It may be a natural reaction to run up to your spouse and give them a kiss, especially if you’re unable to see them on a regular basis. Unfortunately, if they’re in uniform, they could face penalties. In fact, there are quite a few etiquette rules when a service member is in uniform that spouses should know.
Every military branch and installation is different, so some rules may be altered or vary in the level of enforcement, but here are some common regulations.
Because members are required to maintain professionalism in uniform, personal displays of affection are typically frowned upon except in certain situations. For instance, moderate kissing and hugging is acceptable when there’s a homecoming or deployment.
Regarding your spouse’s hands, there are a few things you should know:
- Pockets: Despite the multiple pockets on your spouses uniform, service members are not allowed to keep their hands in their pockets. You might not cause them to break the rule, but you can help by keeping an eye out to remind them.
- Holding Hands: Military personnel are not allowed to hold hands while in uniform. Males may escort women or help the elderly, but affectionate hand holding is a no-no. Some spouses have mentioned locking elbows with your spouse is an acceptable practice, so check with your specific command to determine your installation’s rules.
- Right Hand: Your spouse is required to keep his or her right hand empty in order to salute at any time. That means your spouse may need some assistance when carrying heavy loads.
Walking is not a complicated task, but service members in uniform have to pay special attention to a few rules.
- Eating/Drinking: Service members are not supposed to eat or drink anything while they are walking. While driving, it may be acceptable depending on where you’re stationed.
- Cellphones: One wife posted to a discussion on MilSpouse about her surprise when her husband said he couldn’t call her on the phone because he couldn’t stand still. Then she learned he was simply following a “no walk and talk” cellphone rule.
- Left Side: When you are walking somewhere with your spouse, be sure to walk on their left side. Otherwise you may get in the way when they need to salute.
Some rules are not always clear or enforced, while others are more of community-enforced guidelines. Here are some to consider:
- Smoking: There is a lot of variation when it comes to the regulations of smoking. Some installations don’t allow it at all in uniform, others may allow it while standing, and in some instances it’s permissible at all times. Be sure to learn the protocol of your area.
- Gum: It may be considered unprofessional for your spouse to chew gum in uniform.
- Sharing Uniform: Your spouse may get in trouble if photos of you or others are seen wearing their uniform. It may also be considered disrespectful for spouses to wear PTs.
- Umbrellas: There is still debate over the umbrella rule across the different branches. Often, uniformed members are not allowed to carry an umbrella. In some cases, females are allowed to carry one as long as it is solid black.
Photo courtesy David Robert Wright