As a parent, when your child joins the military you go through a wide range of emotions; ranging from extreme pride to high anxiety. The first time you see your child after basic training/boot camp, you expect to see someone tempered by the heat of training (After all, you’ve seen the movies and watched the discovery channel. Even if you haven’t served yourself, you’re aware that military training is “somewhat” difficult.) What you may not expect is to hear your child speaking a different language!
Parents – which piece of slang confused you the first time you heard it? any good stories about that? please share with us!
Remember the military is a profession of arms, and like any profession, it has its own, unique, vocabulary. Some of the vocabulary is based on tradition, some of the vocabulary just “is.” One thing is certain, though, if you’ve never been associated with things military, you’ll need a translator to fully understand your child’s conversation. Just like when they were teenagers, or the first time you read a text message.
A lot of “military-ese” consists of acronyms. For some reason, the military wants to shorten just about everything it can into its smallest component part. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps it is a left over from the days when long-distance communications happened with flags or dots & dashes. But for whatever reason, acronyms seem to be a part of military culture that’s here to stay. Here are a few that are often used:
- PCS: permanent change of station; a move from one base or garrison to another.
- TDY/TAD: temporary duty; a short-term assignment away from a permanent base
- AOR/AO: area of responsibility.
- OPSEC: operational security
- CO: commanding officer.
- NCO: non-commissioned officer.
- SOP: standard operating procedure.
- AAR: after action report.
- POC: person in charge
- BAH: basic allowance for housing; money given to married members and those with permission to live off-base to defray housing costs.
- CONUS: continental United States; within the 48 contiguous states
- OCONUS: outside the continental United States; outside the 48 contiguous states
- POV: private (or personal) automobile
- GOV: government-owned automobile
- PX/BX: post (or base) exchange
- ROE: rules of engagement
- MRE: meals ready to eat
- MOS: military operational specialty; what job you do
- FUBAR: fouled up (or other appropriate words) beyond all recognition.
- SNAFU: situation normal, all fouled (or other appropriate words) up
Sometimes the military also uses a phonetic alphabet when needed to communicate letters clearly, for example when giving map coordinates over the radio. The phonetic alphabet goes “alpha, bravo, charlie, delta...” These phonetic alphabet letters are also sometimes used in acronyms to convey certain meanings, such as:
- “Tango Uniform:” torn up or broken
- “Sierra Hotel” shoot (or other appropriate word) hot
- “Charlie Sierra” chicken stuff (or other appropriate word for excrement)
- “Mikes” minutes
Finally, some “military-ese” consists of slang; much of it service-specific. Here’s a few general slang terms:
- Butter bar: a second lieutenant
- Slick sleeve: in the Air Force, an airman basic; in the Army, a soldier without a combat patch
- Shirt, or First Shirt: in the Air Force, the unit’s first sergeant
- Old Man: in the Army, the company commander; in the Air Force the squadron commander
- Birth Control Glasses: refers to horn-rim government-issued prescription glasses
- Civvies: civilian clothing
- Chow: food
- Class-A uniform: dress uniform (jacket and a tie)
- Fast-mover: a jet airplane
- Ground-pounder: infantry
- Jody: a cadence sang while a soldier marches or runs in formation; also a civilian who steals another’s “significant other” while the soldier is deployed