contributed by Liz Zaczek, senior staff writer

Many professions have their own specialized jargon and acronyms and the military is no exception. From extremely long acronyms to slightly inappropriate phrases, the military has a language all of its own with many unique terms and concepts that civilians are not exposed to. The need for clear and concise communication, especially on the battlefield, require service members to immerse themselves in their specialized language. Some terms are rather self-explanatory while others are completely cryptic yet each one has a specific and important meaning. 

Here’s Military Connection’s lingo guide to some popular military specific terms, phrases and acronyms. (Some of these definitely  fall into the “slightly inappropriate” or humorous category.) 

  • About Face: An action happening during a drill directing soldiers to face the opposite direction.
  • Alpha Charlie:  Military alphabet used to represent being verbally reprimanded. 
  • “And a wake up”:  A phrase used to count down to the end of training or deployment. Ex: “Thank goodness we only have 12 days and a wake up left here.
  • Area defense : type of defense that is oriented toward retaining a particular terrain; relies mainly on the deployed forces that fire to repulse and stop attackers
  • Assault: last step of an attack phase; rushing to close combat to drive the enemy out for hand-to-hand combat using hand grenades and bayonets
  • AWOL:This acronym stands for Absent Without Official Leave. This refers to people who abandon their duty or post without authorization or alerting anyone.
  • Band-Aid:A Vietnam-era term for a medic
  • Barney style: A phrase used to tell someone or ask someone to describe something in easy-to-understand terms
  • Bird: Another word for a helicopter.
  • Blue Falcon – A euphemism for buddy **** or buddy ****er, which is slang for a backstabber.
  • BLUF: Bottom line upfront.
  • Bravo Zulu:  A phrase often used in the Navy or Coast Guard to say “well done.”
  • Burn Bag: A bag used to hold shredded documents, designed to be burned. May also refer to a useless person.
  • Cannibalize: The act of taking workable parts of one item and using them in another.
  • Charlie Foxtrot: Commonly used expression utilizing the military alphabet to stand for clusterf***.
  • Charlie Mike : Continue mission.
  • Checkpoint: easy-to-identify point on terrain; used for controlling movement or identifying locations
  • Chest Candy: All the ribbons and awards on a service member’s dress uniform.
  • Chicken plates: Sheets of protective material, called Small Arms Protective Inserts, which are used in the Interceptor body armor system.
  • Comics: Term used to describe maps presented by military intelligence. The term is fairly derogatory in nature as a slight against the accuracy of the maps. It also refers to the brightly colored layouts and symbols usually included.
  • Crank: Navy term for a sailor pulling temporary duty in the galley.
  • DFAC: The cafeteria that many soldiers will dine in. It can also be called the “chow hall”.
  • Demilitarized Zone:  A specific area in which any type of military force including but not limited to personnel, hardware, and infrastructure are banned.
  • Digies: Digital camouflage worn by soldiers and Marines.
  • Digit Midget: Usually used with a number as a prefix. X digit midget refers to the number of days till an individual goes on leave or retires.
  • Dittybopper: This common Army term has two different meanings. It can be a Morse code signal given to intelligence radio operators or it can describe a soldier marching out of time with the cadence of the other soldiers.
  • Dustoff: Specifically, a medical evacuation by helicopter.
  • Eagle Keeper:  Maintenance crew chief of an F-15.
  • Ejection: escaping from a military aircraft via a capsule or propelled set; separation of weaponry or cargo from a military aircraft while it’s in flight
  • Embed: When a reporter stays with the military in order to conduct journalistic business. They are typically provided with security and basic necessities provided by the unit they are embedded with.
  • Evacuation: clearance (removal) of personnel or noncombatants from an area; recovering military materials left behind for shipment to appropriate locations 
  • Expectant: someone who has been wounded or made ill as a result of military action who is not expected to survive.
  • Extraction – immediate removal of personnel from hostile territory
  • Fart Sack: Refers to either a sleeping bag or an airman’s flight suit
  • Five-Sided Puzzle Palace: Slang for the Pentagon.
  • Fourth Point of Contact : Your butt. It’s the last phase in a parachute drop: first, it’s feet, calves, back of the thigh and then your buttocks.
  • “Front to rear, disappear”: Get Going, move with a purpose.
  • FUBAR:  F*cked up beyond all repair.
  • Gofasters: This term describes sneakers many members of the Army, Navy and Marines will wear. They assume these sneakers make them move quicker.
  • Gone Elvis: A service member who is missing in action.
  • “Got Your Six”: A phrase service members use to say they have your back.
  • Ground Zero: point of origin for violent activity (such as where a bomb hits); specific point directly below explosion of a nuclear weapon.
  • Hangar Queen: An aircraft that is used primarily for spare parts to repair other planes. 
  • Hangfire:To wait until you’re given the next orders.
  • Hit the Silk:– Ejecting from an aircraft and utilizing a parachute.
  • Inactive Status: Members of the Reserves who are unable to train for points, receive pay, and cannot be considered for promotion.
  • Insurgency :rebellious political activity, revolt or rebellion designed to overthrow or weaken the a government (or other authority) by its own people
  • Iron Rations:  Rations used in an emergency survival situation.
  • Jockstrap Medal: Derogatory term for medals given by the military to active CIA members.
  • Joe : A junior enlisted soldier.
  • Joint Operation Planning: – All types of planning involving joint military forces in regards to military operations including, but not limited to, mobilization, deployment, and sustainment.
  • Killing Zone: area within which military forces seek to force the enemy into for destruction
  • Klicks:  Kilometers.
  • Left Handed Monkey Wrench: A non-existent tool. Often the object of fruitless searches undertaken by recruits at the behest of more experienced servicemembers. 
  • Mandatory Fun : An event required by service members to attend, it’s never actually fun.
  • Moonbeam: A flashlight.
  • Mustang: Term referring to any officer who was promoted from the enlisted ranks. Can be used respectfully or pejoratively.
  • “Nut to Butt”: Standing very close together, usually in a single line, also called a “file.”
  • Occupation: situation in which a particular area is being controlled by a foreign force; typically occurs as a result of armed force and continued threat
  • O Dark Thirty: Very early in the morning, any time before sunrise.
  • Officer of the Deck: Any officer charged with the operation of a ship. Reports to the commanding officer, executive officer, and navigator for relevant issues and concerns.
  • PCS: Permanent change of station.
  • Political Warfare: using political means other than direct military action to accomplish objectives
  • Pop Smoke: To leave.
  • Quay:  A man-made structure between a shore and land which can be used by ships to berth and is typically an area for handling cargo.
  • Red Team: A body of experts on a specific topic who are instructed to research and suggest alternative methods regarding a planned course of action.
  • Rocks and Shoals: U.S. Navy rules and regulations.
  • Rotorhead: Slang for a helicopter pilot.
  • Special Forces: highly trained elite military personnel that complete special operations missions via unconventional strategies.
  • Squirter: This often describes an enemy running away from a recent attack.
  • “Standby to standby”: Wait, more often than not, you’re going to be waiting a while.
  • Taco:  An Air Force term for receiving an “unsatisfactory” grade on a training exercise due to the vague taco-shape of the letter “u.”
  • Tango Mike:  Thanks much.
  • Target Discrimination:  The capability of a surveillance or guidance system to choose certain targets when multiple options are presented.
  • Twidget: A sailor who repairs electronic equipment. 
  • Un-Ass: To move immediately or leave one’s current position.
  • Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club: A U.S. Navy term for the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Unit Identification Code: An alphanumeric, six-character  string which identifies all active, reserve and guard units of the United States military.
  • Voice in the Sky: Term referring to military base announcements broadcast over speakers.
  • Voluntold: An assignment that is technically voluntary but understood to be mandatory.
  • Warm and fuzzy: A phrase usually used to describe when someone understands a concept or is feeling okay.
  • Withdrawal:  pulling back military forces; a gradual removal of military presence
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction: Weapons which can cause destruction or death beyond the ability of conventional weapons. These typically are nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological, or high-yield explosive in nature. This definition does not include the vehicle, or transportation method, of delivering the weapon.
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: What the F*ck?
  • Zone of Action: A smaller section of a larger area. Typically these are under the purview of a tactical unit, usually during an offensive maneuver.
  • Zone of Fire: A particular area where a unit delivers or is about to deliver fire
  • Zonk:  Used to being released for the day after taking formation.
  • Zoomie: Term used by non-flying service members for anyone who operates a flying vehicle.
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