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Dutch soldiers to give military salute again when abroad

Defense Chief General Berlijn:

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE - Members of the all-professional Dutch Army should return to the age-old custom of saluting, especially when abroad on military missions. According to Defense Chief of Staff, Air Force General Berlijn, foreign partners in peacekeeping missions fail to understand the casual attitude displayed by Dutch soldiers towards their superiors, especially the officers of foreign contingents.

The General stops short of making the military salute an official requirement again. Adopting such a rule would mean that infractions will become punishable, a consequence ‘going too far’ for Gen. Berlijn.

Foreign military personnel often have wondered about such greetings as ‘Hoi’ or ‘Hallo’ used by soldiers when meeting superiors. A hand salute as was common in the Dutch Armed Forces before the mid 1970s should become the norm again, says General Berlijn. The salute was abolished in a time when Dutch soldiers were allowed to grow shoulder-long hair and join a soldier’s union, the first in the world. In the 1970s, the Dutch Army became the butt of jokes in the military world, with soldiers looking more like hippies, and conscripts received hair nets as part of their kit.

The desire to reinstate saluting first was voiced by the ranks of NCO’s. A professional army should have professional attitudes, and saluting as a matter-of-course reflects professionalism and discipline, according to the non-commissioned officers. Earlier last year, General Berlijn already had banned another casual habit in the military, the so-called werkmansborrel (workhorse drink). Calling it ‘inappropriate’ for soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, he ended the tradition of them having two beers at the end of a strenuous day.

The salute is thought to have originated in Roman times, when citizens who wanted to see a public official approached him with their right hand raised to show they did nod hold a dagger. This gesture gradually became one of showing respect to superiors.