Civilian etiquette in the presence of military officers?

As a college freshman many years ago, I took a class that was taught by a uniformed USAF officer - a Major, I think. He was in uniform when teaching the class, and the ROTC students in attendance were also in uniform. When the instructor entered the room at the beginning of each class, one of the ROTC students would call out “attention on deck”, and they would all jump to attention and become silent until the instructor called “at ease.”

I was not in the ROTC. Being a civilian (the only one in the class, IIRC), I did not feel compelled to follow suit, so I remained conspicuously seated each time this happened. The instructor never made any mention of it. It felt a bit awkward being the only one not standing at attention, but at the time that awkwardness made me feel even more stubborn about it, so my behavior persisted until the end of the term.

Was I out of line? Is there some code of etiquette under which civilians are expected to stand at attention the same as junior officers when a senior officer enters the room? If so, is there any rank to which civilians are senior and therefore don’t need to snap to attention (or simply stand up)?

No, what would be weird would be if you had stood up to attention (and btw probably mangled it). You could have chosen to stand up if you wanted to, but that’s a form of courtesy which is used by civilians as well.

Even military personnel are not expected to follow military forms of courtesy while out of uniform.

I worked as a civilian for the military for 26 years. When we’d have meetings with the CO or a high ranking visitor, everyone would stand when they entered. Not that we’d snap to attention, but it was a courtesy to acknowledge the rank of the individual. And sometimes, as the officer was entering, he made it clear that we should all just stay seated. In either case, I don’t recall any of the civilians complaining about having to stand.

If nothing else, it was a good excuse to stretch your legs after they kept you waiting way past the scheduled time. :smiley:

Now, if it was one of the department heads or division officers, no one called attention - they were just managers in uniforms.

Things could have changed but back when I was in ROTC and even earlier when Beloved Brother was going through it we were taught that civilians, in most circumstances, “outranked” military officers. It was stressed that while in uniform you would show a certain deference to the general public, calling men “sir”, being polite almost to an extreme, and things like that. Even after my brother had his “Full Bird” on (Colonel), I could see traces of this when he was speaking or interacting with the public at large. So in short terms you were perfectly fine.

Now the ROTC cadets – unless they were in uniform calling for “attention” would have been out of line unless the class was one of the ones offered through that department. Again, using my brother as an example, when he was an instructor at a major college (as a Captain) he taught classes in addition to the ones offered through the ROTC program. If it was an ROTC class the call would be automatic but if the class was the general one on say Colonial Politics, a non-uniformed cadet snapping to or calling out would have been considered bad form and he would have probably addressed it with said cadet.

All this assumes the officer is in uniform and my understanding that the “black shoe” airmen aren’t all that different from when they were still under the Army.

Military Courtesy is expected between members of the military (including ROTC cadets). It’s not expected from civilians. Though, just as someone might address a physician as “Doctor” Jones, general courtesy would call for a civilian addressing a member of the military as “Rank Lastname” especially if they’re in uniform and at the time in a capacity as a member of the military.

Ask him if he, as an officer, still kills any babies personally, or do the soldiers under his command do all the baby killing?

If you want to have a discussion involving your feelings about the military, you’re welcome to start another thread about it. It has nothing to do with the subject of this thread. Take it elsewhere.

[del]If you want to have a discussion involving your feelings about the military, you’re welcome to start another thread about it. It has nothing to do with the subject of this thread. Take it elsewhere.[/del]

ETA: Per the discussion here, the warning is reduced to a note not to derail the thread with something not everyone could see as a joke. Thanks.

I’d simply ask the Major for his advice. If he says “Don’t stand” then don’t (which is what I’d expect). If he’s extremely old (like the old professor Mr. Chips), I’d stand. Otherwise, just remember who is giving you the grade for the course!

I’d vote for the middle ground too. I’d stand up, leisurely, same as when a judge enters in a civilian court. I would most definitely NOT make any attempt at ‘snapping to attention’ as, even if you didn’t mean to, that could be considered disrespectful, like you were ‘playing soldier’. As others have stated the officer would probably tell me that it wasn’t necessary for me to stand. I would simply say, “Ok, thank you”.

As an aside, gives me an excuse to link to YouTube videos of ToTUS Guards shouting down disrespectful civilians (love it!)…

He really should have been saying “As you were.” That would have allowed everyone to resume sitting.

IIRC, “At ease” means “Remain standing, keep one foot planted, but otherwise feel free to assume whatever posture is comfortable for you.” (Keeping one foot planted keeps you all ready to come to attention again at a moment’s notice without risking being all gallywumpus. It’s mostly useful when you and your mates are standing in formation.)

Maybe I’m remembering incorrectly, but didn’t older rules of etiquette dictate that, even in semi-casual social situations, men are supposed to stand up when a female approaches? Walking into a room, or coming to a table in a restaurant (as a patron, not a server)?

I realize this really has nothing to do with the thread topic, but it got me to thinking

Absolutely, and not just women - if they are going to be part of your party, or you’re going to be introduced or engage in further conversation, you would do that with anyone, so that you’re on a level. It looks rude to expect other people to be in the same spatial relationship to you as the waiter or (if, say, it’s in an office) some subordinate to their boss.

Close friends of the same sex might be more informal with each other perhaps.

He may have been. This was ~28 years ago, so my recall may not be as accurate as the wording of my OP suggests.

This is not true. Military personnel are expected to extend courtesy even while out of uniform.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I’ve seen many junior officers addressing senior officers by first name in after hour “relaxed” setting. Christmas parties for instance.

I’ve worked with many civilians. They did stand when the commander entered the room, although they did not stand at attention. Even though they were not military, the commander was still their boss and their job was to support his mission. Imagine how a business’s board members would behave if their CEO walked into a meeting.

This is, of course, contextual. If you are not military, and are not employed by the military, and are in an ROTC classroom rather than an actual war, I suspect no one cares what you do.

Strange. I’ve never seen that, unless you mean something different for “junior officers” and “senior officers”

But I, of course, didn’t go to every military Christmas party :smiley:

Ensigns/2nd Lts might address LtJgs/1st Lts by their first name in casual conversations. LtJg/1st Lts towards Lt/Cpt, etc… but only next grade. No LtJg/1st Lt is going to get away with addressing a LtCdr/Major as “Bill”.

They are supposed to be polite, but I’ve never heard of soldiers out-and-about in civvies being expected to salute and stand at attention if a hierarchical superior who happens to be in uniform gets on the same bus.