In today's Army, you can "be all you can be," as long as you do it politely.
A message sent to Army installations last month by Lt. Gen. Robert M. Elton directed uniformed and civilian personnel to undergo basic training in etiquette.
Rule 1: Grunts, ground-pounders and cannon-cockers henceforth are to be addressed as "soldier."
Elton, deputy chief of staff for personnel, took special umbrage with the barracks' lexicon "SM," shorthand used in conversation and correspondence for "service members." The term, he said, is "a vapid construct which evokes sensings of computer-jargon ciphers; or worse, an 8-hour-per-day 'employe' of the U.S. government.
"We want soldiers to perceive themselves as soldiers, with all the values that term implies. The term 'soldier' has connotations of valor, duty, honor, sacrifice: noble values of a noble profession."
Elton also decried the practice, in an acronym-happy Army, of addressing soldiers by their pay grade, such as E1 for privates and O10 for generals.
"Though it may appear to be easier to refer to 'a group of E5s,' 'a meeting of O6s,' or 'that Smith is an E9,' " Elton said, "military courtesy should cause us to refer to 'sergeants,' 'colonels' or the fact that Smith is a 'sergeant major.' "
Army civilians deserve the same courtesies, he said, suggesting that GS ratings be forsaken in favor of Mr., Mrs., Miss and Ms.
Long a paradise for mud soldiers, the Army may have trouble adjusting to such legislated formality, one colonel said. Nicknames for ranks -- full colonels, for example, are known as "chicken colonels" after their eagle insignia, and lieutenant colonels as "light colonels" -- are as old as the musket.
Elton, however, urged soldiers to "take steps to reemphasize Army customs and courtesies. Every soldier a winner."
"To reinforce our initiatives in today's Army of excellence, let us personalize references to our officers, soldiers and civilians in concert with our Year of Leadership theme."