Why is it important to understand the Traditions & Customs of the Military?
Customs and courtesies are key for a cohesive relationship in the armed forces. Furthermore, all of these beliefs have a set of values that cement the course of action that a service member takes in the course of his daily life.
Military traditions are important as they can bind loved ones or groups of people together. The military is built on traditions, customs, and manners, and as a result, its members share a common experience.
As a family member or friend of a service member, it can be valuable to learn about those traditions and customs your loved one participates in as a part of the military community.
Knowing the basics of common military traditions and customs can help you feel more comfortable visiting your service member on an installation or attending a military ceremony.
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#1 The customs of the military services are their common law.
These are a few:
Never criticize your service or your leaders in public.
Never go over the heads of superiors -- don't jump the chain of command.
Never offer excuses.
Never wear a superior's rank by saying something like, "The first sergeant wants this done now" when in fact, the first sergeant said no such thing. Speak with your own voice.
Never turn and walk away to avoid giving the hand salute.
Never run indoors or pretend you don't hear (while driving, for example) to avoid participating in reveille or retreat (raising or lowering of the U.S. flag).
Never appear in uniform while under the influence of alcohol.
If you don't know the answer to a superior's question, you will never go wrong with the response, "I don't know, sir (or ma'am), but I'll find out."
#2 - The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag
The military has a strong tradition of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, particularly during formal ceremonies and events. Service members are expected to recite the pledge as a demonstration of their loyalty to the nation and its values. The pledge is often recited during military graduations, change of command ceremonies, and other formal events.
The military also has a tradition of teaching the pledge to new recruits and military cadets as a way of instilling a sense of patriotism and national pride. Many military training programs include instruction on the history and meaning of the pledge as part of their curriculum.
The Pledge of Allegiance also holds a special significance for military families, as it serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that their loved ones have made to protect the nation's freedom and democracy.
#3 - The national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"
The national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" is an important symbol of patriotism and national pride for the military. The anthem, which was written by Francis Scott Key in 1814, celebrates the American spirit and the nation's determination to defend its freedom and independence.
The lyrics of the anthem tell the story of the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, when American soldiers successfully defended Fort McHenry against a British attack. The sight of the American flag still flying at the end of the battle inspired Key to write the anthem.
The anthem is traditionally played at military events, such as graduations, change of command ceremonies, and other formal events. It's also played before many military sports events and ceremonies. The anthem is also played at military funerals, as a way of honoring and paying respect to fallen soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for their country.
For the military, the anthem represents the values of freedom, bravery, and sacrifice that are at the core of the military's mission. It serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made to protect the nation's freedom and democracy, and it inspires a sense of pride and respect for the nation and its people.
The national anthem is also a symbol of unity among military members, it helps to create a sense of belonging and camaraderie among the troops, regardless of their background or rank.
#4 - The raising of the flag at sunrise and lowering it at sunset (reveille vs colors)
Reveille and Colors are two distinct military ceremonies that are performed at different times of the day.
Reveille is a military signal that is traditionally played on a bugle or trumpet to signal the start of a new day and the beginning of the duty day. It is typically played early in the morning, usually at or before sunrise, to wake up the troops and signal them to begin their daily activities. The exact time that Reveille is played can vary depending on the unit or organization, but it is typically played before the first formation of the day.
Colors, on the other hand, is a military ceremony that is traditionally performed at sunset to mark the end of the duty day. It is a formal ceremony that involves the raising or lowering of the flag, with the national anthem being played. This ceremony is also known as Retreat and it is performed by military units and organizations around the world. The ceremony is intended as a symbol of respect for the nation's flag and a show of unity and respect among military members.
In summary, Reveille is a military signal that marks the beginning of the duty day, and it is typically played early in the morning. Colors, on the other hand, is a military ceremony that marks the end of the duty day, and it is typically performed at sunset. Both ceremonies are intended to show respect for the nation's flag and military traditions and to promote unity among military members.
#5 - Formal uniform etiquette
Service members are expected to behave in certain ways whenever they wear uniforms. As a family member or friend, you can help them keep their uniform code.
Do not expect or offer public displays of affection whenever a service member is in uniform. However, brief kisses and hugs are acceptable during deployments and homecomings.
Eating, drinking, using a cellphone, and smoking while walking are generally banned in uniform.
Formal uniform hats, or “covers,” must be worn outside and carried indoors. Service members don’t salute while “uncovered” – with their hats off.
Offer to hold black umbrellas if it’s raining. Not all branches allow service members to carry umbrellas while in uniform.
#6 - The 21-Gun Salute
The 21-gun salute is a traditional honor accorded to military and government leaders, and also to foreign dignitaries. It is typically fired with artillery or naval guns, and it is a sign of respect and a display of military might.
#7 - The Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a military tradition that is performed at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA. It is a ceremony that honors and pays respect to the nation's fallen soldiers who are buried at the cemetery. The ceremony is performed by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Old Guard," which is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the U.S. Army.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a formal event that is performed every hour, on the hour, from April 1st to September 30th and every half-hour from October 1st to March 31st. It begins with a march of the guards from their barracks to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where they take up their posts. The guards, who are all volunteer soldiers, are chosen for their exceptional military bearing and are trained in the ceremony's specific drill movements.
The ceremony involves a detailed inspection of the guard and the weapon, followed by the relief of the guard. The relief of the guard is a solemn and precise process that takes place in complete silence. The guard on duty is relieved by the incoming guard, who then takes up the watch at the Tomb. This is followed by the playing of "Echo Taps," which is a bugle call that is played as a tribute to the fallen soldiers.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a symbol of respect and honor for the nation's fallen soldiers and it serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that they have made to protect the nation's freedom and democracy. The ceremony also serves as a reminder of the ongoing commitment of the military to serve and protect the nation.
In summary, the Changing of the Guard ceremony is a military tradition that is performed at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA. It is a formal event that honors and pays respect to the nation's fallen soldiers. The ceremony is performed by the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Old Guard," and it is a symbol of respect and honor for the nation's fallen soldiers and a reminder of the ongoing commitment of the military to serve and protect the nation.
#8 - Formal military occasions: Graduations, homecomings, & ‘birthday’ balls
Military graduation: Your service member’s graduation ceremonies will usually include a guest speaker and invocation ceremony.
Deployment homecomings: Ceremonies for service members returning from a deployment can be relaxed or formal occasions before they’re released to family and friends.
Military balls: These are formal, black-tie affairs, with dress uniform required for attending service members. Guests or dates are expected to dress accordingly, wearing floor-length gowns or suits as appropriate.
#9 - Respect the Chain of Command
The chain of command is a hallowed tradition in the military. It involves more direct oversight and responsibility than most workplace supervisor structures. The chain of command is reinforced by saluting higher-ranked officers. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Service members will salute officers in their chain of command. Enlisted members also salute warrant and commissioned officers, who will return the salute.
Salutes are given with the right hand. So, you could try to stand on your service member's left side so they can keep their right hand free to salute.
As a civilian, you are not expected to salute. But, be prepared to acknowledge someone else's greeting if they salute your service member.#9 - Respecting the Chain of Command
# 10 - The Challenge Coin
A "challenge coin" is a small coin or medallion that is traditionally presented to members of the military, first responders, and other organizations as a symbol of membership, achievement, or recognition. They are also sometimes used as a way of showing camaraderie and bonding among members of a unit. The tradition of presenting challenge coins dates back to World War I, when they were first used by military units as a way of identifying each other and showing pride in their unit.
The presentation of a challenge coin is a formal event, and it is typically done by a commanding officer or other senior members of the unit. The recipient is usually called upon to produce their own coin, and if they are not able to, they are usually required to buy a round of drinks for the group. This is known as a "coin check" and it is a way to show that you are a member of the unit or organization and that you are proud of it.
It is also common that when a coin is presented, it is accompanied by a special challenge or task that the recipient must complete. This can be anything from a physical challenge to a humorous task, but the goal is to promote camaraderie, teamwork, and pride in the unit.