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Types / Usage Of Other Flags

Air Force Protocol
from 'Til Wheels are Up'


We've mentioned other types of flags throughout our previous discussion. Here's a little more information on the types of flags and their proper use.

Organizational Flags

These flags represent the commands and units of the various services. These include NORAD, USSPACECOM, Air Force Flag, the Air Force Space Command flag, and your unit's flag.

General Officer (Personal) Flags

These belong to the general officer and are authorized for display by the general officer (display with stars facing up). Note: that Air Force and Navy star flags have a blue background (however, the Navy flags are of a darker blue and the star alignment is different, while the Army and Marines star flags have a red background.)
Never use the personal flag of one service to represent a general officer of another service.
Don't display a general officer flag for a foreign general or flag officer.

General officer's personal flags may be displayed in a ceremony when the general officer hosts the event. Except for changes of command where both the incoming and outgoing commanders are general officers, and general officer retirement ceremonies, only the flag of the senior general officer is displayed. We emphasize here that only flags of participating or hosting general officers are displayed. For example, at a retirement ceremony presided by a Brigadier General, his/her one-star flag would be the only star flag displayed with the American flag (and appropriated organizational flags), even if a Lieutenant General were attending the ceremony as an invited guest.

When a general officer retires, he or she takes their personal flag with them, and it is entitled to be displayed only in their home. The one exception is when they are a participant (retiring official, guest of honor, presiding official) at a military ceremony and wearing their uniform, the appropriate star flag can be included in the display. However, the host should provide the flag -- never ask a retired general to provide theirs.

Under no circumstances are general officer-equivalent Senior Executive Service civilians authorized personal star flags, nor should they be displayed at ceremonies presided by persons holding SES grades.

Positional Flags

These represent specific positions rather than organizations. Positional flags you may encounter include the flags of the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Air Force, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force.

When a general officer participating in a ceremony (host, presiding official, guest of honor) is holding a position authorized a positional flag, only the positional flag is displayed, not the general officer flag. An extreme situation would be like one of our change of command/retirement ceremonies for our outgoing and new commander-in-chief. Typically we'll have the positional flags of the Chairman (or Vice) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (presiding official for the USSPACECOM retirement/change of command) and the Chief (or Vice Chief) of Staff of the Air Force (presiding official for the AFSPC retirement/change of command). We'll also display the 4-star flags of both the outgoing and incoming 4-star (the personal flag of the outgoing CINC is ceremoniously furled and cased, and then presented to him as part of the ceremony).

The chaplain's positional flag is properly displayed only at the chapel or location of church services; don't use it for a chaplain providing the invocation at a military ceremony.

When you have a DV visiting your installation who's entitled to a positional flag, and you intend to honor them or ask them to preside over a ceremony, make sure you contact their aide or executive officer ahead of time. Make arrangements to have the aide bring the flag with them.

Star Plates/Car Flags

These depict the positional flag or number of stars of the DV. They are displayed on automobiles and aircraft transporting the DV. Star plates are displayed in specially made holders mounted on the driver's side front bumper or grill, or on the top of the dashboard inside (in the case of a car). Flags may be mounted with the staff fixed firmly to the chassis or clamped to the right front bumper. On aircraft, star plates are displayed in the forward window on the pilot's side. Small flags may be substituted and flown from the top hatch of the aircraft (if so equipped) during taxi and parking.

State Flags

When more than one State flag is displayed, they are arranged in order of precedence by the date the State was admitted to the Union, or alphabetically. (See the Protocol Order of Precedence chapter for a listing of when States were admitted to the Union.) Keep all State flags on the same size staffs. State flags are typically flown or displayed over State offices and buildings. However, there's no rule precluding the use of State and Territorial flag displays on federal installations. It's appropriate to fly the U.S. flag and the appropriate State flag in front of your installation's headquarters building.

Table or Miniature Flags

Table flags are neither authorized or prescribed for use by service regulations or flag etiquette, providing rules described above are followed. We recommend their use at official functions where using larger flags is not practical. Examples could include setups at official dinners at a downtown restaurant or at a location where the ceiling is too low to permit normal flag displays. These small flags can also be arranged in a centerpiece. Remember though, follow the rules for flag precedence when using the U.S. Flag with others in a display!


Normally, no other flag may be flown on the same staff with the U.S. flag. The only exceptions are the Minuteman and POW/MIA flags, which will be mounted immediately below the U.S. flag, and flown on days authorized by the Services.

Flags in Receiving Lines

At formal dinners or receptions it is customary to display flags either behind the head table or behind the receiving line; both locations aren't necessary. When displaying flags in a receiving line the U.S. flag always goes to the right of the other flags. This is particularly important should the placement and flow of the receiving line have to be reversed to fit the room. In such cases, the flag order will appear reversed, but is correct.