same posture. It was instinctive.

Saluting is also stylized; your forearm is a straight line with your hand making a 45 degree angle from elbow to head, your hand touches the brim of your cap, or if not cap, just above your right eyebrow. And on and on.

Anyway, I have been watching President Obama deplane and salute the service member saluting him at the bottom of the ramp. Up to now, Obama's salute has been the kind of a lazy salute a person might make if they only see saluting on TV.

Well, clearly before Dover he took lessons. I watched him pretty closely, and he had it all down. Look the picture here. Heels together, shoulders back, left hand cupped. (He didn't quite get the placement of the thumb along the seam.) He's got a better salute than the soldier on his left, whose hand and forearm don't form a straight line.

Not only did he have some lessons, they practiced. You don't march out as they did, and you especially don't execute a slow salute (part of the honoring process) in unison as they did, without practice.

So for me, it was nice to see him honor the fallen not only with his presence, but with his effort to do it right.


fortboise said...

Interesting. I pretty much know about the details, even though I never had the "instinct" drilled into me. I did notice in one of the Dover stills that Obama's salute was "pretty good," if maybe not regulation. (His elbow seemed a little high.)

I haven't made a study of it, but your item made me wonder how GWB's military discipline stacked up? (Should be good; he supposedly was in the military, after all.)

Alan said...

GWB's salutes coming off Marine One were pretty lax. I never saw him stand at attention.

rbs said...

For follow up, see