"Don't call me Sir..."

Seajack

Alpaca Farmer
Member
Joined
Oct 11, 2010
Messages
137
Location
New Orleans
To start off, I want to go ahead and emphasize my very little knowledge on military customs and courtesy, thus, what has brought me here.

I'm currently a recruit with the Sea Cadets in Pittsburgh, and attended my first drill last month. A certain situation popped up that I would like to avoid in the future, and was hoping some of you could shed some light on this.

As I said, last month, I was at drill, and the XO of my battalion, a Senior Chief Petty Officer (retired), told me to go upstairs and get fitted for dungarees. I said, "Aye aye, Sir" and before I could speed off, he caught me, and said to me, "Don't call me sir, I work for a living."

He left it at that, and I later found out that I am to refer to him as "Senior Chief" and only that. I haven't messed that part up since, but have wondered the etiquette that goes along with that.

The reason that confuses me, is that the CO, a Lieutenant, does not mind how he is addressed, as long as it's formal (Sir, or Lieutenant).

This summer, I also attended a camp that was run by a First Sergeant (retired) in the Marine Corps. He also didn't mind how he was addressed.

There are some other instances, all varying, which kept me from coming to a conclusion of my own.

If anyone could explain this to me, or point me in the right direction to something that would clear things up, that would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
 
8

8'Duece

Guest
Now you know.................it's "Aye, Aye Chief" ......................don't make that mistake again. :D
 

Dame

Member
Joined
Apr 22, 2010
Messages
3,107
Location
USSTRATCOM
Seajack,
The preference is generally to call only commissioned officers sir. Even though a Chief Petty Officer has the word in the title, he/she is actually NOT a commissioned officer. For the Coast Guard and the Navy, Warrant Officers and Petty Officers are NCOs (non-commissioned officers) thus the "I work for a living" comment. Best way to avoid the mistake is to study the charts on who is pay grade E (enlisted) and who is pay grade O (officer), study what the insignia is for each one, and then pay attention to what they LIKE to be called. Good luck.
 

Ranger Psych

Ranger
Verified SOF
Joined
Sep 6, 2008
Messages
3,846
Location
Keeping my hatchet sharp in the PNW
It's easy: The overwhelming majority of military officers are... you guessed it, 2nd lieutenants... with the military knowledge instilled during their ROTC or other pre-commission tenure getting their bachelors degree.

They have the military knowledge and operational capacity of a private, no time in service, yet are expected to be responsible for and lead a platoon of men.

While, to their right is a career Non-Commissioned Officer who has 7+ years on the job, has been there done that already rose through the ranks and now has to not only listen to, but make sure this "in charge private" doesn't get himself, or the platoon, killed.

would YOU want to be called SIR if you were that NCO?


View attachment 13475
 

Attachments

  • 57-Meeting-the-LT.jpg
    57-Meeting-the-LT.jpg
    102.8 KB · Views: 50

Headshot

Banned
Joined
Feb 18, 2009
Messages
1,648
Location
banned
There was a very well written post on here at one time about honoring the rank; I think CAR may have posted it. In short (and paraphrasing), it's not the persons decision who wears the rank to decide if others need to honor it or not. That person is only borrowing the rank for a short time and is to give it the honor and respect of those who wore it before, and set a standard for those who will wear it after they are gone.

Follow protocol and you won't get in trouble, even when the books are laid open. If you let one NCO set a lazy personal standard for your salutation, then you will most likely get blasted worse at some point for addressing someone improperly who has the proper respect for their rank.

That said, I don't know how you Navy folk like to address one another outside of sweet cheeks and honey bear.
 

Marauder06

Intel Enabler
Verified SOF
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
11,182
Location
CONUS
It's easy: The overwhelming majority of military officers are... you guessed it, 2nd lieutenants... ...

Actually, the numerically dominant officer grade amongst all services is O3, not O1. Servicewide, there are more O4s and O5s than O1s. Source

While it's important to learn service-specific customs and courtesies and to refer to individuals by the titles they have earned, the statement "Don't call me sir, I work for a living" is trite, overused, and unfunny. The clear implications of such a statement is that officers don't "work for a living." Such a sentiment is patently untrue and is an insult to the Officers' Corps. That would be tantamount to an officer saying, "Don't call me sergeant, I think for living." Both statements are bullshit.

The Private Murphy cartoon, while humorous, also partially reflects inaccurate stereotypes. The base pay for a 2LT in the Army with less than 2 years of service (likely for a brand-new platoon leader) is $2745.60. Base pay for a sergeant first class with over 8 years (likely for a platoon sergeant) is $3204.00. The pay disparity increases rapidly thereafter, but for the snapshot represented by the cartoon, it is inaccurate. Source

There was a very well written post on here at one time about honoring the rank; I think CAR may have posted it. In short (and paraphrasing), it's not the persons decision who wears the rank to decide if others need to honor it or not. That person is only borrowing the rank for a short time and is to give it the honor and respect of those who wore it before, and set a standard for those who will wear it after they are gone.

That sounds like something CAR would say :) well put.

Follow protocol and you won't get in trouble, even when the books are laid open. If you let one NCO set a lazy personal standard for your salutation, then you will most likely get blasted worse at some point for addressing someone improperly who has the proper respect for their rank.

Concur.
 

Crusader74

Verified Military
Verified Military
Joined
Oct 24, 2006
Messages
2,759
I wonder what an NCO would say to that statement after going through OCS and getting commissioned and a young Recruit called him Sgt?

To all the Officers on the board, what would you say to an NCO if you heard him mention that in your presence?
 

manas

In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor
Verified Military
Joined
Nov 9, 2010
Messages
16
Location
USA
I said, "Aye aye, Sir" and before I could speed off, he caught me, and said to me, "Don't call me sir, I work for a living."

He left it at that, and I later found out that I am to refer to him as "Senior Chief" and only that. I haven't messed that part up since, but have wondered the etiquette that goes along with that.

When I was in the box I did the same thing to a Seabee Chief and had the same exact line thrown at me and plus some. I actually thought the line was pretty funny, but I can definately see where he was coming from. Although that day my Air Force was showing haha. Most places I've been AF side people just throw Sirs to anyone. Then again as AF we usually relate to our jobs rather than our branch. Unlike a Marine who would probably say he was a Marine. Went off topic for a bit.

Bottom line. Memorize the ranks and act appropriately. I'm sure he wasn't that offended by your mistake.:p
 

Marauder06

Intel Enabler
Verified SOF
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
11,182
Location
CONUS
"Sir" is a term of respect that transcends the military environment. For someone to roll the "I work for a living" chestnut out and direct it someone not even in the military is a dick move. How the hell are they supposed to know what to call you? We don't require or expect civilians to know or practice our customs or courtesies. "Sir" and "ma'am" are fallback terms of deference and respect and are completely appropriate when you don't know the correct form of address for someone. A more appropriate response would have been, "We normally save "sir" for the officers, I'm a (insert appropriate grade here), we go by (insert appropriate salutation here)."

... To all the Officers on the board, what would you say to an NCO if you heard him mention that in your presence?

It depends-

Soldiers in my command knew I didn't appreciate that type of humor and didn't use it in my presence, the exception of course being the more senior NCOs would would say it in closed company (i.e. just us officers and NCOs) to try to get a rise out of me,just like any good friends do. I remember when I was an O2, and had been a platoon leader for about 21 months, one of my team leaders teased me "you can't spell lost without LT" (another overused and unfunny observation), to which I replied, "well, you can't spell faggots without SGT," I guess they had never heard that before because they thought that was pretty funny. I would NEVER say something like that outside of a group of people who would clearly understand that it was meant in jest. Using it in close company is a reflection of personal ties- much the same way good friends might exchange ethnic insults but would never dream directing those same comments to people they don't know.

Individuals who say things like the "work for a living" quote generally fall into two categories- those who heard something they thought was cool and want to try it out, and those who like to act like they're more important than they really are.

Let's look at that statement for what it is- a public challenge. Basically, if an NCO I didn't know made a statement like that in front of me, he's basically saying "I have no respect for what you do, and you're not going to do anything about it." Whether that's the intent or not, that's what's being conveyed. It's disrespectful, and requires corrective action.

The circumstances dictate the kind of corrective action. This isn't the kind of thing you cause a public scene over, this is more the kind of thing that you get the guy alone and explain why it's inappropriate (in most circumstances, the phrase is so trite and common that the individual doesn't even realize someone might take offense). And sometimes, for a number of reasons, you might just have to let it go. Again, it depends.
 

Diamondback 2/2

Infantry
Verified Military
Joined
Jan 24, 2008
Messages
6,848
Location
Tejas
SSMP
Military Mentor
That “call me by my title” stuff is garrison military reindeer games. If you are around the flag pole you should address each and every soldier by their rank and last name, regardless of what that rank is (Pvt to Gen). Soldiers who get offended b/c they got called Sir when they are an NCO or vice versa, need to relax. People make mistakes, did not see your rank or whatever. There is no need to get stupid about it.

Every unit I have been in we used was nicknames or first names once we all knew each other, but when in the company of other (people outside our unit) we addressed each other by rank and last name.

As for offending the NCO or O corps, I see it as “if the shoe fits wear it”. I have never made fun anyone unless the deserved it and just b/c they wore a higher or lower rank then me didn’t change that. If some 2LT was jacked up I would say it and if he was squared away then I would say that as well. Same went for PVTs to SGM’s/ 2LTs to GEN’s. If they asked me, they got an honest answer. But regardless of what I may have felt about them when in the company of others (outside of the unit) I always addressed them by their rank and last name…

To me this is the difference in respecting the man vs his rank or title.
 

Mr. Punchy

Half man, half robo-shark
Unverified
Joined
Sep 11, 2007
Messages
10
Location
Tecksuz
Finally, a thread right down my lane! Before I spent 6 years in the Navy, I was a Sea Cadet, so I have some insight on this. In the Navy all commissioned officers(and Warrant Officers) are entitled to be called "sir." although most WOs I've known prefer "Mister XXXX" or by there Warrant specialty i.e. "Bosun" Or "Gunner." E-7 thru E-9s are addressed as "Chief XXXX," "Senior Chief XXXX," and "Master Chief XXXX" respectively, or sometimes just by their rating i.e. "Chief," "Senior Chief," etc.

The Sea Cadets are a little different. Most adult leaders with military (not just Navy) experience are given "rank" ranging from Ensign(O-1) to Lieutenant Commander(O-4). These are not actual military ranks but cadets are taught to treat them as such, as well as rendering proper respect to all military personnel. Some adult leaders are given either the tile of "Instructor" and addressed by cadets as any adult should be i.e. "Sir," "Ma'am," "Mr. XXXX," etc.

In the Sea Cadets depending, depending on location, Adult leaders can be hard to come by with maybe only 1 or 2 prior service "officers." The CO and XO of many units are only junior Os in the Sea Cadets but could have 40 or more years of actual service between them.
If the Chief in question holds a Sea Cadet officer rank it is correct to address him as "sir." However, in my experience Chief Petty Officers have worked very hard to achieve their anchors and the tile of CPO means more than any youth-organization-bestowed "rank ever could.

If a retired CPO/Sea Cadet officer told me to address him as "Chief," my response would be "Aye, aye, Chief."
If a retired CPO/Sea Cadet officer told me to address him by his first name my response would be "Aye, aye, Chief."


Jesus, I better shut the hell up. I might get addicted to this posting thing.
 

Seajack

Alpaca Farmer
Member
Joined
Oct 11, 2010
Messages
137
Location
New Orleans
Finally, a thread right down my lane! .....


Thanks a bunch for the reply! That's very insightful.

Now, is it acceptable for me to refer to a LT as "Lieutenant"? I am not sure if this is his Sea Cadet rank, or his Navy rank. I've used "Sir" when he tells me to go get something, since I'm usually in a hurry, and it's just phonetically quicker to say "Sir", but if he's having a informal conversation with me, what should I address him by?
I know the XO (Senior Chief) wants to be addressed by his Navy rank at all times, the O's are what confuse me now.
 

Marauder06

Intel Enabler
Verified SOF
Joined
Sep 9, 2006
Messages
11,182
Location
CONUS
Find our what his first name is and address him by that. Or just call him "dude." Officer LOVE that kind of thing. Make sure you do it in front of the Senior Chief.
 
Top