Tacking on rank

  • Published
  • By Col. Beth Kwasny
  • 301st Fighter Wing Inspector General

Celebrating achievements is integral to military tradition.  From organizational recognitions (think Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, campaign and award streamers for unit guidons) to individual achievements (think Air Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal), there is tradition behind our recognition ceremonies and tributes.  Promotion ceremonies in particular offer an opportunity to recognize individual accomplishments and exercise the time-honored tradition of “tacking on rank.” 

Tacking on rank is usually done by mentors and coworkers who have worn the rank.  These well-wishers tap the new rank on the promotee to offer congratulations and to ensure the new rank stays.  At times, this laudatory gesture has gone beyond the intent of the custom. 

In February of 2018, DoD updated its policy on hazing and prohibits any form of initiation or congratulatory act that involves physically striking another person in any manner or threatening to do the same.  Air Force Judge Advocate guidance to ensure compliance with the DoDI uses the reasonable person standard as to whether the conduct constitutes hazing under the DoDI and explains that “tacking on” by lightly tapping the rank is permissible.  Some may say this takes away from the tradition--If the promotee doesn’t get at least one good bruise it was a poor showing for a promotion ceremony--but it does not. 

Providing a dignified tap that does not cause nor threaten to cause physical or psychological injury, packs a much better punch of respect and is a better representation of our Air Force standards and the mutual support we have for each other as Airmen.  Tradition should never be used as the excuse to justify bad behavior. 


Reference:  DoD Instruction 1020.03, Harassment Prevention and Response In the Armed Forces, https://www.esd.whs.mil/Portals/54/Documents/DD/issuances/dodi/102003.pdf 

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