Military Customs and Courtesy
Content below was origionally developed for PowerPoint presentation.
- Each USPHS Commissioned Officer (CO) has a grade/rank/title.
- The rank/grade or full title is included in all official USPHS documents concerning the CO.
- Our rank/title is used between civilians and uniformed services, just as “professor” and “senator” are used.
- Exceptions to titles:
- Titles of some top positions can be used instead of, or in addition to rank.
- Any master of a ship is addressed as "The Captain" of the ship, regardless of his/her rank. For instance, Lieutenant Jones, the Captain of (name of ship) would be addressed as Captain Jones while on the ship he/she commands, or by the ship’s company on or off the ship.
- The Commander of an Army, Marine, or Air Force unit is addressed as " The Commander or The Commanding Officer," e.g., "The Commanding Officer, Colonel Jones." Another obvious example is "Admiral Jones, The Surgeon General" or "Surgeon General Jones."
You may "shorten” some of our USPHS titles in informal verbal conversation and correspondence. Occasions like addressing informally a “Lieutenant Junior Grade” as simply “Lieutenant”, or a “Lieutenant Commander” as “Commander”. Retired USPHS CO’s are authorized to use their title socially and commercially, subject to prescribed limitations. Official signature will include the retired status (Ret) or (Retired)
Service dress blues; correct way to hold hat.
When in dining facilities, never place your cover on the table in which you are about to eat, it’s not proper.
Covers (No such thing as a military “hat”)
- Cover refers to wearing of the headgear. USPHS & Navy only salutes when covered.
- Remove cover when indoors like in an office building, kitchens, libraries, dwelling, building lobby or airport.
- Covered walks and shelters open to the sides are considered outdoors, and thus you wear your cover.
- Remember, if you wear your cover, then the rules for engagement for saluting is in force.
Saluting when not in uniform and uncovered is not usually performed by members of the Naval Services. You may see this practice in the Army and/or the Air Force. If you are saluted and you are not in uniform or in uniform and not covered, tradition dictates that you do not salute. Instead you may great the person saluting you with "Good Morning", "Good Afternoon", or "Good Evening" depending on the situation. If you approach someone who is senior to you and you are in civilian attire, you do not salute. Instead, you may say "Good Morning Sir or Ma'am" depending on the situation.
When to be Covered vs. Uncovered is a common question among uniformed service members. Each military installation has their own unique regulations regarding when to be covered, but you can never go wrong if you are "Outdoors and are wearing your cover (hat). The real confusion lies in defining what is considered "Outdoors".
Covered may include:
- Inside Airport Terminals
- Salutes must be rendered and returned to all members of the Uniformed Services: The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
- Do exchange between fellow USPHS CO’s and our sister uniformed services officers and enlisted.
- Recognizing and properly returning salutes from enlisted personnel is at the "Heart of Military Courtesy".
When the National Anthem is played, USPHS CO’s
Stand at attention; face the flag or secondarily the music.
If under arms Salute.
Never dip the USA flag (exception: US Naval vessels)
USPHS/CDC/ATSDR flags are considered organizational color and ARE dipped during the National Anthem, foreign National color, and rarely for a foreign dignitary.
Funeral in Uniform:
Face the casket as it approaches, render the salute.
When the casket is lowered into the grave
During the firing volley
During the sounding of TAPS
Honorary USPHS pallbearers in uniform will salute, when not in motion.
Males remove cover, right hand over heart.
Females stand at attention.
- Stand/walk erectly/Head up,Chin up
- Look squarely at the person you are saluting
- The JUNIOR takes the FIRST INITIATIVE and holds the salute until acknowledged, then completes the salute by dropping the hand smartly and quietly to your side.
- Begin the salute usually about 6-paces (15-feet) from the person or colors to be saluted (by regulation not to exceed 30-paces) or at the point of nearest approach.
- It is not improper to salute a senior, even if they do not notice your salute.
- 1st Move: Raise right hand smartly
- Thumb/fingers extended and joined
- Hand & Wrist in same plane (straight)
- Tip of forefinger (index) touches lower part of headdress or forehead
- Above and slightly to the right of the right eye
- Upper arm: horizontal to the floor
- Forearm: Inclined at 45-degrees
- HOLD THE SALUTE UNTIL IT IS RETURNED
- 2ND MOVEMENT:
- Lower hand crisply in one motion and silently
- Officially from: 1st rising of the day to noon “Good Morning:
- Noon to sunset “Good afternoon”
- Sunset to turning in: Good evening”
- Allow enough time/distance for the senior to return the greeting.
- When overtaking an officer who is senior to you, tradition dictates that you must render a hand salute and say "BY YOUR LEAVE SIR or MA'AM" depending on the situation. The officer who is senior will return your salute and say "CARRY-ON ". You may then drop your salute and proceed.
- More than two people present and of different officer ranks.
- The general rule that applies is that you always salute the senior officer no matter how many other officers are present.
- When a senior CO approaches junior CO’s in conversation. The juniors stop their conversation and the juniors initiate the salute to the senior.
- When a walking junior CO is overtaking a senior (walking in the same direction), when abreast of senior, the junior renders the salute and states “By your leave”; the senior returns the salute and greeting.
- When equally ranked CO’s approach, the more courteous initiates the salute.
Salute but once, if the senior remains in the immediate area and no conversation takes place.
On the approach of a group of officers who are not in formation, first person in the group noticing the senior officer calls self/others to attention. All in the non-detail group salute.
If in formation, then the designated person
When two groups of officers encounter each other. The junior USPHS CO initiates the salute to the senior group. All of the junior group CO’s render the salute following the lead of their group leader and hold the salute, until their designated leader lowers the salute.
When junior CO(s) approach senior CO’s in conversation, the juniors still initiated the salute, and the seniors return the salute.
- Head erect and staring straight
- Heels together, feet turned out equally forming a 45 degree angle with the body weight resting equally on the heels and balls of the feet
- Keep legs straight without stiffening or locking the knees
- Hold body erect with the hips level, stomach in, chest lifted and arched, and the shoulders square and even
- Arms hang straight along the sides/seams; curling the fingers as if holding roll of quarters
Adhering to strict form, when being directly approached and/or addressed by a senior officer, subordinate personnel in uniform should come to attention and salute, or just stand at attention if in a covered area. After the salute is returned, the subordinate will complete his/her salute. The subordinate should remain at attention until otherwise instructed, and speak only in response to a question, or if given permission after making a request.
A work party engaged in work will continue to work when approached by a senior officer. The leader of the work party, if junior to the approaching officer, will come to attention and salute. If the work party is at rest, the junior officer will call the party to attention before saluting by issuing the command, "Attention." The senior officer will normally return the salute and call out, "As You Were," to the group.
When walking as a unit in formation, the unit leader, when nearing a senior officer, will call the unit to attention, if they are not already walking at attention (i.e., marching, walking in cadence), then the unit leader will initiate a salute.
“Calling to Attention”
- When an officer enters a facility where he out-ranks the senior officer present, the first person recognizing him/her will call "Attention on Deck”.
- Unless specifically entering the facility to address the group, the senior officer should immediately respond with, "As You Were," and then proceed with his/her business.
Positions of Honor
- Position of honor is always to “your” right
- Entering automobiles, small boats, and elevators. Juniors enter first, senior last. On exit: Senior leaves first and juniors last.
The place of Honor is always to the Right, so the senior person will sit on the right. This also holds true if you are walking with two or more people (the senior person is always on the right). It is the junior person who is responsible for lining-up on the correct side of the senior officer (to the left).
- If confronted by a senior officer about a remission in courtesy (whether true or not), it is usually advisable to stand at attention and receive the information offered without argument.
- When the senior officer has finished, the service member should salute (if wearing cover), and deliver an appropriate reply, e.g., "Thank you, Sir/Ma’am, I stand corrected," holding the salute until it is returned, or the senior officer departs.
It’s best not to argue with a senior officer and avoid potential disrespectful words rather than risk embarrassment. If corrected by a junior officer, kindly and professionally thank them for their attention to detail. Never behave disrespectfully to subordinates when corrected, it damages future credibility.
“Becoming” an Officer
- Have the right attitude, demeanor
- Extended to the uniform, not the person
- Never ignore a fellow officer within verbal distance
- Seek eye contact with others further away for a nod/smile of recognition
- Avoid disruptive behavior “in” and “out” of uniform
Remember the uniform is bigger than you are!
Look for opportunities to show your courtesy and professionalism. Believe me, others are watching, and not just your peers. There are more than 100-million living US citizens who are on active duty, served in the past or had a relative/friend in the uniformed service. They are watching and know surprisingly much about our uniform and courtesies. The uniformed services courtesies are much the same now as they were 100-years ago.