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Hail and Farewells- It’s a Unit Thing!

hail and farewellshail and farewellsWith every new unit or Army move comes the opportunity for new friendships, new experiences, and new adventures. Not everyone is comfortable being new to a unit or post, but attending the “hail and farewells” means you don’t have to be new for long!

Before World War II, the Army was much smaller.

It was customary for new officers or non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and their spouses to pay a social call at the home of their new commander. 

The commander and spouse then later returned the call. New officers would often be extended courtesies of the post by the commanding officer after the prescribed official calls were made. In years gone by, newly married couples were greeted at their quarters with a saber presentation!

As the Army grew and operations increased, these customs were no longer feasible. In their place, the unit hail and farewell was created to say welcome or good-bye to all senior leaders, single or married officers and NCOs and their spouses within the unit. 

What are Hail and Farewells?

Traditionally held at the battalion level and above,  they are casual dinners followed by remarks by the unit commander and command sergeant major. The new service member as well as their spouse would be introduced to the unit. Units would give a single, yellow-budded rose to the incoming spouse as a way of welcome.

Any outgoing service members would be given the unit’s parting gift, as determined by the command team. Combat arms units traditionally gifted a miniature of their unit’s colors in combination with the unit guidons; and their spouse would be given a fully opened, single red rose.

Male spouses being welcomed or farewelled can be honored in a variety of ways, depending on the wishes of the unit. Full bouquets of flowers are reserved for the change of command or change of responsibility ceremonies and are paid for by the service member.

Michelle’s husband was in the transportation corps, so the unit wheel was gifted. The branch insignia consists of the wheel symbolizing rail transportation, the wing symbolizing air, a mariner’s helm for water, and a U.S. highway marker shield for the land transportation; all of these combined on a ship’s wheel, brick red and golden yellow are the colors associated with the transportation corps. 

If a unit upholds this tradition, a silver baby cup would be presented to families with new babies. The cup would be engraved with the unit crest, the baby’s name, and birth date.

 Additionally, the senior spouse in a unit could bestow a unit lapel pin or tie tack to any incoming spouse at a hail and farewell or unit coffee. 

These are small, enamel pins portraying the unit crest.

The unit pin is worn on the left side so you will always keep your unit close to your heart, which keeps the right side for a nametag making it easier for others to read while shaking hands.

Hosting Hail and Farewells

There are as many ways of hosting a unit hail and farewell as there are different types of units. Depending on the type of unit and its customs, variations exist on venues and food as well as types of gifts presented, who is invited, and traditions upheld. 

Our protocol and traditions team (Ann, Ginger, Michelle and Lynda) enjoyed their battalion hail and farewells and kept them light-hearted and fun! The evening could start off with something to get everyone in attendance involved; e.g. maybe a top ten list, as a former late night host used to do.

The units also usually had an opportunity to gift a unit member something funny or momentous, for sharing a light-hearted incident in the field or a nicety someone did for another comrade. This was a great ice breaker and got people to interact and meet each other. That is the key to these traditional events. Building relationships, camaraderie and esprit de corps! hail and farewells

No matter the way in which it’s presented, the unit hail and farewell is one of many traditional events within the Army that connects soldiers and spouses of today with those past and future soldiers in that unit, so no one stays new for long!  

*You can find more information on Army Traditions and Protocol here.

*For more articles like this, visit the Protocol tab found on the AWN website.



  • Protocol and Etiquette Team

    Ann Crossley and Ginger Perkins are the authors of "The Army Spouse Handbook," the go-to guide for the 21st century Army spouse. The 440-page book describes situations that you may encounter as an Army spouse, irrespective of your spouse’s rank or assignment. The book is not meant to be read from cover-to-cover, but kept handy and used as a reference book when you need to know what to expect in social situations. Michelle Hodge, a seasoned spouse, has taught protocol and customs classes and continues to be an advocate for soldiers and family members. Lynda Smith, the newest member of the Traditions and Protocol team, enjoys finding new ways to bring old Army traditions to life with fun and humorous experiences, a little old-school vibe, and a modern twist.

1 Comment

  1. Amy Campbell

    This is very helpful for what I am currently working on!


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