Dignitary Visits

Arranging Dignitary Visits

The information contained herein is quoted from A Guide To Protocol And Etiquette For Official Entertainment (Pamphlet No. 600-60 Headquarters Department of the Army Washington, D.C., dated 15 October 1989)


  1. At HQDA level an executive agent is designated to plan the visit of a foreign dignitary. At other levels the respective protocol offices execute the planning for the visit of a dignitary with guidance from an executive agent or specific requests from the dignitary or an aide for a U.S. dignitary will coordinate with the executive agent or local protocol project officer. The aide or escort officer may experience certain logistic, social, and protocol problems. Often the itinerary has been clearly defined by higher authority, and all that is required of the aide or escort officer is to carry out the plan. However, an inexperi-enced planner may fail to anticipate unexpected and troublesome details. Imaginative forethought combined with common sense will generally avoid embarrassing surprises. Careful consideration must also be given to security requirements in the early planning stages of the visit.
  2. The last minute details of the visit must be carefully planned and a realistic time table established. The names of all persons in any way associated with the visit, their exact duties and schedules, and the transportation of persons and luggage should all be laid out well in advance.
  3. Planning should include, but not be limited to, the elements below.
    1. Ensure that all arrangements, including reservations for hotels and restaurants, are in writing.
    2. Provide for special dietary needs required by national custom, religious convictions, or individual dietary restrictions.
    3. Ensure that dignitaries are met and seen off by officers of equal rank whenever possible. As a general rule, this requires that a general officer be present at the arrival and departure of a general officer on an official visit.
    4. Ensure that all drivers of the official party are briefed regard-ing their schedules and are given exact directions so that they can operate independently if they become separated from the other vehicles.
    5. Ensure a folder is prepared for each member of the visiting party. The folder should contain, as a minimum, a map of the area, the local itinerary, and lists of room assignments and telephone numbers.
    6. Provide billeting for the escort officer in the same building as the dignitary when possible. If not, make suitable transportation available to the escort.
    7. Set aside enough time in the schedule for meetings, calls, meals, changes of clothes, coffee breaks, visits to shopping facilities, occasional rest periods and transportation. The planner should actually time the travel from place to place and allow extra time for boarding vehicles and transferring baggage.
    8. Ensure an aide is available from their own armed service. Frequently, aides are officers of the highest caliber and are destined for future positions of authority in their country. They will form lasting impressions about the United States and the Army based on the treatment they receive as members of a visiting party. Give special attention to their transportation, dining, and recreational needs. Their living accommodations at least should be single rooms in hotels and in DVQ's. Room assignments should be in keeping with their status as members of a dignitary’s party rather than their rank.
    9. Carefully plan the schedules for spouses of guests, especially those of foreign guests. Determine their interests and make plans for the following:
      1. Sightseeing trips to places of historic interest, scenic views, or whatever the local area offers.
      2. Shopping tours (if there are excellent stores offering American-made products). These may include fashion shows.
      3. Luncheons. If the dignitary is given a staff luncheon, his wife is given a luncheon by her American hostess or another high ranking official’s wife. American officials wives attend. Notable local citizens are invited, such as those of the same national origin as the guest and the wives of consular officials in the area.
      4. Tea hosted by one or several American wives to honor the visitor and her companions.


  1. The selection of an escort officer is a difficult task. The choice cannot be based solely on the availability of a particular officer. Not all officers are suitable as an escort because they have differences in appearance, bearing, background, and experience.
  2. In many cases, it is necessary to select an officer with a speaking knowledge of the guest’s language. An officer with absolute fluency, however, may be a less suitable escort officer than another having somewhat less fluency.
  3. There are effective escort officers at all levels and in any organization. At times, a commander may not want to part with a valued subordinate even for a few days. The officer planning the visit must then use great tact and convince the commander that the foreign dignitary’s visit is in the best interest of the nation and the Army.
  4. The overall escort officer has charge of the entire visit or tour, but it may be advisable to appoint a local escort officer who is familiar with the local installation or activity that the dignitary is to visit.
  5. The local escort officer should be chosen carefully and briefed on the local schedule. The briefing, including likely problems and best solutions, should include the following often overlooked points:
    1. Uniform requirements are made for all planned activities. Escorts must know that they too have to be in the prescribed uniform for each event.
    2. The local escort officer must keep the overall escort officer informed of the schedule and any changes to it. He makes every attempt to avoid surprise. The overall escort officer is informed of any special requests or wishes of the dignitary.
    3. Both escort officers must know where emergency type facilities (i.e., dry cleaners, shoe repair, etc.) are located so that they can take care of any requirements the dignitary or escort may have.
    4. The overall escort officer is told of the toasts to be offered at formal luncheons and dinners and of the correct responses to them. He must also know about any speeches or press interviews that are to be given by the dignitary.
    5. The escorts must have information or reference material on handling any emergency, such as messing, transportation, and med-ical needs.
    6. It is wise to have an escort for a foreign wife. When choosing her escort, consider her language, age, and position. Escorts may be female officers or Service wives whose language capabilities, travel, or position would make them valuable to the guest.


In planning a local schedule, the tendency is to resort to the more ordinary entertainment since it is easiest to plan. Use distinctive local resources to vary the guests’ exposure to American entertainment. By sharing the responsibility of host with different groups, visitors are exposed to larger social circles. Local civic organizations are often willing to help entertain visiting dignitaries. Although many prefer to invite persons of equal position to a dinner or small party, some variety may improve larger functions such as receptions. When possible, include guests of the same national origin as the guest of honor, as well as a representative selection of junior officers.

  1. Menus. At the same time the invitations are sent out, the menu should be planned. The most important aspect in planning menus for foreign guests is dietary restrictions. Guests may say that once they are outside their country, they conform to local customs. It is usually better to avoid the problem by following certain general rules:
    1. Moslems and Hebrews do not eat pork. Hindus and Buddhists do not eat beef.
    2. There is a wide choice of foods that can be used to solve dietary problems. Fish and foul, in particular, are acceptable to Moslems and Hebrews. Note: Individual dietary restrictions may vary. When entertaining foreign guests, it is best, when in doubt, to contact the State Department Office of Protocol or the embassy of the foreign country.
  2. Beverages. Many foreign guests do not drink alcoholic beverages. The host should provide a complete range of drinks from orange juice, light alcoholic beverages (such as Compari and soda) to heavier drinks, such as scotch and soda. The most common drinks for foreign attaches are scotch and soda, and gin and tonic.
  3. Aids to entertainment. Biographic notes on guests and country information sheets are valuable in aiding conversation. Sending guest lists to U.S. guests helps them become familiar with foreign names. Names that have pronunciations unfamiliar to English-speaking persons may be spelled phonetically as well. The same courtesy may be extended to foreign guests.