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Q&A with the Protocol and Etiquette Team 

No matter how long you’ve been around the military, you may occasionally come across situations you don’t know how to navigate, especially in the protocol and etiquette department. Have no fear, the P&E team is here with a Q&A. Do you have more questions and don’t see your answer below? Leave a comment and we will feature it in another post!

When and how do you reciprocate invitations?

Usually, when you receive an invitation for a hosted event, it is proper to reciprocate the invitation in a timely fashion. If friends or peers invite you to dinner in their home, you should invite them to your home or for some other outing. You may do this in a group or just with yourselves. This does not have to be a repeat of the event they hosted, just something nice to do together!

Regarding military dinners or functions, there are different expectations in reciprocating. A commander and spouse should not expect to receive reciprocated invitations by everybody they have hosted, and they need to always be mindful of the possible perception of fraternization. Events that you are not expected to reciprocate are: a commander’s New Year’s reception, other receptions and balls, teas, SFRG meetings, baby showers, and even invitations that you have regretted. Coffees are hosted by all members of the group, rotated throughout the year.

What’s in your “toolbox”?

The Army frequently refers to gaining skills as adding “tools for your toolbox.” We have seen gifting a tacklebox to newly minted lieutenants at commissioning and young privates as they enter the military! That tacklebox contains their rank, nametape and tags, ribbons, patches, and other practical Army-issue items. A great addition is the AUSA’s booklet, Customs, Courtesies & Traditions of the United States Army, a primer for family members.

A service member’s tackle box includes all the pieces of their uniforms: rank, nametape and tags, ribbons, patches, and other practical, Army-issue items.

As a spouse, Ginger has a pink toolbox that contains her Army spouse library, including The Army Spouse Handbook and The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles, and encouraging mementos—“Faith in the Foxhole; Hope on the Homefront” dog tag; unit crest pins, unit ornaments, and unit patches to decorate their holiday tree; “HOOAH” angels and “HOOAH” rhinestone pins; and Army spouse thank-you notes.

She now also has a trunk that contains the larger items, like Army conference notebooks, continuity books, rosters and welcome guides from each installations, deployment dolls, baby certificates, and a brat certificate. She even has virtual toolboxes that contain the Army SFRG regulations. Don’t forget to add intangible tools, like patience, a sense of humor, and a daily appreciation for something in your life! Whether your toolbox is pink, Army green/blue, or virtual, fill them with all the tools necessary to assist you during your Army spouse journey.

What’s the appropriate way to make introductions?

Traditionally, gender takes precedence over age, position, or rank; however, there are always exceptions, so common sense and sensitivity should dictate. You may preface the introduction with words like, “I don’t believe you two have met.” 

Gender: State the woman’s name before the man’s name. “Victoria Green, Bryce Anderson.”

Age: State an older person’s name before a younger person’s name. “Mr. King, Jeffrey Smith.”

Position (or rank): State a senior person’s name before a junior person’s name. “Colonel Jefferson, Sergeant Robertson.”

A few specifics about each person help to identify them to each other, such as “Victoria Green, our high school principal; Bryce Anderson, head of our ACS.”

There are, however, some common exceptions:

Family Members: Courtesy says that you mention the other person before your family member, regardless of the other person’s gender, age, or rank. For example, “General Stars, I’d like you to meet my mother, Mrs. Brown.” When introducing your spouse, it isn’t necessary to say the last name, unless you have different last names.

Small Groups: The best way to introduce one or two people to a small group is to mention the names of those in the group to get their attention, and then say the name(s) of the newcomer(s). That’s easy since you don’t need to consider gender, age, or rank.

When you are not immediately introduced to another person, you can simply introduce yourself. Say something along the lines of, “Hello! I am Suzie, Bob’s wife. I’m sorry, I did not catch your name.” This can happen so easily, where we forget the names of people and have the awkwardness of having to introduce them to others! 

Have more questions? We have answers!

We are happy to answer any questions you are thinking about. Remember, if you are wondering about some Army protocol or etiquette question, there are probably several others wondering the same thing!

Looking for more Traditions and Protocol responses? Check out more of their posts in our archive.


  • 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

    This is good stuff, Protocol team! Always so insightful– thank you!


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