bIn addition to the basics of Ranks, there are also Military Titles and Address protocols. This article details personal interactions and signs of respect within the military hierarchy. Please note, the following sections detail the strictest requirements of the service. Not all officers expect or enforce all of these requirements to the letter of the rule book so don't feel like you need to be clicking your heels and saluting every person who passes, never making any friends, and never learning anyone's first name. When you run into a really formal by-the-book person, find yourself facing someone far above your character in rank, or simply are a part of a very formal event then pull out every bit you've read here. Otherwise, scale it back slightly to what seems appropriate.
Rank and TitlesEdit
For the most part, you will call all superior commissioned officers "sir". Remember, gender does not apply. Even female officers are called sir. In BSG military it is a gender neutral title.
We all know by now how NCOs say “I work for a living. I am not a sir.” or something to that effect. NCOs are not "sirs" except maybe to a civilian who is merely being polite.
Mister is a more obscure title, but it does exist in the military. It has two primary uses. First, senior officers may refer to junior officers as mister in place of their rank (e.g. Mister Smith). Junior officers must still refer to senior officers as "sir" or their rank in response. Second, warrant officers are "misters" instead of "sirs". They may also be called "chief" if one does not want to use their full rank.
Typically when referring to someone else, you will call them RANK LAST NAME (e.g. Commander Bainbridge). If you’re talking to a superior commissioned officer you MUST do this UNLESS you are referring to them as "sir". Generally, "sir" wins out. It is easier and quicker to say (certainly the choice if having a long conversation and you don't want to address them by their full title after your initial greeting) and also cuts down on the potential of not knowing the name of the officer. The only instance where one must use rank and name is when speaking to directly to one officer in a group when it is not clearly indicated otherwise who you are speaking to.
When talking to a superior NCO you MUST refer to them by their rank (they earned it). Typically, superiors also refer to their subordinates by rank in a mirrored sign of respect, but as mentioned earlier regarding other points of the chain of command this is not absolutely required of them.
You DO NOT refer to the two lowest ranks (Crewman Apprentice and Crewman/Private and Private First Class) unless you are specifically calling them out or something like that (like how your mother only uses your middle name when you're in trouble). When referring to these low ranking servicemen, they will be called either solely by their last name or by their job e.g. "marine", "gunner", "deckhand", etc.
Those of equal rank also often do not refer to one another by their shared ranks (but they can if they desire or want to be extra formal).
Many ranks have simplified abbreviations, a few of which follow: Captain = “Cap” Lieutenant = “LT” (Master) Chief Petty Officer = (Master) Chief Gunnery Sergeant = Gunny Sergeant = Sarge Sergeant First Class = Sergeant (not necessarily required to include full rank)
These abbreviated titles are commonly used and are acceptable so long as the person has authorized the use of the title. E.g. “Everyone just calls me ‘gunny.’” Likewise, those with callsigns are frequently referred to by those names even outside of operations. This is acceptable with the person’s permission to be called that name. Generally, the rule of thumb is not to get all chummy with a superior who you just met thirty seconds ago. If you don't know them well enough to know if they'd mind being called by an abbreviation or you haven't had enough conversations for them to specifically tell you to call them something else, then stick to the formality.
All of this only applies to lower ranks. Superiors can call those below them whatever the hell they like so long as it’s not obviously offensive.
Many persons have extra titles based on special positions they hold aboard the ship. You typically will not address someone by their title. The exception is when you are specifically requesting them in that capacity (e.g. "Master-at-Arms arrest this man" or "Helm, plot an intercept course.") but even then you may refer to them by their name and rank. One can also fall back on their title when one simply doesn't know their name or rank, a safety net of sorts both for people you don't know or for in the heat of action when you can't really tell who is manning that position at the moment.
The military mostly deals only with last names. Typically when speaking to someone you will not simply say their rank but follow it with their name. You will refer to those of equal rank by their last names. Those low ranks mentioned above that are not referred to by rank are only referred to by last name.
It is very rare to use first names alone outside of personal and private conversations (introducing oneself as Private John Smith is of course acceptable, but introducing oneself as just "John" or even "Private John" is not). The only notable exception is that senior commissioned officers may call junior officers by their first name. (I.e. the Commander might call the young ensign "John", but he can't refer back to the CO by his first name nor should the other officers refer to the ensign as "John" simply because the CO does.
Other Forms of Military RespectEdit
Naturally, one always stands at attention whenever ordered to by a superior. If a high ranking officer like the CO or XO come into the room then everyone is supposed to come to attention. They should do the same for high government officials like the President or VP. When being addressed in a formal manner (e.g. reporting to the CO's office to speak, getting stopped in the corridor, etc.) one should also stand at attention until put at ease. Anyone standing guard should also snap to attention at the approach of an officer.
The position of attention is:
- Standing "straight up": legs fully extended, shoulders straight, chest up, etc.
- Heels together and toes point apart at a 45 degree angle.
- Arms straight at the side at the seem of the paint leg. Fingers are to be curled as if in a fist.
- Head erect and facing forward. One's eyes are likewise to be facing forward and not looking off.
Note that the position of attention is NOT a stiff stance. One should remain balanced on one's feet, refrain from "locking" the knees, not completely tense up one's fist, etc.
This naturally goes along with standing at attention but is not done as frequently. It is the responsibility of the inferior rank to salute first which can make it a little confusing for a lower ranking person to know when to salute. To avoid aggravating someone, it is often best to err on the side of over-saluting rather than accidently not saluting someone when the situation calls for it.
Except in extreme circumstances, one will only salute officers (i.e. "sirs"). Not only do you salute a superior first, but you hold the salute until the superior has saluted and lowered his/her salute first. If the superior does not return the salute (as is often done if you simply salute while they are walking past and not directly engaged with you) then you hold it and drop the salute when they pass you.
You DO NOT SALUTE when you are a member of a formation or other group. The commander of your group (whether that be a company on the parade field, a squad of marines on guard duty, or a team of deck hands working on a Viper) salutes for the entire group. The rest simply stand at attention. If, however, you are in a group of equals then you all salute together (e.g. Three pilots being congratulated by the Commander would each salute.).
Required saluting is an exclusive sign of respect to superior officers, but voluntary saluting can be done to anyone. Such salutes are more uncommon and typically are signs of great respect for a person or their recent accomplishment. E.g. a marine completes a dangerous mission and in return is saluted by a comrade.