The White House Has Military Social Aides To Talk To Lonely Guests

Young military officers in dress uniforms have been fixtures at presidential parties for more than a century. Their role is to manage the thousands of guests who attend social events throughout the year in the Executive Mansion. Social aides, however, are to be seen, not heard. Few people outside of White House guests appreciate the challenges these officers face in this glamorous yet demanding job. Even fewer people know that social aides are volunteers who have day jobs. The social aide program dates back to 1902, when President Theodore Roosevelt enlarged the White House and began entertaining with unprecedented gusto. While First Lady Edith Roosevelt took control of the social calendar, the president recruited a handful of local military officers to help out once or twice a week. Only male officers could serve as social aides until 1969. Today, the program has about 40-45 volunteers from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Candidates must be single, in the grade of major/lieutenant commander or below, and work in a job that’s flexible enough to allow helping with an afternoon tea. The volunteers receive no extra pay beyond their military salary. Each aide works an average of 2-4 events per month, except in December when the number triples. Current and former social aides stay connected through the Society of White House Military Aides, which has more than 700 members.