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Customs and Courtesies of US Military You Should Know!

For centuries, US military has been a force to reckon with. Known for exceptional discipline and decorum, U.S military’s discipline is instilled in each soldier of the US military.

One of the main reasons for this immaculate discipline is the set of customs the US military has been following for a very long time. These customs enable each soldier of the US military to respect and honor fellow soldiers and officers. These practices create a formal atmosphere of respect and honor.

Different branches of the armed services have altered versions of different customs and courtesies. Here we will be talking about the various customs and courtesies prevalent in the US military.

Courtesies to Color, Music, and Individuals

A courtesy is a sign of respect shown by any soldier to the nations’ colors, music, or individuals. These courtesies show mutual respect and good manners towards comrades.

Courtesies to colors

Flags that are hoisted on flagpoles with finials (the top decorative pieces) are known as colors. These colors need to be lowered at sundown. After lowering, they need to be folded and encased to protect them. It is the responsibility of any soldier passing an unfurled flag to pay respect to the army colors. If a soldier is passing an unfurled flag, he/she should salute at a six steps’ distance and hold the salute until it has passed six steps distance beyond.

This kind of respect only needs to be paid to colors and not to all small flags carried by individuals. One should not salute the flag if they have any object in your right hand, a cigarette, or a pipe in your mouth.

Courtesies to music 

Military music plays a very vital role in any organization. It creates a sense of alertness, urgency, attention, and confidence. Whenever a soldier is outdoors and hears the United States National Anthem, “To the Color,” “Reveille,” or “Hail to the Chief,” at the first note, all Soldiers in uniform and not in formation should face the flag or the music. Stand in attention and give the prescribed salute. This salute position should be held until the last note of the music. Personnel not in uniform should also pay respect to music by removing headgear, stand in attention, and place their hand over their heart.  

All moving vehicles should stop. Soldiers riding in a car or on a motorcycle should dismount the vehicle and pay respect. Soldiers sitting in other types of military vehicles and buses should remain in the car, and the individual in charge of each vehicle should get off and salute. Tank and armored car commanders should salute from the vehicle.

When indoors, solders must stand in attention, facing a flag or the music.

There is another form of military music that needs to be respected. The bugle call. A bugle call can be used to call

  • Soldiers to Attention or Assembly points 
  • Carry On, Mess Call, Recall
  • To the Color, National Anthem 
  • Reveille and Retreat.   

Courtesies to individuals

When a high-ranking officer comes amidst soldiers in an informal gathering, it is customary to show respect. This shows good ethics and manners. To pay respect to an officer, a soldier should get up when an officer walks into a room and offer a place of respect on the table.

Removing headgear is a mark of respect. A soldier should remove headgear when indoors and not carrying arms. Removing a beret when going in places of worship, a court, or during an official reception is essential. When outdoors the headgear should not be removed to show respect

Military customs: Rank and Saluting

Military customs are time-honored practices and outward signs of military courtesy that create a formal atmosphere of respect and honor.

Military rank

For thousands of years, leaders in the army have worn symbols to show position and authority. This tradition of rank is followed till date in the military. Military rank, unlike a paygrade in the corporate world, is a visible mark of responsibility and leadership. It is customary to recognize an officer of higher rank with a salute.

When to salute



As mentioned earlier, a salute is a sign of respect towards officers of higher rank. It is imperative to salute an officer when in uniform. Discussed below are the times a soldier must salute

  • When the US National Anthem or foreign national anthems play 
  • When uncased national colors are visible  
  • During Ceremonies  
  • During raising or lowering of the army flag 
  • When the Pledge of Allegiance is said outdoors 
  • When discharging an officer or turning over controls of formations 
  • When interpreting reports 
  • When greeting officers of foreign countries 
  • When you see an officers in an official vehicle.


When not to salute

There are a few situations when it is not necessary to salute. There is no need to salute when indoors, except when reporting to a superior officer. Also, there is no need to salute if the officer is not in uniform, and one cannot recognize his/her rank. Most of all, a soldier should use common sense to decide if he/she should salute or not. Like for example, a soldier does not need to salute when on a bus or driving a vehicle.

Reporting to an officer 

There are a set of guidelines that need to be followed when reporting to an officer.

Reporting indoors

When reporting to a senior officer in his/her office, the Cadet, should remove headgear, knock and enter. When acknowledged, he/she should approach within two steps of the officer’s desk, halt and salute. After this, the soldier should make a reporting statement, “Sir (Ma’am), Cadet Jones reports.” Hold the salute until the report is complete, and the officer has returned your salute. At the end of the report, salute again, holding the salute until it is returned.

When reporting indoors with arms, the procedure remains the same, except the Cadet, don’t remove headgear and presents a salute prescribed for the weapon you are carrying. When reporting to an NCO, the procedures are the same, except the two exchange no salutes.

Reporting Outdoors 

When reporting outdoors, move quickly toward the officer. Stop approximately three steps from the officer, salute, and concisely make your report as done indoors.


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