Courtesy among members of the Armed Forces is vital to maintain discipline. Military courtesy means good manners and politeness in dealing with other people. Courteous behavior provides a basis for developing good human relations. The distinction between civilian and military courtesy is that military courtesy was developed in a military atmosphere and has become an integral part of serving in uniform.
Most forms of military courtesy have some counterpart in civilian life. For example, we train soldiers to say sir or ma’am when talking to a higher ranking officer. Young men and women are sometimes taught to say sir to their fathers or ma’am to their mothers and likewise to other elders. It is often considered good manners for a younger person to say sir or ma’am when speaking to an older person. The use of the word sir is also common in the business world, such as in the salutation of a letter or in any well-ordered institution.
Military courtesy is not a one-way street. Enlisted personnel are expected to be courteous to officers and likewise officers are expected to return the courtesy. Mutual respect is a vital part of military courtesy. In the final analysis, military courtesy is the respect shown to each other by members of the same profession. Some of the Army’s more common courtesies include rendering the hand salute, standing at attention or parade rest, or even addressing others by their rank.