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Though some things remain the same, a lot has changed in the Army. Our protocol team (Ginger, Michelle, Lynda, and Ann) edited, added, and updated life lessons from “Everything I Ever Wanted to Know About the Army I Learned at a Coffee” by an unknown author. We present them to you in three easy categories: military protocol, social life, and sage advice. 

Sometimes a few tips and advice from seasoned spouses are just the ticket you need to navigate your military adventure. Maybe you’ll add your own pearls of wisdom as you go!

Military Protocol

1. Reception Line: The “primary invitee” (the service member) proceeds first through the receiving line, then introduces their spouse/guest to the principals in the receiving line. This is new Army protocol.

2. No food or drink in a reception line. 

3. A reception line is only to say “hello” and a few pleasantries; save hugs and conversations for after the receiving line. 

4. Introductions: The honored/higher ranking person’s name is stated first, then the name of the person being presented. 

5. Be punctual.

6. Respect tradition.

7. Stand at attention and put your right hand over your heart when singing the National Anthem.

8. Stand for the Army Song.

9. It’s okay to ask for guidance on protocol and ceremony etiquette.

10. Dogs (unless service animals) and babies do not belong at a formal ball, reception, cocktail party, or dining out. 

11. Children love a parade but need to be respectful at ceremonies if they attend.

Social Life

12. Party invitations should go out 10 to 14 days prior.

13. “Casual” usually means slacks, simple dress, or skirt and blouse. No tie for men.

14. “Informal” usually means dresses, separates, or suits. Coat and tie for men.

15. “Formal” usually means long or short evening dress for ladies. “Black tie” for the men indicates bow tie with dinner jacket, ASU, or mess dress as the invitation states.

16. When finished with a course or meal, place the used utensils on the plate at four o’clock.

17. Say “hello” and “goodbye” to the senior ranking guests. It’s lonely to be outnumbered.

18. Wait for the host/hostess to reach for a utensil signaling the beginning of a course.

19. There is no space on the table for a cellphone. 

20. If you must take a call, step out of the room. 

21. RSVP (répondez s’il vous plaît) means to respond if you please, but it really means a response is expected, usually within 48 hours. It is rude not to respond at all. 

22. Be on time or a few minutes late, but never early.

23. Write “Thank-You” notes promptly.

24. Write, phone, or text your host/hostess with thanks after a party.

25. When serving your guests, remember service from the left and removal from the right.

26. When anyone entertains you, you should reciprocate.

 Sage Advice

27. Strive for excellence, not perfection.

28. When preparing a dish for a newcomer, include the recipe.

29. Say “thank you” and “goodbye” to your hosts before leaving an event.

30. Never give up on anyone because miracles happen every day.

31. Praise in public—give guidance to an individual in private.

32. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.

33. Introduce yourself to newcomers (you were one once).

34. Think before you post on social media- you can’t get it back!

35. Remember OPSEC (operational security). Don’t post vital information on social media; it can get your service member hurt or in trouble. 

36. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it on the screen/social media.

37. Be kinder than necessary.

38. Be nice to volunteers.

39. Admit when you’re wrong.

40. Keep others’ secrets.

41. Be there when people need you.

42. Be prepared to lose once in a while.

43. Be enthusiastic about the success of others.

44. Answer the phone with enthusiasm and energy in your voice.

45. Be open to new ideas.

46. Hear both sides before judging.

47. Give yourself an hour to cool off before responding to someone who has provoked you. Overnight is better.

48. Take time to smell the roses.

49. Do not waste time grieving over past mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

50. Leave everything a little better than you found it.

51. Be tough-minded but tender-hearted.

52. Smile! It costs nothing but is priceless and actually produces endorphins.

53. Live so that when your children think of honesty, kindness, and integrity, they think about you.

54. Have fun—above all, have fun!


By the Protocol and Etiquette Team


  • 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. Sharita Knobloch

    I always, ALWAYS learn something from your posts… and this one is particularly encouraging. I really love the sage advice section. Those are things we all need to hear on the regular. THANK YOU!


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