Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

Use of Rank by a Reservist, U.S. Armed Services

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 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:
Two quick reactions: Using the rank to leverage its prestige so you can monetarialy benefit –and– with whom you are using the rank.

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 OK at the university teaching English, but was not OK 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 the 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.

— Robert Hickey

Include the “R” or Not?  USAR, Retired -or- USA, Retired?

Even when I was on active duty, I was a reservist. Now that I am retired should I list myself as:
———Major Paul J. Dexter, USAR, Retired 
———Major Paul J. Dexter, USA, Retired?
— Paul

Dear Paul,
Before you retired noting your reserve status was pertinent – USAR

But now that you are retired, you are simply retired from the service – USA

Your question is about the Army, but the pattern is the same in all the U.S. armed services: Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Coast Guard Reserve.
—–—–Major Paul J. Dexter, USA, Retired
—–—–Major Paul J. Dexter, USA, Ret.

— Robert Hickey


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”