FM 7-21.13 Your Go-To Guide for Military Customs and Courtesies

In the military, we are very focused on rendering proper honors and following the tradition of certain customs and courtesies. There are several field manuals and regulations we can choose from if we want in depth and specific information. Chapter 4 of AR 600-20, Army Command Policy, talks about discipline, Soldier conduct, and other related topics. AR 600-25, Salutes, Honors, and Visits of Courtesy, will be helpful if you are asked to plan a ceremony. TC 3-21.5 (formerly known as FM 22-5), Drill and Ceremonies, is very helpful if you have a question about any of the particulars of formation movements. DA Pam 600-60 is A Guide to Protocol and Etiquette. My favorite resource in this area, which I read when I was a private, is FM 7-21.13, The Soldier’s Guide.

In this guide, you get an overview of everything that matters to a new Soldier, including discussion of the Army Values, what our individual roles and responsibilities are, pay and other benefits, what Army Training Management is, Counseling, and our Customs, Courtesies, and Traditions.

Chapter 4 covers Customs, Courtesies and Traditions. While you can research the other publications for more in depth information, this chapter is a great quick reference for all the general things we are supposed to know when it comes to saluting and what courteous behavior consists of.

It is incumbent upon leadership in the Army to understand basic customs and courtesies, and to uphold the standards. An example: When I was at AIT for 92F, I was asked to serve as the Student 1SG. That meant every morning at first formation, I got to report to the actual 1SG with company accountability. One particular morning, we had some Soldiers who had the privilege of raising the colors. Since we are used to having people on various details, I reported the Soldiers as being on ‘flag detail’. The 1SG stopped me and asked me if I thought that working with the colors was a chore or an honor. I told him, “An honor, 1SG!” He asked me what would be a more appropriate name for the detail. I started the report over and told him the Soldiers were on flag honors. It was an important lesson to me, as a PFC, that I understand that even the wording of certain details could be important.

Final Thoughts: Chapter 4 is important for everyone to read and understand. The entire FM is great reading, and I would encourage leaders to have their Soldiers review it. It is an honor and a privilege to be a leader of Soldiers, and making sure we all follow the customs and courtesies properly ensures greater pride in our profession and how we present ourselves in uniform.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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7 thoughts on “FM 7-21.13 Your Go-To Guide for Military Customs and Courtesies”

  1. Great point, Candace about the Stetson! As an Armor/Cav Officer, I take a lot of pride in my stetson and spurs. If you want Army and deep tradition, look to the Armor guys! Nobody has more pride and a sense of tradition/history than Armor Soldiers. You may be surprised (or not…) to know that many Armor guys like to drink beer out of their Stetson! If you ever had your hands on mine you can see the stains and distinct smell inside my Stetson… Gross as it may sound, it’s pretty common among our ranks.

    1. Candace Ginestar

      Yup! And breaking in the Stetson is great fun at the dining out/in. I know people have had more than beer in theirs…

  2. Great post Candace. I’m a big fan of military customs and courtesies. One of the things I enjoyed most about the military was the history and traditions it has. You don’t find many similar things outside of the military.

    Saluting officers, raising the flag, traditions for marriages, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and many other great traditions.

    What is your favorite military tradition?


    1. Candace Ginestar

      Hi Chuck!
      With tongue in cheek, I will say my favorite thing is no headgear on the flightline!

      But no, really, the military being full of traditions makes it easier to function – when everyone is on the same page!

      My favorite tradition has to be the unofficial tradition of the Stetson for Cavalry units! I loved buying my Stetson and putting it together. Everyone’s has a special touch to it, and since there is no regulation on it, the commander has a lot of leeway with when to have everyone wear it. We had a troop run the day after our dining out (it was a zoink but they didn’t know at the time), and my husband showed up in his PTs with his Stetson on to make a point! Everyone loved it.

      1. Candace,

        If you ain’t CAV you ain’t SH*T.

        That’s a saying I used to hear when I was stationed at Fort Carson. All the folks from 3rd ACR would parade around in their Stetsons. At the time, they kind of annoyed me. But looking back, I can see they were just proud of being CAV Soldiers.

        I would have loved to earn a Stetson during my career, and a set of spurs. I’ve always loved the CAV.

        Thanks for sharing.

        1. Candace Ginestar

          I learned about YACYAS when I was at OCS (still in phase 1, MD). I had to be a witness at an honor board hearing and while I was waiting my turn to go inside, CPT Cushatt asked me what branch I was and what unit I was going to. I told him that I have been in the FSC for the RSTA Sqdn in Oregon and he got really excited, and said I needed to learn YACYAS. Cav bonds people together in many ways. He never said I wasn’t a part of them and said that when the support rolls with the troops, we are all the same.

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