Attention to Orders: What do you do?

Informal and formal award ceremonies are commonplace in the Army. As a result, you’ll find yourself in many-a-ceremony hearing the inevitable “Attention to Orders” with the swath of Soldiers dutifully rising to their feet in the position of attention.

However, is that the real meaning of “Attention to Orders?” There seems to be confusion about what to do when the Adjutant calls “Attention to Orders.”

I questioned this myself, having recently attended an award ceremony with my battalion and going through the same experience. However, after the awards were given out, an astute First Sergeant reminded everyone that rising and standing at the position of attention was unnecessary.

So, I’ll cite the doctrine to determine what “Attention to Orders” means. Hopefully, it’ll clarify how to react to this traditional Army statement.

The Doctrine

The doctrine derives from TC 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremonies, updated on 03 May 2021. I linked the reference for you, but for your convenience, I’ll screenshot it here:

Attention to Orders

Headquarters, Department of the Army TC 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremonies, 03 May 2021, Appendix G, Page G-4

Pay attention to the verbiage TC 3-21.5 uses. There’s no requirement to stand at the position of attention before the presentation of the award unless explicitly commanded beforehand. So, pay attention to the award being given.

The Examples

The two examples the manual uses are helpful. You only rise to the position of attention unless explicitly directed by the one in charge of the formation (in the example’s case, it was the Squadron Commander). And the Commander needed to explicitly command the formation using the traditional drill and ceremony ‘preparatory command’ and the ‘command of execution.’

The first example was deliberate in this action. However, the second more informal setting does not state a preparatory command or a command of execution. Without those two commands for movement, the formation performs no task. Referring to “Attention to Orders,” the only requirement for the formation is to pay attention to the orders provided by the Adjutant.


This is a short post today, but it’s an important one. Correctly understanding the meaning of “Attention to Orders” can help us better acknowledge Army tradition and honor the ceremony at hand.

Next time, pay attention to what is being said. If there is no preparatory command and command of execution, then your job is to pay attention and congratulate the Soldier(s) receiving awards.


2 thoughts on “Attention to Orders: What do you do?”

  1. Great post Mr. Robert, every time I dont stand at Attention when the AG reads Attention to Orders there’s always one that attempt to correct me.

    Now I’m wondering in a formal setting when a Commander calls the Battalion to Attention and the recipient receives the award. When do we clap? After the give the award does the commander have to say Battalion rest, since we can’t clap at the position of attention?

    1. Jose,

      Glad you enjoyed the article! Based on the regulation you’re right that you cannot clap while in the position of attention. However, in a formal setting a good rule of thumb is to follow the actions of the Commander or guest of honor. The Commander will usually gesture for an applause if one is warranted. Hope that helps!


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