Military Courtesies for Deploying PHS Officers
A Guide for Commissioned Corps Readiness Force Officers
Commissioned Corps Readiness Force (CCRF) officers should be aware of basic customs, courtesies, and protocols vital to fulfilling civil military operation missions. The basic customs, courtesies, and protocols commissioned officers should be able to demonstrate are addressed in the Basic Officer Training Course (BOTC) offered by the Commissioned Officer’s Training Academy (COTA). All CCRF officers are strongly encouraged to complete BOTC. There are also specific standards of conduct for the behavior of commissioned officers; these standards are addressed in the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual (CCPM). This article serves as a review of customs, courtesies and protocols important for the CCRF officer who is fulfilling civil military operations. It also addresses the importance of understanding the policies and procedures of the Department of Defense (DoD) in relation to the culture and politics of that organization.
Uniformed Service Courtesies
Uniformed service courtesy is an extension of the civilian courtesy system. The courtesies are based on societal principles and imply politeness and considerate behavior. The courtesies may be even more strictly followed on DoD installations identified as training bases, than on those bases with other primary missions.
The most basic act of military courtesy used at a meeting of two military persons is the salute. The salute is an exchange of greetings between military and/or uniformed service personnel.
Proper salute form is performed by raising the right hand until the tip of the forefinger touches the lower part of the headdress, thumb and fingers extended and joined, palm to the left, upper arm horizontal, forearm inclined at 45 degrees, hand and wrist straight while turning the head toward the person being saluted. To complete the salute, drop the arm to its normal position, by the side in one motion, while turning the head and eyes to the front.
Salutes are usually rendered between 6 and 30 paces while under cover (wearing your headgear); however, saluting is more effective between 6 and 10 paces. If running, you should slow down to a walk prior to saluting. If standing you should face the senior officer, come to attention, and then render the salute. Salutes should be rendered when officers meet and just prior to departure if a conversation is held. It is the junior officer's responsibility to initiate the salutes prior to departure. Salutes should be rendered and returned to all members of uniformed services. Some services salute in uncovered situations, the proper response is to greet the person saluting you with “Good Morning,” “Good Afternoon,” or “Good Evening,” depending on the time of day. When approaching a group of officers of different ranks, the salute should be directed toward the senior officer. Likewise, if a senior officer approaches a group of officers, the officers should all stop what they are doing and render a proper salute to the senior officer.
- Enlisted personnel salute officers.
- Junior officers salute senior officers when meeting or passing.
- When several officers are being saluted, all shall return the salute.
- When overtaking a senior officer (passing), salute when abreast, while saying “By your leave, sir or ma’am.” The senior officer should return your salute and say, “carry-on,” “very well,” or “permission granted.” You may then drop the salute and proceed.
Salute and Greeting
A salute should be accompanied with a greeting such as “Good Morning Sir or Ma’am.” Officers below the rank of Commander (CDR 0-5) may be addressed as “Mister” or “Miss,” while officers at or above the rank of CDR are usually addressed by their rank – “Good Evening CDR Smith.” You can never go wrong using “Sir” or “Ma’am,” but it is a nice touch to properly address a senior officer.
Salute and “Honors,” Playing of National or PHS Anthem When an officer is covered during “Honors,” he/she salutes. When an officer is not covered during “Honors,” he/she is to stand at attention facing the American flag for the playing of the National Anthem or facing the PHS flag for the playing of the PHS Anthem.
Do NOT Salute:
- When uncovered (not wearing your “cover” /hat); indoors
- When carrying articles in both hands
- When in public conveyances or when obviously inappropriate
- When in public places and where inappropriate (theaters, hotels, restaurants, etc.)
Posting of Colors
Uncovered officers, not in uniform, should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over their heart. Officers in uniform should never place their hand over their heart. Officers in uniform and covered (wearing hat) should salute; officers in uniform and uncovered (not wearing hat) should stand at attention.
Pledge of Allegiance
Officers in uniform uncovered (not wearing hat) should face the flag, stand at attention, and recite the pledge.
Covered vs. Uncovered
You can never go wrong if you are outdoors and wearing your cover (headgear). Outdoors includes covered walks, theater marquees and overhangs that extend over the sidewalk. Officers should be uncovered (not wearing headgear) when indoors.
Riding in a Car
The place of honor is always on the right, so the senior officer should sit on the right (curbside). This also holds true when walking with a senior officer. It is the junior officer’s responsibility to line up on the correct side of the senior officer. When entering a vehicle, the junior officer should enter first and the senior officer last, so the senior officer will be in position to exit the vehicle first followed by the next in rank and so on.
Man or Woman First
If a male officer is with a female officer, the woman goes first except when (1) assistance is needed, (2) there is no one to escort the female officer to the appropriate seat in a public area, (3) there is a large crowd where the man will clear the way, (4) at official military occasions when rank takes precedence over gender.
When seated and uncovered, a junior officer should stand and come to attention when approached by a senior officer. At this point, the senior officer should say “At ease,” “Carry on,” or “Be seated.” All junior officers should stand immediately when a flag rank officer enters the room. The flag rank officer should then give one of the above commands.
During meals, junior officers should begin eating only after the highest ranking officer begins to eat. The highest-ranking officer at a table should begin eating after the highest-ranking officer in the room begins his/her meal, then other officers at the table may begin. It is the junior officer’s responsibility to perform this act of courtesy; however, the senior officers should also be aware others are waiting for their lead.
Department of Defense and Public Health Service
The Department of Defense (DoD) and Public Health Service (PHS) may work together on common missions; however, they each have their own persona. For instance, in DoD, it is common for rank to decide what and how something will be done; whereas in PHS, the perspective is frequently that all contribute. DoD has both a formal chain of command (not agency specific, adherence mandatory) and a perceived chain of command (senior officer asserts “in-charge”). Understanding the differences between DoD and PHS perspectives is important to the success of joint civil military operations.
The PHS officer needs to understand the politics as well as the policy of when to speak or confront someone in DoD. If the mission is an Emergency Support Function (ESF) #8 response, and PHS is the lead, PHS gives DoD a specific task and then the DoD individual-in-charge determines the parameters for his/her personnel. If the mission is an augmentation of a DOD led international humanitarian mission, PHS may support DoD, and PHS would fall under DoD guidelines (using their regulations for courtesy, rank, etc.). In the case that an operation is an augmentation of a DOD led international humanitarian mission, the mission direction and parameters are from entities based at the Pentagon or Regional Command and not in the field, so the DoD individual-in-charge in the field will follow the mission as the authority commands. In a similar circumstance, a PHS officer may tend to be more flexible and adapt the response of the mission to immediate needs as they arise.
DoD officers are accustomed to being in-charge. Therefore, when DoD officers are supporting a PHS led mission and are interacting with PHS, they may experience difficulty-relinquishing command. They may not understand the Federal Response Plan (FRP) and their role in Emergency Support Function #8 (ESF #8), as most DoD officers are not taught FRP ESF #8.
DoD has very explicit regulations (standards of conduct) regarding interactions among enlisted personnel and officers. For example, first names are never used. DoD enlisted personnel wear “cloth” rank and PHS officers should extend courtesy (return salutes) to them. It should also be noted that enlisted personnel expect to be directed by their senior DoD enlisted Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). If a CCRF officer is to interface with a DoD enlisted personnel unit, he/she should find the unit’s senior NCO and tell him/her what needs to be done and allow the NCO to direct his/her unit. It is crucial that PHS officers be aware of these standards of conduct and respectful of them when interacting with DoD personnel.
PHS officers should NOT socialize (be overly friendly with, mix with, etc.) the DoD enlisted personnel. They don’t expect it – in fact it makes them quite uncomfortable. This is not MASH 4077. Do not fraternize! From the Initial Entry Training (IET) Soldier’s Handbook, Tradoc Pamphlet 600-4, 01October1999, page 3-12 “It has been a long-established military custom that officers will not associate with enlisted persons on terms of military equality. Such associations commonly are defined as fraternization and have been punishable by court martial. Fraternization is easier to describe than it is to define, and it is seldom the subject that commands attention unless it occurs along with some other criminal offense. Nevertheless, the President expressly has forbidden fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel and between drill sergeants, NCOs, and soldiers. As a matter of loyalty to the Army and your unit, you have the responsibility to avoid fraternization, or even the appearance of fraternization."
The more successful PHS officers not only understand the policies and procedures of DoD, they also learn the culture and politics of the organization. It is important to mention that DoD is on duty 24/7 where PHS is “subject to” duty 24/7. Each is equally significant to the success of civil military operations but each begins that mission from a different perspective.
1. Military Protocol: Uniformed Customs and Courtesies. Retrieved November 1, 2001 from hwww.atsdr.cdc.gov/SO/milprot.html.
2. Thoumaian, A. (2001). Military Courtesy and Conduct. Retrieved November 1, 2001 from http://oep.osophs.dhhs.gov/dmat/resource/mil_courtesy_cond.html.
3. US Army Training Pamphlets.