Thursday, May 27, 2010

UK Flag Institute Spring Meeting 2010: Part VII

The seventh eagerly awaited presentation was given by Lt. Colonel Steve Turpin. Turpin's presentation was entitled National Flags at NATO Headquarters. On NATO's 60th anniversary (1949-2009) Turpin was responsible for flag raising ceremonies at the Supreme Allied Command Transformation, SACT.

Interestingly Turpin is the first non-American to raise the US Flag on the 4th of July at an official US government function. Usually this honor is preformed by a US citizen. Lt. Colonel Turpin also officially raised the French Tri-Colour on Bastille Day.

At any NATO base there is an interesting interplay of politics of how flags should be flown. Like family members at a table, before a set policy was made it was (and sometimes still is) a rather confusing and touchy subject. As of now, the various national flags are rotated to a new position every Sunday. Flags are flown in the alphabetical order according to whichever nation they are in, unless the nation has more than two languages like Belgium, where they officially speak a Dutch and French. Apparently nations with NATO facilities have some discretion on how to fly the flags. But they should follow one rule, they must rotated every Sunday.

The Order of Flying National Flags
at NATO Operations can be rather
sensitive & confusing subject

Another interesting fact is that international flag etiquette is largely based on the US Flag Code, no other nation has such a developed sense of flag protocol. Often times nations will simply follow the guidelines and suggestions detailed in the US Flag Code.

Spanish Flag
Mourning Cravat
An issue at the moment with NATO Flag etiquette is when nations desire to fly their banner at half staff: what should the other flags do? Often, other nations will also lower they banner out of respect. As had recently happened when the Polish President Kaczynski died in plane crash last month. There are also certain days when this must be done, so it can cause a rather unusual display of flags. One solution suggested is that a black mourning cravat (which is basically a black ribbon) be tied to the flag instead of lowering it.

Of things Yin and Yang, NATO's inclusion of West Germany in 1955 spurred the formation of WARSAW PACT. Coincidentally WARSAW PACT first took military action not against NATO but with its own member, a country that no longer exists: Czechoslovakia in 1968. While NATO's first military action took place with another nation that also no longer exists: Yugoslavia in 1999.

Ironically NATO was not waging war against leftists and Communism, rather NATO took military action against right wing Yugoslavians, mostly in defense of Muslims. But since 2001 NATO has been engaged in military action in Central Asia against right wing Muslims. Perhaps Afghanistan will follow the same fate of Yugoslavia, no longer existing by dividing into several smaller states?

The NATO symbol coincidentally looks like a cross

You Can Visit NATO's Official Site Here

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