The Army is a multilayered system of individuals, traditions, and rules that serves the function of protecting the country. All interactions between military personnel are codified and regulated. While most communication is written, some of the rules exist on an unwritten basis. Conduct in the military is regulated by customs and courtesies. Understanding the essence of customs and courtesies is essential in ascertaining the importance of respect in the military.
Customs are social conventions regulating the behavior of the military personnel. Customs include such rules as recognizing and properly addressing the military rank, standing at attention when a superior officer is talking, respecting the order of entering and exiting a vehicle, and other social situations. Courtesies are behavioral expressions of respect and conduct in the military. The most famous example is the courtesy of salute. The common misconception is that the salute signifies the superiority of a higher-ranking individual over a lower-ranking one. In reality, it is a mutual sign of respect for the sacrifice for the military way of life.
Educating soldiers and cadets on customs and courtesies has three goals. The first goal is creating a spiritual sense of connection with the history of the Army and the country. The customs and courtesies stem from the past of the Army. They link contemporary soldiers with their predecessors, whether they are from another decade or another century. The sense of belonging to a system with long history, which incorporated many people, who had displayed the same courtesies and customs, motivates contemporary soldiers and officers to continue the legacy.
Outside of the historic perspective, customs and courtesies cultivate the culture of respect in the military, which is the second goal. They regulate almost every permutation of different interactions between the personnel. Whether they are on duty or on leave, in the military uniform or in civilian attire, have equal ranks or not, all their behavior follows the set of unwritten rules and traditions. In the same manner, all citizens stand up and hold their hands at the heart when they hear the national anthem, the military show respect to each other, the music, the colors, and other signs of the Army. Overall, it creates a feeling of unity and cohesion in the military.
The third goal is cultivating discipline, which is valued as having the utmost importance in any military setting. The discipline is achieved not only by physical and psychological pressure but also by recognizing the appropriate context and properly acting within it. By looking at how well the soldier or the officer salutes, stands at parade, or departs, it is possible to evaluate how disciplined they are and how much effort they put into learning customs and courtesies. Proper conduct does not relate to those who are superior exclusively. It also exists between individuals of the same rank, thus assuring that courtesies and customs pervade every sphere of the military life.
Altogether, the customs and courtesies are essential and extremely important elements of the Army. They show contemporary soldiers and officers the connection to history, creating a sense of belonging and the desire to continue the legacy. Customs and courtesies also enthuse the military personnel with a common feeling of purpose and cohesion, helping requiring them to behave accordingly. By respecting the traditions, the military people showcase their discipline. Overall, customs and courtesies are the ultimate expressions of respect in the Army.