Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions
The Army is an organization that instills pride in its members because of its history, mission, capabilities, and the respect it has earned in the service of the Nation. A reflection of that pride is visible in the customs, courtesies, and traditions the Army holds. Adherence to them connects us with soldiers throughout America's history.The Army has its own customs, both official and social. Some have been handed down from the distant past while others are of comparatively recent origin. Those customs that endure stand on their own merits. As a long established social organization, the Army observes a number of customs that add to the interest, pleasure, and graciousness of Army life. A custom is an established practice. Customs include positive actions-things you do, and taboos-things you avoid. All established arts, trades, and professions, all races of people, all nations, and even different sections of the same nation have their own practices and customs by which they govern a part of their lives. Many Army customs compliment procedures required by military courtesy, while others add to the graciousness of garrison life. The breach of some Army customs merely brands the offender as ignorant, careless, or ill bred. Violations of other Army customs, however, will bring official censure or disciplinary action. The customs of the Army are its common law. These are a few:Never criticize the Army or a leader in public.Never go "over the heads" of superiors-don't jump the chain of command.Never offer excuses.Never "wear" a superior's rank by saying something like, "the first sergeant wants this done now," when in fact the first sergeant said no such thing. Speak with your own voice.Never turn and walk away to avoid giving the hand salute.Never run indoors or pretend you don't hear (while driving, for example) to avoid standing reveille or retreat.Never appear in uniform while under the influence of alcohol.If you don't know the answer to a superior's question, you will never go wrong with the response, "I don't know sir, but I'll find out." Courtesy among members of the Armed Forces is vital to maintain discipline. Military courtesy means good manners and politeness in dealing with other people. Courteous behavior provides a basis for developing good human relations. The distinction between civilian and military courtesy is that military courtesy was developed in a military atmosphere and has become an integral part of serving in uniform.Most forms of military courtesy have some counterpart in civilian life. For example, we train soldiers to say sir or ma'am when talking to a higher ranking officer. Young men and women are sometimes taught to say sir to their fathers or ma'am to their mothers and likewise to other elders. It is often considered good manners for a younger person to say sir or ma'am when speaking to an older person. The use of the word sir is also common in the business world, such as in the salutation of a letter or in any well-ordered institution.Military courtesy is not a one-way street. Enlisted personnel are expected to be courteous to officers and likewise officers are expected to return the courtesy. Mutual respect is a vital part of military courtesy. In the final analysis, military courtesy is the respect shown to each other by members of the same profession. Some of the Army's more common courtesies include rendering the hand salute, standing at attention or parade rest, or even addressing others by their rank. Military courtesy shows respect and reflects self-discipline. Consistent and proper military courtesy is an indicator of unit discipline, as well. Soldiers demonstrate courtesy in the way we address officers or NCOs of superior rank. Some other simple but visible signs of respect and self-discipline are as follows:When talking to an officer of superior rank, stand at attention until ordered otherwise.When you are dismissed, or when the officer departs,...
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