How Do You Address A Member of the US Navy?

Last week Gina, one of our guest writers, released a post on her blog, Gina Left the Mall, entitled How to Write to a Soldier.  It’s an excellent post. We here at Buoyed Up highly recommend reading it. It gives a very simple break down of how to write a good relevant letter to the troops.

In the comments section of that post, a Navy wife wrote the following:

Just a note from a US Navy Seabee Veteran’s wife: Just because they serve(d) the US Navy, doesn’t mean they are(were) a sailor :) Seabees HATE being called Sailors since most never even step foot on a boat! :)

Unfortunately, this created some confusion around what we call members of the US Navy.  So without much ado, here is the question, the short answer and the long one.

How do you address a member of the US Navy? 

Short Answer:
Sailor.

Long Answer:
Like it or not, every member of the United States Navy is a Sailor. The officers are Sailors and so are the enlisted men and women. It’s been this way since the dawn of our Navy back in 1775. It’s even enshrined in their creed; which goes like this:

I am a United States Sailor.

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, and I will obey the orders of those appointed over me.

I represent the fighting spirit of the Navy, and those who have gone before me to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

I proudly serve my country’s Navy combat team with Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

I am committed to excellence and the fair treatment of all.

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (June 29, 2012) Recruits recite “The Sailor’s Creed” during the Pass-In-Review (PIR) graduation ceremony at Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy's only boot camp, here June 29 where just over 875 recruits graduated. RTC trains more than 35,000 recruits annually. (U.S. Navy photo by Sue Krawczyk/Released)

NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (June 29, 2012) Recruits recite “The Sailor’s Creed” during the Pass-In-Review (PIR) graduation ceremony at Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy’s only boot camp, here June 29 where just over 875 recruits graduated. RTC trains more than 35,000 recruits annually. (U.S. Navy photo by Sue Krawczyk/Released)

So that is it right? Sailor is the final definitive term. Negative. Sailor is not the final definitive term for a member of the US Navy. Sailor is a general term applied to the Navy. When you do not know specifics about a Naval Service Member you address them as Sailor. If you know more about them, you may use other terms.

How do you address a Sailor?

Mostly, we call our sailors by their rank/rate and/or his or her job in the Navy.

This style of address is indoctrinated into sailors (and to an extent their families) at boot camp. Fledglings to the Navy are identified as Sailor Recruits. Day 0 at the RTC (Recruit Training Command) has SRs (Sailor Recruits) learning the very basics of  the rate and ranking structure of the force. They learn who their Chiefs and Petty Officers are. By the time they complete boot camp they can tell you each and every rank and rate they will encounter base on insignia found on their uniforms.

Petty Officer providing instruction to Sailor Recruits about how to address their instructors.

Petty Officer providing instruction to Sailor Recruits about how to address their instructors.

After boot camp sailors head out either into the fleet or to their A-school. It is here they learn their jobs in the fleet and take on another title; Corpsman, Seabee, etc.

So, did you catch all that?

To sum it all up. How Do You Address A Member of the US Navy?

You can address them in multiple ways. You may address them as Sailor, their rate/rank (Admiral, Captain, Ensign, Master Chief, Chief, Petty Officer), or by their job (Officer, Seabee, Corpsman).

What do you call your sailor?

 

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5 thoughts on “How Do You Address A Member of the US Navy?

  1. I found this interesting.. I grew up within the Navy community and was told never to address anyone by their position or rank.. It was always Sir or Madam. On my husband’s submarine people call themselves petty officer (or chief etc). The petty officers call each other by last name only.. Chiefs get that title before their last names. The higher chain of command are primary just COB, XO, and Captain…

    I’m very curious to see how others in the Naval Community define themselves

    • If you are a civilian, general pleasantries (Sir, Ma’am) are very acceptable. No one in the military expects anyone to know or understand their rank/rate structure. That applies to civilian dependents as well.

      Our sailors now-a-days are asked to learn more rank/rate structures and to show respect for both the job and the person. As I mentioned above, certain sailors are called by their jobs: COB, XO, Corpsman (last name), Seabee (last name). Others are referred to by their rank/ rate: Captain (last name), Chief etc.

      Among friends and peers formalities can be dropped. In that instance it really depends on the relationship those sailors have between each other.

  2. Ollie,
    Thanks, as always, for the intel. And thank you for sharing the How To post! I think your comment that “it depends on the relationship” is very true. For most volunteers writing to troops, you are talking about two complete strangers, one of whom is a civilian. I have to say, any time I’ve been misinformed about a branch, the troop writing back was always very gracious. What they cared about most is that I wrote at all 🙂

    So when it comes to that first letter, I just try to follow the troop’s lead. If they filled out a request with rank and last name, that’s how I address them. If they used their first name, I do too. For the times I just have a branch, it’s good to know that when it comes to the Navy, I can keep saying Dear Sailor.
    Only rarely do I meet any of my troops in person. But if I do meet any of my sailors, I will know what to do! Thanks for sharing this.

    Gina

    • You’re welcome as always Gina. And thank you for your continued support! I’m sure each and every one of those troops that have been blessed with your extended hospitality appreciate it as much as my family does.

      BTW… Congrats on your blog’s anniversary.

      Ollie

  3. Enjoyed this post- no one should be offended by being called a sailor, even an Admiral. (although I’d try to avoid it personally!)

Thoughts?

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