Use of Rank by Retired Military & Veterans?



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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Q&A / Blog On
       Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A / Blog on
       How to Address
       Retired Military   
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Use of Rank by
Retired Personnel & Veterans of the
United States Armed Services

Questions & Answers, Frequently Asked Questions, and Blog


Site updated by Robert Hickey on April 17, 2014

What are Social vs. Official Uses of Rank?       

What DoD Regulation Addresses Use of Rank by Retirees?     
Which Ranks/Ratings May Use Their Ranks/Ratings In Retirement?     

RETIRED
Use of Rank, When Retired, at My Post-Retirement Job?
       
Use of Rank, When Retired, as a Civilian DoD Employee?
   

Use of Rank, When Retired, at a Commercial Enterprise?     
Use of Rank, When Retired, as a Federal Civil Service Employee    
Use of Rank, When Retired, as a Veterans Adminstration Employee?      
Use of Rank, When Retired, as a Politician?            
Use of Rank, When Retired, as a State Official?      
Use of Rank, When Retired, as a Teacher/Professor?      
Use of Rank, When Medically Retired?       
Use of Rank by Gray-Area Retiree?      

RESERVISTS
Use of Rank by a Reservist at a Commercial Enterprise?        

VETERANS
Use of Rank by a Former, Not Retired Officer?             
Use of Rank by a Former, Not Retired Enlisted Personnel?       
Use of Rank by a Veteran, But Not Retired Personnel?           


Use of Rank by a Deserter?       
Use of Rank in a E-mail Signature Block       
 

For how to address a specific rank
        check out: Job-by-Job Guide.
       
For a Q&A on use of ranks by retired personnel,
       check out Use of Rank by retired personnel.
        
For a Q&A on use of ranks by veterans,
       check out Use of Rank by vets.
         
For Q&A on how to address active duty personnel,
       check out Forms of Address for US Armed Forces.
         
For Q&A on How to Write Military Names on Invitations
       or How to Address Invitations to the Military
       check out Military Invitations.

How Do I Address a Former Official?
Link to Q&A /Blog just on Former Officials  (not Military)

What is Social Use of My Military Rank?
      You mention the situations of ‘social’ and ‘official’ uses of ranks. What exactly is the difference?
              - F. Wilson

Dear F. Wilson:
     I mention it frequently because I get lots of questions on use of rank by retired personnel.
     An example of an official situation would be (1) a letter to an active-duty officer from a retired officer regarding his or her service. Another example of an official situation would be (2) a letter from a high school to the retired officer asking him to be their guest representing the armed services ... and to attend in uniform ... their Memorial Day event.
     In both cases active/retired status and rank are pertinent. In the first instance the officer is identifying himself as retired in a conversation where both active and retired persons are participants. In the second instance he or she is being asked to attend because of his or her rank ... to represent the Armed Services at an event in a symbolic way. Thus he or she is addressed as an officer, and the active/retired status is relevant. 
     An example of a social situation would be you
(3) sending a holiday card to a neighbor who is a retired officer or enlisted person and that person preferring to be addressed on the envelope as (Rank) + (Name) ... or (4) that person issuing a wedding invitation for his daughter's wedding and using his or her rank on the invitation .... Major Robert Wilson and Mrs. Wilson cordially invite you ... etc.
    In both 
3 & 4 it is clear that the force and prestige of the US armed services are not related to the activity. They are social.
    Any retired armed service person, at his or her preference, can use their rank socially.
                     -- Robert Hickey

Use of Rank with Their Name by Veterans
These are Former (Not Retired) Personnel

    I want to honor my dad's military service (Naval Academy class of '67) on my wedding invitation, but he did not retire. He was a Lt. Commander. I assume it is NOT appropriate to list a former rank unless he retired as a Captain or above. Right? Thank you very much,
      -- A Blue-and-Gold Bride to Be

   I am listing contributors in the credits of my documentary film on the history of our local USAF base. Some are retired officers. Others served in the USAF but then left the Air Force do to other things after a couple of years. Can I write all their names (Rank) (Name) (Abbreviation for their Branch of Service)?
      -- Filmer

Dear Bride to Be & Flimer:
      The answer is that one who doesn't retire doesn't continue to use the rank as part of their name. Use of rank as part of one's name is reserved for those who serve until retirement. I checked with the Andria Post, Director of Protocol and Event Planning, Naval Sea Systems Command and here is her reply ....
     When one leaves the service and resigns his/herrank, so he/she does not continue to use the rank as part of his name. He'she served in an honorable fashion and served his/her committed time. So on the invitation it would be:
               Mr. and Mrs. James Wilson
      Perhaps she could submit an article to the local newspaper where she can reflect that she is "the daughter of John Paul Jones, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1967, and Mary Jones of Springfield, Virginia."
     I would also be proud of the fact that my Dad was an academy graduate and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander, but use of the rank would be inappropriate on the invitation
.
    In circumstances when you do want to note the service of an individual because it is pertinent to their participation at an event, list it in a way that is not a part of their name. E.g., At a Memorial Day ceremony or at a Independence Day event at which you are listing the veterans participating in the event's program:
               James Wilson (Captain, USAF)
    Fully retired individuals would be listed with the rank before their name:
               Colonel James Wilson, USAF, Retired
    -- Robert Hickey

Veterans Using Their Rank
        
I respectfully would like to offer my comment on what I perceive to be an incorrect statement regarding the use of military rank and title in the above posting.
        With all due respect, I would say that Ms. Andria Post at the Naval Sea Systems Command has erred.

        In fact, a veteran who has served honorably in a time of war may bear the title of the highest grade held during that war.  This right is conferred by Congress in law by 10 US Code 772 Section  (e) .  I have only included references to retired officers in (c) and those who served honorably during wartime (e), and omitted (a)(b)(d)(f) and further.


       CITE-10  USC  Sec. 772  01/03/2012 (112-90)  TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES  Subtitle A - General Military Law   PART II - PERSONNEL  CHAPTER 45 - THE UNIFORM
     Sec. 772. When wearing by persons not on active duty authorized

     (c) A retired officer of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title and wear the uniform of his retired grade.

     (e) A person not on active duty who served honorably in time of war in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps may bear the title, and, when authorized by regulations prescribed by the President, wear the uniform, of the highest grade held by him during that war.


        SOURCE (Aug. 10, 1956, ch. 1041, 70A Stat. 35; Pub. L. 99-145, title XIII, Sec. 1301(a)(1), Nov. 8, 1985, 99 Stat. 735; Pub. L. 101-189, div. A, title XVI, Sec. 1621(a)(1), Nov. 29, 1989, 103 Stat. 1602; Pub. L. 104-201, div. A, title V, Sec. 551(b), Sept. 23, 1996, 110 Stat. 2525.)

         In the scenario described by “Bride-To-Be” , her father,  a 1967 graduate of the US Naval Academy, would have, in fact, served during wartime (Vietnam War), and we may safely conclude did so honorably, as all service as a commissioned officer is deemed honorable unless such officer was sentenced to dismissal (very unlikely) by a court-martial.  Therefore, I would encourage Miss Bride-To-Be to refer to her father by the highest grade held by him during wartime.
        Additionally, there seem to be several more questions on this subject, and I believe that some protocol personnel are erring to the detriment of honorably discharged wartime veterans.  Retired personnel obviously have earned the right to refer to themselves as such, and are further bound by DOD regulations with regard to the manner in which they make such reference.  I wonder whether honorably discharged wartime veterans, not so bound by DOD regulations, may socially bear the title so long as they comport with applicable laws.
        -- D.A.B.

Dear DAB:
       Thanks so much for your note.
       Having worked on this topic for 25 years … here are my reactions:
       1) What jumps out at me is "when authorized by regulations prescribed by the President."
       I believe this applies to recall to active duty and a veteran assuming his/her former rank.  I am unaware of any regulation prescribed by the President at this time.
       2) The Armed Service definitions of "retired" and "veteran" are distinct.
       Retired personnel do not resign their ranks. They are never technically separated from their Service. Whereas, veterans do resign their rank and are separated from the service.
       3) As an observer of traditions, I note the pattern of limiting "address by rank to fully retired personnel" is typical in uniformed services.
       The tradition is also followed by the Canadian and Mexican armed services ... Maybe others too, but I know that those two limit use of rank to fully retired personnel.
       A retired police officer, one who had a full career, can continue to use his rank when retired, but someone who was a police officer for a time and then chose to move on to another job … cannot. 
       Same with firemen. 
       4) At the most recent Veterans Day Celebration in the US Senate, they read the names of those attending in two ways: retired personnel as (Rank)+(Name) and veterans as (Name), (Rank).
       I don't see this in anyway honoring anyone's service more or less, but it does reserve certain courtesies of rank to fully retired career (and medically retired) personnel.
       -- Robert Hickey

What DoD Directive Forbids Use of Ranks by Retired Personnel in Commercial Enterprises? 
Can a Retired Officer Use His/Her Rank at a Commercial Enterprise?

    I am working on an informal publication that will be published by the Defense Department and I need to list members who participated in some of the work. The members include retired military, retired government civilians, persons with academic degrees (PhDs), etc.
      I just looked at you website and I have a question .You reference a directive “the DoD directive you refer to forbids the use by retired personnel of a military rank in any sort of commercial enterprise.”  Do you know the exact citation for the directive?

 
         -- Writing Away @ the Institute for Defense Analyses

Dear WA@TIFDA:
    I asked an front-line expert on the topic ... a Protocol Officer (and Protocol School of Washington® graduate) for the reference: CDR Ginny Raderstorf, NC, USN Retired, Special Assistant, Executive & Legislative Affairs, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Here is what she says backs up the statement. Note: JER is the Joint Ethics Regulations.
    JER, para. 2-304 concerns use of ranks
  
"Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, may use military titles in connection with commercial enterprises, provided they clearly indicate their retired or inactive Reserve status. However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD."
     "In addition, in overseas areas, commanders may further restrict the use of titles by retired military members and members of Reserve Components."

    DODI 5410.20 concerns use of uniforms or insignia
    Paragraph 7 lists criteria to determine whether the best interests of the Government and DoD are enhanced by use of DoD materials, uniforms and insignia by anyone other than the Government and DoD.  Any use of identifiably DoD material outside a a DoD environment is limited.
    DODI 1334.01 concerns wearing of uniforms:
    "It is DoD policy that:
        3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:
            3.1.2. During or in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn."
    Thank you, Ginny!

                 -- Robert Hickey

But My Employer Wants Me to Use My Rank...
       I have recently retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service and the company I am currently employed with would like me to include my retired rank and status in my signature block... something like:
                RICHARD L STANTON, USAF, MSgt, Ret.
       After looking though you blog, I am in full agreement with the statement from your Pentagon source that says if retirees are in a new job, then they should use a signature block that supports that job and should not their former military rank & retired.
       However there are other retirees working in the company who do use their retired status on business cards and email signature block.
        My question is ... Is there any firmer or more direct verbiage addressing the use of retire rank other than the above using the ambiguous "should," I do not really want to rock the boat at my new job, but I also don't want to be pressured into essentially "Pimping" out my retirement status for the corporation.

      
       -- Rich Stanton

Dear Rich,
       There is only the DoD guideline and at issue is how it's interpreted: ... use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.
       I observe armed services protocol officers interpreting the use of one's former rank in a post-retirement job as giving the appearance of seeking to gain some advantage over others based on one's pre-retirement rank or another's lack of military service.  If the new employer is solely interested in the vets experience, then the vet has the knowledge no matter how they are addressed. Right?
       A private-sector corporation has no long-term investment in maintaining the respect and prestige of active-duty ranks but perhaps there is a short-term benefit to their bottom line.
       This contrasts with the DoD which has a long-term investment in maintaining the value the respect and prestige of those in uniform.
      
To me it's economics: can I leverage my former position to my future personal benefit?
      -- Robert Hickey

Who Can Use Their Rank/Rating When Retired?
        Can a retired Chief Sergeant Major [CSM] require others (both military and civilian) to address them as CSM (Name), Retired and not as Mr./Mrs. in a social interaction?

       -- SFC D.Y., USA

Dear SFC, D.Y. USA,
     USE OF RANK?
    The rules in DoD documents (e.g. JER, para. 2-304) state that a retired person can use their rank as long as the do as specified.
    There is no mention of any certain ranks being entitled to use their rank.
    REQUIRE OTHERS TO USE THEIR RANK?
    A person has the right to say their name is -- whatever they want to say their name is. So a person has the right to require others to address him or her as they prefer. (They may or may not be able to enforce their requirement, but that's another issue!)
    E.g., In business, some women prefer Mrs. (Name).  Others prefer Ms. (Name).  Though I have an opinion of use of those honorifics in the work place -- It's not really my right to ignore another person's preference as to how he or she is addressed. 
    So if a retired Chief wants to be addressed as Chief ... socially ... call him Chief.

        -- Robert Hickey

May a Retired Officer Use His/Her Rank
As an Elected Official or Politician?

        Can you advise us if it is against DoD regulations for a retired, US Army LTC, to politicise his status, i.e.,
                Elect Ret. Lt. Col Kenny Cox
               
Louisiana House District 23
       He has campaigned for months on his retired rank, and every officer I have met has been shocked by his inappropriate use of his military career as qualifications for the office he seeks.
      
       -- C.M.

Dear C.M.,
      I see this as especially inappropriate -- since his lead photo shows him presenting himself in uniform in the pursuit of an unrelated professional endeavor.  See the image of his website below.
       DoD guidelines are designed to prohibit anyone receiving ... or appearing to seek to receive ... benefits, deference, or courtesies due to active-duty armed service personnel. The DoD regs limit any courtesies to those who serve with the power of the government behind their actions.  Protocol officers at the Pentagon interpret the reg's suggested use of one's rank in commercial enterprises to refer to charitable activities (on the board of a local hospital) and community events (selling Christmas trees for a service organization). It would not include any endeavor which can be construed to be employment.  They are clear that a retired officer or vet in the context of a post-service position is addressed as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Surname).
      This is not to in any way devalue one's service. We do absolutely honor it.  In a biography, or on a resume, mention of one's service along with one's complete history is pertinent. But other than that,
the continued use of one's rank as a retiree should be limited to personal and social use, or in official situations directly related to their service.
       Whether there is a DoD protocol police out there enforcing it, is another issue. Perhaps the opinion of his fellow retirees will be persuasive?
     See my posting on use of rank which notes the pertinent regs .
      
-- Robert Hickey


May One Use a Photo of One Uniform?
     We have a client that is currently in the reserves and is making business cards. She is not stating a title at all but it wearing her uniform in the picture on her business card. Her husband informed her that she isn't allowed to do this but we were wondering, for this client and for future clients, what the rule was for wearing uniforms in photographs on business item such as business cards, flyers, yard signs, etc. Any help would be appreciated. A copy of the business card is attached with the contact information removed.

       -- A.M.M.

Dear A.M.M.,
    A Department of Defense regulation that's pertinent is DODI 1334.01.
    It is DoD policy that:
    3.1. The wearing of the uniform by members of the Armed Forces (including retired members and members of Reserve components) is prohibited under any of the following circumstances:
    3.1.2. During or in connection with furthering political activities, private employment or commercial interests, when an inference of official sponsorship for the activity or interest may be drawn.

    So, most conservatively, since this is a business card promoting a commercial enterprise -- I would say the DoD would not support the photo in this context.

      
-- Robert Hickey

Use of Rank by Retired Military -- as a State Official
 
       I work at a regional office for an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor.  In official correspondence to the state labor departments, our salutations are “Dear Commissioner [Name],” “Dear Director [Name],” or “Dear Secretary [Name]” according to the title of the position, but I am uncertain how to address correspondence to a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general whose appointment as the labor commissioner in Maine was recently confirmed.  My first instinct was to omit any reference to his military rank as it has no bearing on his current position, but news articles regarding his appointment refer to him throughout as “Lt. General [sic] Sinclair” even though he was subsequently elected to the Maine House of Representatives and employed at IBM.
 
       -- Candy de Lovely

Dear Ms. de Lovely:

       The Department of Defense would write to him officially, e.g., with regard to is retirement benefits as:
              LTG Robert J. Wineglass, USMC, Retired
       And he would use that form on in social situations, e.g., on his daughter's wedding invitation.
       DoD's perspective on using his rank+retired in a subsequent job would be ... to paraphrase the current Chief of Protocol for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon:  If retirees are in a new job, then they should be addressed in a way that supports their new job and not using military rank+retired – it is a misrepresentation. They are in a new job – not the military. When retired officers attend Pentagon events as the holder of a post-retirement job -- and are not invited as a retired officer -- they are not addressed by rank+retired on invitations or tent cards etc., but as Mr/Ms (name) and their new company affiliation.
       Address him in regard to matters under the purview of his current position in the manner he holds that office -- as a private citizen:
              Mr. Robert J. Sinclair
       Whereas if you are addressing him as a former member of the the Maine House of Representatives, use:
              The Honorable Robert J. Sinclair
       -- Robert Hickey

May a Retired Officer Use His/Her Rank
As an DoD Employee?

       Some years ago I recall seeing in an US Army protocol document that retired Army officers who subsequently become Department of the Army civilians were not to use or refer to their retired rank in connection with their civilian service position.  Can you verify that?

    -- Timothy Stoner


Dear Mr. Stoner:
     The Department of Defense (DoD) directive you refer to forbids the use by retired personnel of a military rank in any sort of commercial enterprise: JER, para 2-304.
     This is generally interpreted to forbid use anytime there could be a possibility someone might believe a retired officer has an endorsement by the DoD in a position ... or is seeking to appear to have some additional authority because of her or her former rank.

      As general statement, one should use a form of address supported by the position one holds, not by one's former position.
     What about working as a volunteer s
elling Christmas trees for a local charity?  Though the situation might have a commercial component ...
here using one's rank is probably not an issue.
         -- Robert Hickey

May a Retired Enlisted Person Use
His or Her Rank as a DoD Employee?

     I am a retired non-commissioned officer from the US Army.: 21 years in the Infantry to be exact.  My boss who has never been in the military told me that I can never use my retired title after my name?  Can you assist me on this matter? I am a GS-12 DOD employee.
     --JP

Dear JP:
      DOD documents say anyone of any rank or rating who retires is entitled to use their rank or rating in retirement subject to certain restrictions in commercial enterprises -- such as in a business situation when it could be confusing whether you were presenting yourself as 'active duty' OR 'retired'. 
    An example of when it should not be used would be a retired USAF officer who in retirement takes a job for Boeing ... and then deals with the public as a Boeing employee.  He should not use his rank as a Boeing employee since he is acting as a civilian.
    So ... that's your issue.
    However any retired person can continue to use their rank or rating socially.

             -- Robert Hickey

May a Retired Officer
Use His/Her Rank as a
Federal Civil Servant?
      A fellow officer and I are having a gentleman’s disagreement about using a rank and retired designation in a signature block when hired as a federal civil servant. Although the USPHS is one of the uniformed services of the United States, we are not military under DoD, but rather HHS. That aside, in reading the FAQs and another statement on Military.Com, there seems to be a prohibition against using the rank and retired designation in my signature block.  It appears however that it’s an interpretation based on giving an appearance or causing confusion and not a specific prohibition in the statute. I think my signature block is clear that I am retired and I have listed my position. Can you comment? The example you cite (on your site) is a civilian employee of a defense contractor which is not quite the same as a civilian civil service employee.  I enjoyed reading your information!

             -- Kevin Christopher, MS, FASHP
                CAPT USPHS, Ret.
                Department Chief @ The National Institutes of Health

Dear Mr. Christopher:
    I recently got a note from a retired USN nurse, now raising funds for a hospital, whose committee chair wanted her sign fund raising letters with her former rank, branch of service, and retired status.  The colleague was not asking her to pretend to be on active duty -- he just felt it would make her pitch for support more persuasive I guess.
    When I speak to military protocol officers, they say it's never a conflict for a retired officer to use his or her rank socially. But they maintain that in any post-retirement position ... one's former rank is not pertinent ... except in a way the DoD guidelines attempt to prohibit: gaining some edge due anyone's assumption that the former officer has some residual heft in authority due to his or her former rank.

 
  
            -- Robert Hickey

Robert,
    Is there a specific prohibition for a retired officer who is also a federal civil servant to use the retired designation or is it just an interpretation related to potential confusion and/or commercialization?

             -- Kevin

Dear Kevin,
    I know of no regulation specifically worded to direct the use of ranks and ratings by retired personnel as federal civil servants.
    However it's a topic that comes up a lot around DC. After years of hearing it discussed I find protocol officers interpret it JER. para 2-304 to forbid anything except but purely social use, and feel that any subsequent work-related use of rank is inappropriate.  
 
              -- Robert

May a Retired Officer
Use His/Her Rank as a Teacher/Professor?

       I would like to create a signature block for letters and/or email correspondence at work.  My desire is to honor the training I received in the USAF and all of the guys I flew with and trained. 
So here are the variables:
       * Retired USAF Major
       * M.Ed. degree in Secondary Education (studies completed 1.5 years after leaving Active Duty)
       * Currently [past 18 years] a High School teacher and also Adjunct Faculty at a local Community College. At my present school we have a large USAF JROTC program and I assist/support Col Eyring, USAF, Ret. and CMSgt Greenwood, USAF, Ret. wholeheartedly; periodically wearing my uniform and participating in awards ceremonies.
       Here is what I am considering:
              Major Linda Hamilton, M.Ed., USAF, Ret.
              Educator-Spanish, Social Studies, Psychology
              Student Intervention Team (SIT) Advocate
              Adjunct Faculty-Local Community College
              Telephone & E-mail

       -- Linda

Dear Linda:
        1) Academic post-nominals are not used with a rank.
        2) DoD guidelines are generally interpreted to say retired personnel should use a form of address that is supported by their current role rather than continue to use their rank in a subsequent civilian professional context.  
        Socially it's just fine to use your rank ... with the USAF ROTC assisting as a retired officer it's fine too.
        But for your work e-mail signature block the DoD would have you be:
                Linda Hamilton, M.Ed.
                Educator-Spanish, Social Studies, Pschology
                Student Intervention Team (SIT) Advocate
                Adjunct Faculty-Local Community College
        and when you are in uniform acting as a retired USAF officer:
                Major Linda Hamilton, USAF, Ret.
        -- Robert Hickey

May I Use My Rank at My Civilian Job
If I Am Clear That I am a Reservist

        I am a Colonel in the USAR with 28 years of service.  I just returned from my 2nd tour of deployment in Iraq.  I am a veteran several times over.  Here is my question.  I recently went to work with an organization that our primary client base are the VA Hospitals.  I have gone back to reserve status for the time being.  Can I use my rank on my business cards and signature block, as long as I used USAR?
        I read your blog, but see two different views.
        You posted:  
JER, para. 2-304: 
Use of Military Title by Retirees or Reserves. Retired military members and members of Reserve Components, not on active duty, may use military titles in connection with commercial enterprises, provided they clearly indicate their retired or inactive Reserve status. However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.
        That would seem to imply I can use my rank at a commercial enterprise if I am clear and do not discredit the DoD.
               -- BB

Dear BB:
       
Forms of address are meant to inform all parties with whom they are interacting.
        I recently had a note from a Yale professor with a PhD in English who had been cited by the city of New Haven for misrepresentation for publicly advertising his private nutrition, yoga & wellness classes  .... as being taught by "Dr. Michael Anderson".
        He said everyone knew him and it was clear he wasn't an MD or had a doctorate in a health field.
        I see him presenting his name in a way where he might (rightly or wrongly) receive a undue credibility.
        Thus calling himself  "Dr. Anderson" was O.K at the university teaching English, but was not O.K. teaching nutrition .... since his degree was pertinent teaching English, but not nutrition.
        I see the clause you noted to be interpreted to prohibit the use of one's rank if there is a possibility one might receive any courtesy and privilege rightfully granted to the holder of a rank.
        To me it's the selling to a branch of the government that is the red flag.
        RE: However, any use of military titles is prohibited if it in any way casts discredit on DoD or gives the appearance of sponsorship, sanction, endorsement, or approval by DoD.
        Using one's rank when selling to government would seem to be covered in the "sponsorship" or "endorsement" notations.
        I know that retired USAF officers who work for Boeing or Lockheed-Martin, selling services to the DoD, are forbidden to use their ranks in writing ... although I am sure their personal history comes up in conversation.
        Anyway ... that's the way I see it.
                -- Robert Hickey

Use of Reserve Rank as an Civilian DoD Employee?
       I’m a Navy Reserve Commander not on active duty, working as a civilian instructor at (one of the Armed Service Academies) and am a DoD employee. What is the permissible title to use on a signature block or in the classroom setting?

              -- John MacDonald

Dear John:
      You are instructor and do not hold that job because of your rank, right?
      Then you should use a signature block supported by the office you hold.  So, as a instructor use your academic credentials, such as:
                John MacDonald, MBA, MS
     In the classroom students would address you as a civilian, because that's what you are in the classroom.
     The DoD's position is there is no appropriate professional/official use of rank at a position in which you do not serve (are assigned to it by the US Government) as a person of rank. To the DoD it can be seen as an attempt to receive some courtesy due the rank in an office where there is no force or power of the US Government behind the person & the rank.
     You can of course mention your rank and Naval Reserve status in text, such as in your biography.

       -- Robert Hickey

May a Medically-Retired Service Member Use Their Rank
In Retirement Just Like a Someone Retired After 20 Years?

 
       Can a former U.S. Army Captain who was medically retired after three years of service use his rank ... e.g., Cpt (full name) USA, Ret. or is that designation reserved for service members that completed 20 or more years of military service and reached full military retirement?
 
         -- Kristen Selleck

Dear K.S.:
      If the member was medically retired they may use the rank in the same manner as a service member who retired after serving for 20 years. 
     However, it they were medically separated then ... they would not be.

      -- Robert Hickey

Use of Rank with Their Name by Veterans
These are Former (Not Retired) Personnel

    I want to honor my dad's military service (Naval Academy class of '67) on my wedding invitation, but he did not retire. He was a Lt. Commander. I assume it is NOT appropriate to list a former rank unless he retired as a Captain or above. Right? Thank you very much,
      -- A Blue-and-Gold Bride to Be

   I am listing contributors in the credits of my documentary film on the history of our local USAF base. Some are retired officers. Others served in the USAF but then left the Air Force do to other things after a couple of years. Can I write all their names (Rank) (Name) (Abbreviation for their Branch of Service)?
      -- Filmer

Dear Bride to Be & Flimer:
      The answer is that one who doesn't retire doesn't continue to use the rank as part of their name. Use of rank as part of one's name is reserved for those who serve until retirement. I checked with the Andria Post, Director of Protocol and Event Planning, Naval Sea Systems Command and here is her reply ....
     When one leaves the service and resigns his/herrank, so he/she does not continue to use the rank as part of his name. He'she served in an honorable fashion and served his/her committed time. So on the invitation it would be:
               Mr. and Mrs. James Wilson
      Perhaps she could submit an article to the local newspaper where she can reflect that she is "the daughter of John Paul Jones, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Class of 1967, and Mary Jones of Springfield, Virginia."
     I would also be proud of the fact that my Dad was an academy graduate and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander, but use of the rank would be inappropriate on the invitation
.
    In circumstances when you do want to note the service of an individual because it is pertinent to their participation at an event, list it in a way that is not a part of their name. E.g., At a Memorial Day ceremony or at a Independence Day event at which you are listing the veterans participating in the event's program:
               James Wilson (Captain, USAF)
    Fully retired individuals would be listed with the rank before their name:
               Colonel James Wilson, USAF, Retired
    -- Robert Hickey

Use of Rank by a Former (Not Retired) Enlisted Member?
      How do I address a prior-service Marine, taking into consideration that she has remarried since her honorable discharge. She was Sgt. Jane Doe, however her married name is Smith. Would she be address in a formal military setting as Sgt. Doe or Sgt. Smith?  To add to complications, She married Master Chief Petty Officer Keith Smith who is retired from the U.S. Coast Guard.
 
  -- CMSV

Dear CMSV,
    Those who are retired from the armed services are permitted to continue to use their rank socially.
    By Department of Defense guidelines those resigning their commission or being honorably discharged ... are not permitted to continue to use their ranks after their service ends.

    Since you say she was honorably discharged, she is now addressed as a civilian using her current name without rank: Ms. Jane Smith.  I used "Ms." rather than "Mrs." since "Ms." is the most typically used honorific for women today when their marital status is not pertinent.  But if for some reason she prefers "Mrs. Jane Smith" I would follow her preference.
    As to whether it matters if she is married to an armed services retiree, Department of Defense guidelines are also clear that being married to a member of an armed service does not allow any use of the spouse's rank. So in joint address she would be:
        Master Chief Petty Officer James Smith
            and Mrs. Smith.

    I cover all this in my book.
     -- Robert Hickey

May One Use A Rank as Veteran, If Not Retired?
       Is my son-in-law abusing the use of the title: SSGT, USMC, even if including Vet on return address labels such as this one:
               SSGT Todd S. Miles, USMC, VET
               124 Rivington Avenue
               Fairmont, AL 34567-8901

       He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps several years ago after serving two years state-side on active duty and then a couple of years stateside in the reserves at which time he "got out".  He claims once a Marine always a Marine and uses that as justification to use his former rank and service affiliation on correspondence ... such as in the return address on envelopes. He receives no income related to his military service since he "got out."
      I appreciate the fact that he served his country in the Marine Corps, but is this legal, appropriate and/or otherwise proper?  I don't desire that my daughter's friends and/or relatives to be laughing behind their backs if this form of address does not fit into at least one of those descriptions.

       -- Ben Packard

Dear Mr. Hickey,
       I am a former enlisted soldier who spent five years
as infantry in the Army serving a combat tour in Afghanistan before finally getting out in 2008. I am currently attending school with plans of returning to the Army once I complete my degree. However, in the mean time there are occasions where I would like to use my military rank for letters of recommendations, etc. What would be the correct format for using my former rank with my name?
      -- C.H.

Dear Mr. Packard & C.H.,
       Use of one's former rank by non-retired military personnel is not a prescribed usage by the Department of Defense (DoD). Use of rank is reserved for career 20-year retirees -- with the intention that their use of the rank is for personal social use -- and is not for use subsequent civilian work-related situations.
       In a bio or in a resume the service to our nation would be included as part of one's experience -- it's just using the rank as part of one's name the DoD specifically prohibits.
       So the correct form of address in both cases is Mr. (Name).
        -- Robert Hickey

May One Use A Rank as Veteran for a Charity?
      I am a USMC veteran and am sending out Toys for Toys Awards to those who supported our campaign. On the bottom right, there is room for my signature, which I intend to just print out in a nice looking script font.
      I also intend to put my "Name" and "USMC" or "MCL" below my name as the coordinator of Toys for Tots.
The Marine Corps League (MLC) administers the county's Toys for Tots program.
     I think including my USMC rank will increase my name recognition in our community. The questions I have are
     1. Do I put Vincent Corrado, SGT, USMC if I am no longer in the Marines?  I served my 4 years and received an honorable discharge.
     2. Or do I need to say Former?
     3. Or do I just stick with
Vincent Corrado, MCL ?
      -- Vincent Corrado

Dear Mr. Corrado:
      Identify yourself by the capacity you are in sending out the letters -- with your Name + your affiliation with the MCL (Marine Corp League) -- coordinator of the charity.
     If you want to mention you are a USMC veteran, the right place to do it would be in the text of the letter.

     Use of a rank in the form you suggest is reserved to fully retired personnel and is limited to social use.
      -- Robert Hickey

Use of Rank by a Deserter?
       Our county courthouse proudly displays personal bricks on a Walk of Honor with the names, years of service, branch of service of veterans.
       There is a brick that displays a person’s name with the information USMC and the years he was supposed to have served in the Marine Corp.  This person was dishonorably discharged as a deserter.
       Since he was in fact a member of the Armed Forces and did produce the required DD214 to gain a place on our Walk of Honor is he doing anything illegal?
       It is a shame the county employee that verified the information did not check his papers closer.
       My husband did serve this country as a Marine and it is offensive to me to see the bricks even on the same sidewalk..
              -- S P.

Dear S. P.:
       What he's essentially doing is impersonating a veteran.
However I doubt it is anything the Department of Defense will pursue.
       If he were to defraud the DoD of benefits due to veterans or retirees ... that would be clearly illegal and they would be all over him.
       Maybe there is someone at the court house who is "the keeper of the walk" who could remove a brick that was found to be inappropriate?
       -- Robert Hickey

May a Retired Officer Use His/Her Rank
As a Civilian Employee at the Veterans Administration?

       I am a retired Air Force Reserve Lt. Colonel working as a civil servant for the Veterans Health Administration.  A number of us are retired military who continue to serve our fellow vets.  Is it allowable for us to indicate our retired military status in our e-mail and hard copy correspondence?
      Obviously, we are not engaged in a commercial enterprise.  I have looked at the VA/VHA directives and cannot find anything on point.  We think adding are military retired status to our signature blocks help build a closer bond with our patients and amongst each other.
      As the medical center’s Compliance and Business Integrity Officer I am especially sensitive to ensuring we follow the rules.  What is proper in this situation??

            -- Mike in West Virginia

Dear Mike:
    The way I read the DoD guidelines is they are designed to prohibit anyone receiving ... or appearing to seek to receive ... any benefits, deference, or courtesies due to their former rank in jobs which are not active-duty positions held as armed service personnel.
    The DoD wants those courtesies reserved for active duty personnel as they serve with the power of the government behind their actions.
    This continued use of your rank as a retiree would be limited to personal, social use -- and not used in subsequent employment.
    Of course vets and retiree's share a special bond, but probably VA/VHA employees who are neither can offer exceptional service and can have extraordinary bonds with the vets they serve.

              -- Robert Hickey

How to Write My Retired Rank
in an E-mail Signature Block?

     Robert, I was recently trying to confirm how to cite my retired military rank in a signature block being used in correspondence. Can you please clear up my confusion.

     Tom Reardon

     Chief Warrant Officer 3

     Retired, USA

Dear Tom,

     DOD style manuals deal with official correspondence for active duty personnel ... so there are guidelines.  For example in AFH 33-119 states: At a minimum, official signature blocks should include name, rank, position and organization, but often include telephone numbers (both commercial and DSN) and addresses (both commercial and e-mail).
     Even though it says including e-mail address the one's I see often don't include an
e-mail address since you have an e-mail from the person and the e-mail is included elsewhere. But that said, based on the forms I see, here's the formula:
        1) The NAME IS CAPITALIZED, followed by rank, then service on the first line. 
        2) The duty title is on the second line.  
        3) Other information such as in address, phone, cell, classified e-mail address, etc. Many people include a full mailing address as that would typically appear on official letterhead.
     So a formula would be:
 
             NAME, Rank, Branch of Service
              Duty line / Name of office
             
Mailing Address
             Phone Number(s)

   Which look like this:
 
            DEBORAH LASSITER, Lt Col, USAF
             Title of Position
            Name of Office

            Pentagon, Room, Washington, D.C.  Zip Code
            Phone: 703-222-3333
            Cell: 123-345-6789

                      or
            TIMOTHY W. THOMPSON, LTC, USA
            Title of Position
            Name of Office
             Address, Washington, D.C.  Zip Code
             Phone: 703-222-3333
     So based on that a retired address block might look like:
            DANIEL C. WALLACE, MSgt. USAF, Ret.
            Mailing Address
            Phone: 703-222-3333

    Be sure to read the next note about when and where it's correct to use your rank when retired .

                                    -- Robert Hickey

May I Use My Rank At Work My Retirement Job?

      How do I write include my rank in a post-retirement signature block at my new job? Should I would include that I am retired after my name: Captain Robert W. Thompson, USN, Retired ?
      -- Bob Thompson


      I am a retired active duty senior NCO working at hanger as government contractor with National Guard personal. They work in uniform, I don't.  How should we address each other?
      -- Todd Neilson


Dear Bob &  Todd,

     According to Protocol Officers at the Pentagon (my contact in in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force) ... here's their view on use of rank at a new employer: If retirees are in a new job, then they should use a signature block that supports that job and should not be using military rank and retired – it is a misrepresentation. They are an employee of the new employer and representing the new employer in their new official position – not the military. We run into this a lot when retired officers who attend Pentagon events and they are coming in their new “contractor” status not as a private/retired status. We don’t address them with their retired rank on invitations or tent cards etc., but as Mr/Ms (name) + their new company affiliation.
      In commerce, forms of
address should reflect the role you are performing: Those present because they are on active duty are Rank (Name); Those present, because they are working in a civilian role, are Mr./Ms. (Name).

   -- Robert Hickey

How to Sign a Letter as a Gray-area Retiree?
     I am a retired US Army Reserve Captain (Gray-area Retiree). One of my former soldiers (still serving), has requested a letter of recommendation from me to help him achieve a career goal.
     I know that I can no longer use a military letterhead, and I intend to refer to myself as either
CPT(R) Kenneth Norris, or Kenneth Norris, Captain, Retired.

      
-- KC Norris

Dear CPT Norris:
    The DOD guidelines do not suggest either of the forms you mention: CPT(R) Kenneth Morrison or Kenneth Morrison, Captain, Retired. 
    The forms DOD guidelines suggest for retired armed service personnel are:
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Retired
                        or
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Ret.
 
    The forms DOD guidelines suggest for retired armed service personnel are:
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Retired
                        or
            Captain Kenneth Norris, USA, Ret.
    1) If you want to use the Army's service-specific abbreviation for captain: CPT.
    2) Being a grey-area retiree does not affect these forms of address.
    3) The advice I get from Protocol at the Pentagon is that everyone retires from the same Army, and while USAR is used by reservists when active, USA is used by all retirees. 
    I know some retired reserve officers use
AUS. In Chapter 1: Heritage, Customs, and Courtesies of the Army of the 50th Edition of Army Officer's Guide, by LTC Keith E. Bonn, USA, Retired
(2008, Stackpole Books), he states under Use of Titles by Retired Personnel"Official signatures will include the designated retired status after the grade, thus, "USA Retired" will be used by members on the U.S. Army Retired List (Regulars); "AUS Retired" will be used by those on the Army of the United States List."
     On the other hand, the advice I get from the Association of the US Army and protocol at the Pentagon is that
AUS is an older, still correct form, but is a less frequently used post nominal. For the moment I am going to keep following the DoD style manual and what the protocol team at the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon suggests for retired personnel: USA, Retired.
    4) I am always interested in parallel patterns in forms of address. While I accept the fact that it won't convince everyone, the USN, USAF, and USMC use only one post-nominal for both active and retired. Not that the Army would not have its own traditions -- but as an outsider -- what other organizations do supports the reasonableness of a single post-nominal style.
                 -- Robert Hickey

Grey-area or Gray-area Retiree?  A or E?
         I believe you are “the man” I need to speak to insure a spelling issue!
         Is the proper spelling for a retired guard/reservist not collecting pension: Gray-area Retiree or Grey-area Retiree? I emailed PA on the DoD website, didn't get a good answer!
        -- Ken Baumgarten

Dear Mr. Baumgarten:
        It's not a DoD issue.  Both are acceptable spellings to describe a color that is neither black nor white.
        BUT in dictionaries, "gray" with an "A" is the first spelling in the dictionary
... "grey" with an "E" is noted to be an alternate spelling. E.g., Merriam-Webster calls  "grey"  a variant of "gray."
        So I vote for gray-area.
        -- Robert Hickey

Should I Use USMC, Retired or USMCR, Retired:
I Served in Both the USMC and the USMCR?

       I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on 10/17/1985, went to boot camp 05/28/86, was in the Marine Corps Reserve 09/86 to 9/90, active duty 10/1/1990, entered OCS commissioned 12/7/90, was on active duty through 7/1/97, went in to the Marine Corps Reserve from 07/97 - 11/1/05 when I retired as a Major.
       Should I list myself as Major, USMCR (retired) or Major, USMC (retired)?
       Does the Marine Corps still use the abbreviation USMCR?
       Any advice is appreciated--I just want to be sure I list it properly.
             -- Paul

Dear Paul,
 
  Before you retired -- USMC and USMCR were pertinent --but now you are simply retired from the Marines.
    The direct forms of address suggested by the DOD manuals are as follows, without parentheses:
         Major Paul J. Dexter, USMC, Retired
            Or:
         Major Paul J. Dexter, USMC, Ret.
    Sometimes you see in a list of names:
         Paul J. Dexter (Major, USMC, Retired)
    ... but that's not a direct form of address. It would be an editorial style if other names appeared without honorifics and somehow your retired status was pertinent.

     
       -- Robert Hickey


Not Finding Your Question Answered?
Below are other topics covered in my blog and at right is a list of officials, Between the two I probably have what you are looking for.
     After hunting around a bit, if you don't see your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day (unless I am traveling.)
      If I think your question is of interest to others, I will post the question & answer – with your name and any personal specifics changed.
      -- Robert Hickey

USE OF NAMES & HONORIFICS   
Mr., Miss, Jr., III, & Names        
Married Women       
Deceased Persons         
People with Two Titles
Post-Nominal Abbreviations and Initials         
 
Couples: Private Citizens / Joint Forms of Address 
Couples: U.S. Military / Joint Forms of Address     
Couples: U.S. Officials / Joint Forms of Address      

USE OF SPECIFIC OFFICIAL TITLES        
Former Officials            
Professionals and Academics        

United States Federal Officials, Currently In Office             
United States State Officials, Currently In Office              
United States Municipal Officials, Currently In Office             
       All About The Honorable with U.S. Officials         
       Former United States Officials of all types             
United States Armed Services, Active Duty             
       Addressing Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Retired Personnel      
       Use of Rank by Veterans      

Tribal Officials 
           
Clergy and Religious Officials           
Canadian Officials         
Australian Officials          
British Officials, Royalty, and Nobility        
Diplomats and International Representatives
           
Foreign National Officials and Nobility        

SPECIFIC SITUATIONS
Business Cards       
Couples        
Etiquette
            
Flags and Anthem Protocol             
Introductions
            
Invitations: Writing & Addressing
        
Invitations: Just Armed Service Personnel        
Name Badges & Tags            
Names on Programs, Signs, & Lists            
Naming a Building or Road            
Place Cards            

Plaques, Awards, Diplomas, Certificates    
Precedence: Ordering Officials 
         
Thank You Notes             


Site updated by Robert Hickey on April 17, 2014


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Robert Hickey is the author of Honor & Respect:
The Official Guide to Names, Titles, and Forms of Address
Published by The Protocol School of Washington®
Foreword by Pamela Eyring

Copyright © 2013 Robert Hickey.     All Rights Reserved.
Book Photo: Marc Goodman.