The Marine customs are conventional methods of action that have been approved by tradition and usage. Almost every custom in the Marine Corps evolved from how Marines used to do things. To standardize behavior throughout the Corps, a number of Marine customs have been written down as regulations, although some cannot be found in official documents.
Marine customs are very important to the individuals who wear the uniform and to the Corps as a whole.
Customs give Marines a sense of continuity with those who have gone before them. They foster in every Marine a keen pride in being a member of the world’s finest fighting organization-the United States Marine Corps.
As members of the United States Armed Forces, United States Marines are subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. In addition to the UCMJ, Marines must also adhere to Marine Corps customs and courtesies.
Some examples of Marine Corps customs and courtesies include:
– Addressing all officers as “Sir” or “Ma’am” regardless of rank
– Saluting officers indoors and outdoors
– Wearing the proper uniform at all times
– Keeping your hands out of your pockets while in uniform
– Standing at attention when being addressed by an officer
– Addressing enlisted Marines by their rank
There are many more customs and courtesies that Marines are expected to follow. For a complete list, please consult the United States Marine Corps Regulations.
Knowing and observing Marine customs, both written and unwritten, is essential to each Marine since it aids him in keeping his Corps’ heritage and traditions alive while also reminding him of his obligation to uphold them. It also establishes a sense of belonging among all other Marines that has become a distinct characteristic of the Corps.
United States Marine Corps Customs
The United States Marine Corps has a long and proud tradition of customs, courtesies and traditions. Many of these customs trace their origins back to the early days of the Republic. Others are of more recent origin, having been established during the last hundred and fifty years of the Corps’ history.
All Marines, both officer and enlisted, are expected to know and observe the customs and courtesies that have come to be a part of our way of life. Knowing and observing these customs, both written and unwritten, is important to each Marine because it keeps him mindful of the heritage and traditions of his Corps, and of his duty to uphold them. In addition, it makes him feel that he is a part of the team and helps to create the strong bond of loyalty between him and all other Marines that has become a distinguishing mark of the Corps.
Some of the more commonly known customs and courtesies are listed below:
Standing at Attention – When an officer or senior NCO enters a room, all those present will rise and stand at attention until the officer or senior NCO has passed. If seated, they will rise when addressed.
Calling Out Ranks – Marines will always call out the rank of officers or senior NCOs when they are within earshot. This is done as a sign of respect.
Saluting – All United States military personnel (regardless of branch) render a salute when they meet and recognize persons entitled to a salute, including officers of friendly foreign nations.
Addressing Officers – When speaking to or addressing an officer, Marines will always use the rank of the officer followed by the surname. For example, “Yes, sir,” or “No, ma’am.”
Entering and Leaving Vehicles – When an officer enters or leaves a vehicle, all enlisted personnel in the vicinity will stand at attention until the officer has cleared the area.
Officer’s Mess – The Officer’s Mess is a place where officers can relax and enjoy each other’s company. Enlisted personnel are not allowed in the mess unless they are invited or directed to do so by an officer.
Officer’s Quarters – Enlisted personnel are not allowed in an officer’s quarters unless they are invited or directed to do so by the officer.
The National Anthem is played. When it’s played, the servicemember will stand at attention. If covered while in uniform, the service member will salute the National Ensign (our flag). During the playing of the National Anthem, it’s also acceptable for a service member to face and turn towards the flag. While facing the flag, place your right hand over your heart and remain motionless.
When playing the United Kingdom’s National Anthem, “God Save the Queen,” members of the United States Marine Corps will stand at attention. If covered, they will salute the Union Jack (UK flag). Those who are not British citizens should stand still and place their right hand over their heart while facing the flag.
It is considered respectful for service members to address all officers as “Sir” or “Ma’am.” This is regardless of the officer’s gender. When speaking to someone of a higher rank, it is appropriate to use rank plus “Sir” or “Ma’am.” For example, a 2LT would say, “Yes, Captain Ma’am,” or a SGT would say, “Yes, First Sergeant Sir.”
In the United Kingdom, it is considered polite to address all officers as “Sir.” When speaking to someone of a higher rank, it is appropriate to use their rank plus “Sir.” For example, a Lance Corporal would say, “Yes, Sergeant Major Sir.”
When in uniform and indoors, service members will render a salute when they enter or leave the room of an officer. They will also do so when passing an officer outdoors. If covered (wearing a hat), the service member will remove their hat and hold it in their left hand, with the right hand coming to a salute.