This may vary from service to service, but in the Air Force, all military personnel are taught very early in basic training, officer training school, or field training to answer every question from a superior with one of the five basic responses. The use of "sir" can be replaced with "ma'am", but only when appropriate, or you'll be pushing Texas, and probably doing Gender Bender Push-Ups.

Note that there is only one "sir" in each response. Unlike the Marines, the Air Force do not teach Sir Sandwiches. The first two responses are relatively straightforward. The third and fourth are dangerous--making a statement implies free thought, which can get you in trouble if you do it at the wrong time. Asking permission to ask a question usually gets a hearty "No!" The fifth seems like an easy out, but usually you'll be given an order to go with it:

"Cadet, who was Grover Cleveland's Secretary of Defense?"
"Sir, I do not know but I will find out!"
"Alright, have his or her biography on my desk by 0800 tomorrow. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir!"

There are a few exceptions: if you're asked a direct question, such as the one above, and you do know the answer, you are permitted to give that answer. If the question is rhetorical, and the answer is anything but "no", you may answer with "HUA!" Be careful that you listen before automatically responding with "Hua", however. For practice, here are some sample questions you might hear in a training environment. Proper responses appear below the line, and we'll assume you don't know the answer to the questions. Answer 1,2,3,4,5, or Hua:

  1. Do you want to do some push-ups?
  2. Is that your final answer?
  3. Where's the beef?
  4. Are any of those guys carrying that new thing, except the one that got issued to him?
  5. Doesn't this unit have any pride?
  6. Would anybody like to tell me who burned down the chow hall?
  7. Have you been smoking crack?
  8. Have you been intentionally violating the military policy on the recreational use of prescription pharmaceuticals?
  9. Are you fired up?

1) Yes, sir. -- you should never admit to not enjoying push-ups. This is a shared hallucination in the military.
2) No, sir. -- if you're given an opportunity to retract a statement, do it, unless you're 100% sure.
3) Sir, may I ask a question -- "What beef, sir?" OR Sir, I do not know but I will find out.
4) Sir, may I ask a question -- "Which thing, sir, and which guys, sir?" OR Sir I do not know but I will find out.
5) HUA! -- "Yes sir" is technically true, but it's not motivated enough.
6) Trick question -- don't answer this question at all. Don't even ask to make a statement along the lines of "I don't think any of us knows." And if you do make a statement, don't use the words "I think". The fifth basic response is possibly the stupidest thing you could say here.
7) No, sir -- If you have been smoking crack, don't lie about it. That's a bad thing.
8) No, sir -- same as 7. You're allowed to ask a question if you didn't catch all those polysyllabic words, or use the fifth basic response.
9) HUA! -- "Yes sir" is also a wrong answer here.
HUA is also acceptable for questions 1,2 (if certain), 3(if motivated), 4 (if affirmative), 6 (if the food was bad), 7 (if very brave), and 8 (same).

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