Military Matters: Addressing a retired officer

by epi on November 12, 2012

Q: How do you address a letter to someone who has retired from being a captain in the army?  I want to show respect for the rank she attained but don’t know if it’s appropriate to acknowledge it after her retirement.

A: You should continue using her title whenever you address a letter to her.  Members of the regular armed services retain their titles, as do reserve officers who officially retire after a number of years.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rusty Shackleford November 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I would make sure this person is actually a retiree. There is a difference between those who are actually retired after 20 or more years of service, and those who merely are honorably discharged. The rank of Captain is generally held between years 4-11 of a commissioned officers’ career. Also, generally rank is only retained by active or reserve officer’s if they received a regular commission, which is rare for a Captain. A reserve officer does not retain their rank after retirement unless they received a regular commission. Therefore, unless this person “retired” from active commissioned service, using their rank is not appropriate.
Context is also very important to consider. If this officer has transitioned from military service to private industry, particularly an industry with an eye toward doing business with the government, and your contact is in that capacity, the use of military rank and title is quite possibly illegal. The purpose of this rule is to prevent former officers from using their contacts and rank to get an unfair advantage bidding for government contracts. At the Pentagon this rule is strictly enforced. Retired Generals who work in private industry are always formally referred to as “Mr” or “Ms.” Those who return in a military or social capacity may still be called “General”


Kathy Swanson April 3, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Double check this answer; I think it should be: Cpt. Name, USA, Ret.


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