Military courtesy is basically no different from courtesy in civilian life, just good manner and politeness in dealing with other people. The experience of life has proven that courteous behavior is essential in human relations. The distinction between civilian courtesy and military courtesy is that, military courtesies were developed in a military atmosphere and have become customs and traditions of the service.
Most forms of military courtesy have some counterpart in civilian life. For example, you are required to say "Sir" or “Ma’am” when you talk to an officer. Throughout our history, young men and women were taught to say "Sir" to their fathers and other male elders. and “Ma’am” to their mothers, unknown women and female elders. This tradition is still carried on and it is considered good manners for a younger man to say "Sir" when speaking to an older man. The use of the word "Sir" or “Ma’am” is also common in the business world, in the address of letters, and in any well-ordered institution.
Military courtesy is not a one-way street. Enlisted personnel must be courteous to officers, and officers are expected to return the courtesy. Officers respect soldiers as individuals, just as you respect officers as individuals. Without this basis of mutual respect, there can be no military courtesy, and discord will result.
One of the most important of military courtesies is the salute. It is a respectful greeting, a sign of recognition between military persons. It is that, and no more.
Salutes are given and returned. They are a privilege of the military alone. Every officer salutes every other officer, just as every enlisted man salutes every officer. The highest-ranking general in the Army is required to return the salute of the newest private. The fact that the subordinate salutes first is simply common-sense courtesy applied to a military expression; it is for the same reason that gentlemen step aside for ladies in doorways and younger people are...
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