9 of the worst-named military missions and war games in history

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While researching another story, I came across a recent exercise designed to steel NATO for battling Russian subs. The war game was named for a ferret-like creature that subsists on insects and worms.

Exercise Dynamic Mongoose.

Nothing like a small mammal to drive terror into an adversary's heart.

How do military leaders come up with these? In the case of the U.S., military commands are assigned blocks of the alphabet, say from AA to AD, from which they can choose two word names. Such as Agile Diver. The rules forbid "commercial trademarks," "anything offensive to good taste," or that are similar in spelling to a code word.

They also set aside words for certain commands. "Cheese," for example, is only to be used by the chief of naval operation's office. Ditto "rabbit."

(Great Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill specifically warned about "frivolous" words, saying no one would want to tell a grieving mother her son died in an operation named "Bunnyhug.")

Here's a totally objective guide to the worst-named military operations and exercises of all time.

1. Exercise Bold Alligator

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Bold Alligator is a large-scale amphibious exercise that showcases naval forces like the US Marines. )(U.S. Marine Corps/Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

Alligators are cold-blooded and pretty low energy most of the time.

2. Operation Black Ferret

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Ferrets make great pets. (Associated Press/Lenny Ignelzi)

Ferrets are small, furry mammals that have been domesticated. The wild ones are known to dance a gig to hypnotize their prey, according to Mental Floss.

Operation Black Ferret was a search and destroy mission in Vietnam.

3. Operation Mermaid Dawn

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Mermaid performer Paisley Easton. (Weeki Wachee Springs State Park)

In addition to not finding ferrets frightening — setting aside "The Big Lebowski" scene where a ferret scares the Dude in a bathtub — I don't especially find the prospect of mermaids at dawn threatening.

Rebels named their 2011 assault on Tripoli, according to this excellent overview of military naming by Mental Floss.

4. Operation Flea Flicker

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(U.S. Army?)

Got an itch? This was the name for a 2005 mission to seize weapons and propaganda before a referendum on the Iraqi constitution.

5. Operation Cajun Mousetrap III

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A deer mouse is released from a trap. (Associated Press/Mike Groll)

What about the mousetrap makes it Cajun? And did this mousetrap work better the 3rd time around? This was the name of a nighttime raid on Samarra, Iraq in 2004.

6. Exercise Steadfast Jazz

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The saxophones of the US Air Force's jazz ensemble. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jalene Brooks0

This is one jazz set that just doesn't quit! Fully 6,000 troops in NATO's ready-response force participated in this ludicrously named 2013 exercise.

Hat tip to Business Insider's Pentagon Correspondent Ryan Pickrell for the suggestion.

7. Exercise Dynamic Mongoose

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The mongoose's connection with this massive NATO naval exercise remains unclear to the author. (U.S. Navy/ Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda S. Kitchner)

Notably, NATO also has an Exercise Dynamic Manta.

8. Operation Therapist

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Professional counseling seems to have inspired one operation's name. (Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock)

How does it make you feel? The was the name of a 2005 Army mission in Tikrit, Iraq.

9. Exercise Tiger Thrust

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A formation of A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 23d Fighter Group at a March 1 flyover. (U.S. Air Force/Andrea Jenkins)

The name of a training exercise held in the 1980s at what was once England Air Force Base in Louisiana, then the home of the "Flying Tigers" of the 23rd wing.

Notable mentions.

Gringo-Goucho: Aircraft carrier exercises involving the U.S. and Argentine navies. The term "gringo" occasionally has a pejorative meaning for English-speaking Americans.

Team Spirit: A joint U.S.-South Korea training that ended in 1993, and that keeps reminding me of Nirvana's 1991 hit, "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Operation Desert Snowplough: Reportedly a name for a Danish operation during the Iraq War.

Operation Frequent Wind: The evacuation of civilians from Saigon in 1975.

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