If a group of officers of different ranks is approached by a group of NCOs do all officers return salute or just the most senior officer?
Those travelling with a senior officer are, in effect, a part of the senior officer and return the salute simultaneously with the senior officer. Basic protocol is that you sh…ould always return a salute, regardless if it is rendered correctly or even deserved. When moving in formation, the officer/NCO is responsible for insuring proper honors are rendered, whether they are saluting for the unit, or give the command for the entire unit to salute. . Discussion . I am looking for an answer to this question myself, but have not yet found anything authoritative. So I'll share what makes sense to me (and what was taught to me in the early days of my Army career).. When a salute is rendered to a group of officers of mixed ranks, it is the senior officer in that group who is officially the target/recipient of the salute. While that doesn't settle the question of who returns the salute, it suggests that it may be either optional or inappropriate for the other officers to return the salute.. Consider a party of two, a lieutenant and a major, encountering another party of two, a captain and a lieutenant colonel. It would seem most natural that the lieutenant and major salute the lieutenant colonel. But it would seem inappropriate for the captain to return the salute rendered by the approaching party, inasmuch as that group salute included one rendered by an officer senior to him. When observing just such an encounter, one occasionally witnesses an awkward (not to mention confused) back-and-forth volley of salutes: the lieutenant saluting the captain and lieutenant colonel, the captain responding and simultaneously saluting the major (who is already in the act of trying to salute the lieutenant colonel, but now struggles to figure out whether/how to respond to the captain's salute), the major saluting the lieutenant colonel, and the lieutenant colonel responding.. It would seem that the easiest solution would be that all members of a party encountering another party containing a senior officer would render a salute. Only the senior officer of the receiving party would return the salute.. To further bolster this suggestion, consider what an officer should do when accompanying a senior officer and then encountering another officer of the same rank as the senior. For clarity, I'll specify that a captain is walking with a major. They approach another major. Clearly, the two majors do not exchange salutes. But if the captain salutes the approaching major, he is effectively disengaging from the major he is already escorting in order to acknowledge another officer whose rank is no higher than the one he is already escorting. This seems inappropriate.. As a platoon leader, I was once outdoors with a number of soldiers in my platoon when another lieutenant approached. A well-intended, but unobservant sergeant in the party I was attending to called the group to attention and saluted the approaching lieutenant. Naturally, I responded with something like "Am I not really here, or what?", indicating that he had just taken the attention of my group away from me in order to acknowledge an officer of equivalent rank. Clearly, this was inappropriate.. This would explain why one accompanying a senior officer need only salute officers senior to both of them, and not all officer senior to him. If we apply a similar approach, I think we find grounds for suggesting that when a group of mixed rank officers is saluted, only the senior responds.. Unfortunately, I think that few servicemen are reflective enough to realize this. Instead, withholding a salute can leave them wondering what is wrong with the junior officer that he didn't return the salute. So propriety aside, it may still be worth returning a salute. Beyond being just a show of deference or respect, a salute is also a greeting exchanged between comrades in arms. Given that, we might welcome the opportunity to participate in an exchange of salutes. . As a commissioned officer, myself, a first lt., i wasalways taught that the salute is a recognition of rank, not the individual, and common military courtesy requires that all salutes be returned by all officers to those doing the saluting. (MORE)