Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

‘Taking a knee’: An Army tradition

In the Army, taking a knee is a way of gaining perspective. The rest of us could use some of that.

111201-A-8267F-567 U.S. Army military policemen take a knee during a patrol along a road outside Camp Taji, Iraq, on Dec. 2, 2011.  The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.  The military policemen rolled out before sunrise to patrol roads to ensure the safety of the brigade's convoys traveling through the area from Baghdad.  DoD photo by Sgt. Kissta Feldner, U.S. Army.  (Released)
111201-A-8267F-567 U.S. Army military policemen take a knee during a patrol along a road outside Camp Taji, Iraq, on Dec. 2, 2011. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The military policemen rolled out before sunrise to patrol roads to ensure the safety of the brigade's convoys traveling through the area from Baghdad. DoD photo by Sgt. Kissta Feldner, U.S. Army. (Released)
111201-A-8267F-567 U.S. Army military policemen take a knee during a patrol along a road outside Camp Taji, Iraq, on Dec. 2, 2011. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division's Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. The military policemen rolled out before sunrise to patrol roads to ensure the safety of the brigade's convoys traveling through the area from Baghdad. DoD photo by Sgt. Kissta Feldner, U.S. Army. (Released)

One of the oddities of the weekend’s uproar over players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest is that “taking a knee” is a military tradition, especially in the Army. I’ve heard it used most often as a way of pausing, taking a breather, and stepping back to consider the situation. I’ve also heard it used to mean taking a loose form of security during a pause in a patrol, as in the photo above.

“Ramrods, take a knee,” a grizzled sergeant major drawls to David Bellavia’s unit in Fallujah. “Men, I could not be more proud of you if you were my own kids.”

Conversely, an article in Military Review admonishes that professional military education (PME) time is not take a knee time.

One of the oddities of the weekend’s uproar over players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest is that “taking a knee” is a military tradition, especially in the Army. I’ve heard it used most often as a way of pausing, taking a breather, and stepping back to consider the situation. I’ve also heard it used to mean taking a loose form of security during a pause in a patrol, as in the photo above.

“Ramrods, take a knee,” a grizzled sergeant major drawls to David Bellavia’s unit in Fallujah. “Men, I could not be more proud of you if you were my own kids.”

Conversely, an article in Military Review admonishes that professional military education (PME) time is not take a knee time.

So I kind of like the idea of the nation taking a knee and considering our racial situation, and how we can all do better. You know we can.

Photo credit: DoD photo by Sgt. Kissta Feldner, U.S. Army

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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