Officership and Customs and Courtesies

Officership in the Army Profession (K Draffen):

The Officer’s Oath: “I, _____, so solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.”

One of the unique things about the United States Army is that we swear our allegiance to the Constitution and not to an individual.  This is one way in which military coups are discouraged and we do not have a dictator take office as president.  In turn, we defend the people of the United States by upholding the Constitution and the laws that follow it.  By entering the officer position, we do so with the pure sense of serving our nation.

As officers, we should be forward and open to leadership.  There is no room for “mental reservation.”  If we were to enter with the purpose of evasion, the Army Values and Principles of Officership (Duty, Honor, Loyalty, Service to Country, Competence, Teamwork, Subordination, and Leadership) would make us obvious and we would be discharged from being a Commissioned Officer.

Duty, Honor, and Loyalty are big requirements to be an Army Officer.  We must faithfully and fully take our position as leaders seriously and embrace our roles as our lifestyle.

Customs and Courtesies in the Army (T Burton):

Customs, courtesies, and traditions in the US Army instill pride in its members and observing them shows appreciation for the soldiers who have served throughout America’s history. A custom is an established practice, and military courtesy is the respect and consideration shown towards others.

                The salute is considered the most important of all military courtesies; it shows pride in yourself, your unit, and the Army. The fact that the junior extends the greeting first is merely a point of etiquette, and a salute extended or returned makes the same statement. Do not salute with one hand in your pocket, while smoking, or with your coat unbuttoned or partly unbuttoned.

                Courtesy to a senior indicates respect for authority, responsibility, and experience. Courtesy towards juniors expresses appreciation and respect for them as fellow Soldiers. Courtesy paid to the Colors and the National Anthem expresses loyalty to the United States. The primary values for conducting ceremonies are to render honors, preserve traditions and stimulate esprit de corps.

                Military courtesy is a prerequisite to discipline and courtesy must be accorded to all ranks and on all occasions. Certain customs in the Army adds interest and graciousness to the Army life, such as when given a dinner invitation or social calls.

There are certain rules in the Army which at times seem ridiculous. Here’s a short list.

  • No hands in the pockets.
  • Formations in combat zone
  • Wearing a reflective belt at noon in a war zone.
  • The “no umbrella” rule, why not allowing a professional-looking, simple black umbrella?
  • We ask our soldiers to go to war, but we make them request a pass to drive beyond 70 miles radius off the base.
  • The beret is an absolutely useless piece of headgear.


Let’s talk about smoking while walking. Back in the day in the Army you could smoke in the barracks, at rout-step march and even while running. Now you cannot eat, drink, smoke, or talk on the cell phone while walking in uniform.

Some interesting tidbits on matters of courtesy in the Army:

  • The correct position for troops when “Retreat” is playing is parade rest for uniformed personnel in formation and attention for uniformed personnel not in formation.
  • The proper way to answer a military telephone is to state your unit or section, rank and name, and “How may I help you sir or ma’am?”
  • While posted as a sentinel, if you are talking to an officer, do not interrupt your conversation to salute another officer. However, if the officer to whom you are talking to salutes his senior, you will also salute.


Refer to AR600-25 for Military Customs and Courtesy and FM 7-21.13 Chapter 4.

    • Pork Soda
    • February 5th, 2010

    Where are the ‘smoking while walking in uniform’ and ‘talking on the phone while walking in uniform’ rules referenced? Seems to me that removing these rules would cut down on lost time.

    • Rambler1
    • February 7th, 2010

    My question is addressed to the “Officership in the Army Profession” post. Can a commissioning officer choose to omit the phrase “So help me god”? If so, is this considered an affirmation instead of an oath and is it still valid?

    • deathstroke13
    • February 8th, 2010

    I did a little poking around and could not find any reverence for “walking and talking”. However, I read a blog on and it seems that it is just a generally excepted policy and enforced by units and even posts.

    As a side not I like how a business suit is considered “informal dress”

    • shake and bake
    • February 8th, 2010

    Why is a beret considered a useless piece of headgear? When the beret started to be used it was because it was better then the other options. Used first in WWI, it replaced a stiff formal cap by which tankers could function better in their small spaces.

      • ?
      • February 8th, 2010

      It doesn’t keep your head cool when it is hot outside or wawrm when it is cold. It also doesn’t keep sun, wind, or rain out of your face/eyes. But it does allow other something to laugh at when you do not know how to wear it properly and you look like a chef.

      • TopShelf
      • February 9th, 2010

      Since GEN Shinkseki made it the Army wide headgear the general feeling among a vast majority of soldiers has been that its a pain in the ass! And that is just wearing it, not to mention shaving, shaping and forming a new one. The old winter hats had earflaps for keeping ears warm (many people cut it out of their covers) and both summer and winter caps kept the sun out of your eyes.

    • Rooster Cogburn
    • February 8th, 2010

    On officership, I referenced a report posted on the Strategic Studies Institute at the US Army War College entitled. “ARMY PROFESSIONALISM, THE MILITARY ETHIC, AND OFFICERSHIP IN THE 21st CENTURY”, written by, MAJ Tony Pfaff, MAJ John Nagl, and Dr. Don Snider.

    The report was written published in 1999. I referenced the section “Principled approach to officership” and it provides inspiration in 12 principles, offered as a guide for pre-commissioned officers.

    The report as a whole is insightful, but I picked a quote that sums the principles up at the end.
    “…The vocation of officership should be understood and executed, indeed lived, in a consistent and principled manner.”
    Take a look at the principles that are provided in this report.

    The report can be found here>

    • stewiegriffen519
    • February 8th, 2010

    There is a rule stating that the beret is a useless piece of headgear??? I would also like to know where the salute originated from and how it became common practice in today’s U.S. military.

    In regards to the hands in the pockets. This seems to be a thing that only lower ranking individuals must follow, while I have noticed many officers and higher ranking sergeants do not follow. Is this something that we just let slide because of rank? or is the pocket rule more of a guideline than a rule?

      • CDT Coco
      • February 12th, 2010

      AR 670-1 paragraph 1-9 section a(3) page 6 says specifically all personnel will NOT put their hands in their pockets except to put something in or to take out. We should not let this slide. Your 1ST and SMG won’t.

      Although not officially known it is commonly thought the salute came from medieval times when knights in armour would approach each other on horse back and would use their right hand to open their visor indicating they do not have a weapon in their hand and they mean peace. Eventually the British dropped the armour but kept the salute which was handed down to the American Army.

    • John Wayne
    • February 8th, 2010

    I was curious why you chose honor, duty and loyalty to make your last statement. The other army values and principles of leadership are just as important. Or are there any other sort of lifestyle aspects that we should embrace as an officer that are not listed?

    • hdraff
    • February 8th, 2010

    I always knew that there were things expected of officers that were not expected of enlisted soldiers. However, until this week’s reading I didn’t realize the extent of what some of these expectations entailed. For instance, I didn’t realize that it is customary for your spouse to visit the spouse of a hospitalized soldier. I also didn’t know about the Birth of a Child and the New Year’s Commander’s Call. These expectations add a level of aerostatic professionalism that I did not know existed in this profession. It also demonstrates a lot of tradition that still exists in the Army.

    • Halo33
    • February 10th, 2010

    I understand that some of the customs and courtesies may seem silly at first, but after awhile I realized that these things were just something more to differentiate the U.S. Army from the rest. I did not respect these customs and courtesies at first but in time I learned that using these develops discipline, respect, and knowledge for your peers, ordinates, and sub-ordinates. With these and every aspect that the Army enforces builds the character of the professional position that we all will assume upon commissioning.

    • армейский кадет
    • February 11th, 2010

    “Military courtesy is a prerequisite to discipline and courtesy must be accorded to all ranks and on all occasions.” Does this apply to foreign troops as well? For instance our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, do they receive the same courtesy as our leadership receives??

    • Blazer
    • February 11th, 2010

    The salute was started a long time ago to show that you had no weapons in your hands ie to knife somebody. It later moved on to cover respect as well. With all these rules I hope its not too hard to remember them all and get embarrassed by your troops for doing something incorrect.

    • Cadet Smooth
    • February 11th, 2010

    When I first did the reading this week, it seemed like we were just kind of going over two unrelated things. the more I read it and thought about it, I realized that customs and courtesies and officership are closer related than I realized.

    The report that Rooster Cogburn posted talks about how officers set the standards for the profession. Customs and courtesies are one example of these standards. If officers are not setting the example and enforcing the standards when it comes to seemingly smaller things like that, it will be that much more difficult to enforce the standards when it comes to the big things.

    • Lucious Johnson
    • February 11th, 2010

    I understand the importance of customs and courtesies but at the same time I find it easy to become annoyed with them. I feel that a lot of times when we come together for an event i.e. Veterans Day that we place an extreme amount of emphasis on looking good and getting everything right and we ultimately forget what were actually there for. Its as if every military event is made to make an individualfeel uncomfortable. I also feel that it can at times get in the way of leading. Its hard to lead properly when you are constantly worried that your going to forget a phrase incorrect or something simple wrong.

    • creativerick
    • February 11th, 2010

    The beret while hated by some and loved by others, provides a way of enlisted soldiers to represent their brigade. Soldiers who complain about the beret likely are the same ones who complained about ironing the BDUs and shining the black leather boots. I personally don’t have a problem with it.

    Like aforementioned the walking while talking or smoking is a post/unit policy. Most Army bases have their own policies. It is important as officers that we know the base policy of the base we are one. Also it is important that we as young LTs know our unit policies, and do not walk and talk on our cell phones if it is the rule.

    • CDT Coco
    • February 12th, 2010

    I feel strongly about serving the people of America in the US Army. I also have read, understand, and feel proud to serve and protect the constitution. The only probem I have is being forced to serve in an army I did not sign up for under commanders who are not American. I am not talking about joint combat missions, I am talking about the United Nations. Do we as officers have a joice about serving in the UN or do we have to if we are ordered to? I will do to the best of my ability what I am ordered to. I just do not feel it is right to be forced to take part in an army I did not sign up for; should the issue come up.

    • Top Shelf
    • February 17th, 2010

    LTC Basso mentioned this in class but what I wanted to talk about was thank you cards and business cards. Unless I get somewhere and see that I need to order some, I never will. I for a while now have and always kept a small box of thank you cards on my desk, and I plan to for the rest of my career. Never be afraid to send a card thanking someone for something they did for you if you feel they did something that warrants a thank you card.

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