Military Life Resources

Top US military traditions for each branch

Our mission? To unveil the unique and engaging military traditions that bolster the camaraderie code of each branch of our military.
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military traditions grog

Two grog bowls sit as a centerpiece for the wing’s Combat Dining-In February 22, 2020, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. (Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Lynn Means.)

Get your camouflage on and brace yourself because we’re marching headfirst into the battlefront of military traditions. Our mission? To unveil the unique and engaging military traditions that bolster the camaraderie code of each branch of our military.

Here are the top U.S. military traditions for each branch

Army: Aegis of the artillery

On the frontline of our exploration, we meet the United States Army, a stronghold of valor steeped in rich traditions that fortify their camaraderie code. These customs, echoing tales of honor and resilience, etch a vibrant portrait of their unwavering unity.

The celebrated Order of the Spur, a time-honored tradition, hails the exceptional skills of cavalry soldiers. It stands as a living testament to their rugged past, akin to a chivalrous badge of honor passed down from yesteryears. This accolade serves not just as recognition but as an embodiment of the Cavalry’s enduring legacy.

The Army’s spirit of unity comes alive, quite literally, in the Grog Bowl ceremony. Far from being a botched concoction, it’s a cherished ritual. The unique blend of spirits symbolizes the diverse facets of soldier life, creating an unbreakable bond among soldiers as they share tales of triumphs and trials over this shared brew.

The Passing of the Guidon ceremony carries a solemn significance within the Army’s ranks. As a new leader receives the unit’s flag from their predecessor, it signals the seamless continuity of command and the enduring legacy of the unit. This symbolic changing-of-the-guard moment is a testament to their commitment to keeping the camaraderie code alive.

Yet, the litany of traditions would be incomplete without mentioning the Order of Saint Barbara. This prestigious honor, bestowed upon the Artillerymen, pays tribute to their professional excellence, personal integrity, and moral character. It’s not just an honor. It’s a seal of distinction recognizing their contributions to the field artillery or air defense artillery. This honor is a badge of pride, further strengthening their commitment to the Army’s camaraderie code.

army customs
The senior leaders of 210th Field Artillery Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S Combined Division, stand ready while the Brigade’s most junior officer samples the mixed punch “Grog,” Feb. 12, at the Lotte Hotel, Seoul. Drinking from the “Grog Bowl” is a historical tradition seen at the Saint Barbara’s Day Ball, representing the strength and unity of the artillery Soldiers.

Marine Corps: Semper Fi saga

As we march forward with the Marine Corps, we are greeted by a rich tapestry of traditions that echo their indomitable spirit. The Marines, known for their spirited “Oorah” battle cry, uphold a camaraderie code steeped in honor, courage, and commitment.

Every year, on November 10th, Marines worldwide participate in the Birthday Ball, an occasion that transcends the usual festivity. As anyone who’s ever spent time with a Marine knows, this grand celebration commemorates the establishment of the Corps in 1775, paying homage to their storied heritage. However, it’s not just a party. In fact, it’s a touching reunion of warriors bound by an unshakeable bond, a testament to their shared history and indomitable will.

In the world of Marines, nothing compares to the Earning of the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor – the emblem that transforms a recruit into a full-fledged Marine. This rite of passage is a significant milestone, marking their transition from civilian life to becoming defenders of the nation. The emblem, without a doubt, serves as a perpetual symbol of their unwavering commitment. It stands as a steadfast representation of their loyalty not only to the Corps but also to their nation and their fellow soldiers. Moreover, it acts as a powerful force that bolsters the bond of camaraderie, propelling them forward in every endeavor they undertake.

marine corps military traditions
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller poses for a photo with Marines before the Commandant’s Birthday Ball, at the Washington Hilton, Washington D.C., Nov. 10, 2018. Each year the Commandant hosts a ball in honor of the Marine Corps’ birthday. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

Air Force: Skyward salute

Soaring next to the United States Air Force, we uncover traditions as thrilling as the supersonic jets they command. These customs serve as pillars supporting their camaraderie code, fostering unity within the ranks.

Key amongst these traditions is the Hail and Farewell ceremony that marks an airman’s arrival or departure from a unit. These ceremonies not only strengthen bonds among the airmen but also acknowledge the ebb and flow of military service, paying respect to each airman’s journey.

The solemn Missing Man Formation flies in the face of the unspoken pain of loss. This poignant tribute to comrades lost in the line of duty. An aerial salute is performed during memorial services. It shows the Air Force’s dedication to remembering fallen comrades. It emphasizes their commitment to camaraderie.

Finally, the Order of the Sword is the highest honor the enlisted force can bestow upon an individual. This tradition pays homage to those who have made significant contributions to the enlisted Corps. Recipients are revered and their names etched into the annals of Air Force history.

air force military traditions
U.S. Air Force Honor Guard members Tech. Sgt. Juan Garcia and Staff Sgt. Annzen Salvador, both attached to Robins Air Force Base, Ga., carry the ceremonial sword to be put on display as part of the Order of the Sword in honor of Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, former Chief of Air Force Reserve, at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Ga., July 13, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stephen D. Schester)

Navy: Odyssey of the oceanic outpost

Embarking on a voyage alongside the U.S. Navy, we dive into a vast ocean of traditions, as mysterious and uncharted as the abyssal depths they traverse. These time-honored customs serve as guiding beacons, fostering a profound camaraderie among sailors that spans from moments of lightheartedness to solemn reflection.

One such tradition is the illustrious ‘Shellback’ initiation, an event of great significance. It marks the moment when sailors first cross the equator, embarking on a transformative journey. Throughout this day, they partake in a series of jovial jests and playful banter, all symbolizing their transition from ‘Pollywog’ to esteemed ‘Shellback’. This initiation stands as a pivotal milestone in their naval odyssey.

An integral part of their heritage is the Manning of the Rail. In this tradition, sailors stand at attention to honor distinguished visitors. This ceremony underscores the discipline and respect that underpin the Navy’s ethos.

The ‘Dixie Cup’ hat is another symbol of significance, marking a recruit’s transition from civilian life to seafaring servitude. Donning this iconic white cap, they become part of the team that dares to dance with the ocean’s capricious waves.

Yet, perhaps one of the most exciting traditions within the Navy family comes to life in the throes of the Army vs. Navy game. This fierce rivalry played out on a football field transcends sport. It’s a testament to the Navy’s competitive spirit and unity. The anticipation fills the air with electricity as the men and women of the Navy rally behind their team, embodying their motto: ‘Non sibi sed patriae’ – Not for self, but for the country.

navy military traditions
ARAFURA SEA (Apr. 14, 2023) Chief Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Electrical) Kimberly Hernandez, left, from San Diego, and Chief Gunner’s Mate Chuck Littlepage, dressed as Davy Jones, right, from Harrison, Kentucky, take a selfie together on the flight deck aboard Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Oakland (LCS 24) as Oakland sails across the Arafura Sea, Apr. 14, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sang Kim)

Coast Guard: Thundering waves, valiant vigil

We drop anchor on the spirited shores of the U.S. Coast Guard – the fearless Sea Sentinels. Their moniker, ‘Coasties,’ often reverberates with playful ribbing in the broader military fraternity. However, in this jest lies a subtle admiration for their daunting assignment – safety, security, and stewardship of the mighty oceanic expanse.

They revel in their unique military traditions, spinning an enchanting tale of unity and camaraderie. Moreover, members daringly leap into the age-old tradition of the Ancient Order of the Puddle Jumpers. In this way, they honor their maiden voyage across the equator.

Every ‘Coastie’ aspires to adorn the revered Cutterman’s Insignia. This distinguished emblem is reserved for seasoned sailors, symbolizing their unwavering commitment to the relentless seas and the brotherhood forged in these challenging waters.

The grand Change of Command Ceremony serves as the Coast Guard’s testament to its steadfast ethos. It is not merely a protocol; rather, it stands as a beacon, embodying their indomitable spirit and unity. It is the rhythmic heartbeat of their camaraderie code, the anchor of their existence.

coast guard customs
Seaman Matthew Yee throws a heaving line for distance during a Coast Guard Cutterman’s Olympic event held in Astoria, Ore., at Tongue Point, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Yee represented Cutter Steadfast, one of three Coast Guard Cutters homeported in Astoria. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nate Littlejohn

Space Force

Space Force was just created in 2019 so their traditions are mostly borrowed at the moment. We have no doubt it will be just a matter of time before they come up with their own unique ways of honoring experiences, acknowledging accomplishments and further uniting their Guardians! Until then, we’ll raise a glass of Christmas cheer every December 19 on your birthday.

Tying it all together

In every crevice of military life, we find military traditions and customs that inspire, motivate, and bind soldiers. They may vary from branch to branch, but one thing is constant – the camaraderie code. It’s a code that says, “We are one. We are family. We got your back.” And that, dear friends, is what military traditions are all about.