By Lizann Lightfoot

One day, I sent my husband a long text explaining the schedule for our kids’ activities. Here is what I received in response:


I scratched my head for a moment, trying to figure out that acronym. It turns out that it isn’t even an acronym. It’s just shorthand for the word “Roger” which is how he usually acknowledges texts from his co-workers.

I’ve been around my military husband for 16 years and have gotten used to a lot of weird terms during that time. Sometimes I forget that these terms won’t make any sense to my civilian friends.

1. Barney-style

When you have to explain something to another service member simply–like you are talking to a child–then you are “breaking it down Barney-style.”

IMG_5752 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Dave Ginsberg, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

2. Blue falcon

The term for a buddy f**ker who either throws a fellow service member under the bus, screws them over in some way, or doesn’t uphold their responsibilities when on patrol.

falcon from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Chris Heald, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

3. Boot

Boots are not just the combat boots the military wears on their feet. A boot also refers to someone who is new to the job. It’s a somewhat derogatory term–mostly used in the Marine Corps–for someone who is either fresh out of boot camp, newly promoted, or has never deployed. A boot drop is when a group of fresh Marines joins a battalion all at once.

Mud on the Tires from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 Marines, Flickr | GOV | via Wylio

4. BZ (Bravo Zulu)

Navy term meaning congratulations or well done. The letters don’t have anything to do with the words in the term. Instead, they refer to columns in Naval flag charts. These universal charts were developed during World War II so international ships could communicate with each other.

Zulu dancing from Flickr via Wylio
© 2004 NH53, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

5. Chit

It took me a while to understand that a chit is just a piece of paper or a form. A service member could say, “I have to fill out a chit” or “Here’s a chit to take care of that.”

© 2005 Kurt Nordstrom, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

6. Cover

It’s not a hat, it’s a cover. While there are a few terms for the various types of headgear in different branches, no military members refers to it as a hat. It’s called a cover because it covers your head. Obvious, right?

Future Marines in South Florida prepare for boot camp [Image 10 of 21] from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 DVIDSHUB, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

7. Embrace the suck

This just sounds weird, but you will hear it often in military life. It’s the idea that even though many aspects of military life suck, service members and families still need to try to enjoy it. It’s a more positive way of saying, “Suck it up, buttercup.”

Buttercups from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Matthew Murdoch, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

8. Grunt

A term for someone in the infantry. It’s sometimes an honor, other times somewhat insulting–as in “dumb grunt.” Consequently, anyone in a non-infantry job is a POG (rhymes with rogue), because they are Personnel Other than Grunt.

Boot Camp Graduation 2007 014 from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Di Sanders, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

9. Hurry up and wait

Waiting is such a common part of military life but being late for anything in the military is a serious offense. You are always encouraged to hurry up and be on time. . . even if you are simply hurrying to a parking lot where you will sit on your pack for several hours early in the morning. When the officer finally arrives to give the order, you will be there and prepared!

Lisbon Clock Tower from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 David Dennis, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

10. Mandatory fun

When a unit orders everyone to participate in a family day or similar event, it could be fun but is somewhat ruined because it is required.

Balloons from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Shaun Fisher, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

11. Mike

The phonetic alphabet for the letter M. Usually, a mike means a minute. Instead of saying “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” someone speaking into a military radio might say, “We’ll be there in one zero mikes.” The term mike-mike can also be used for the measurement millimeters, with a 40 mm grenade launcher referred to as the “40-mike-mike.”

Mike from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Mark Doliner, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

12. Police call

This means cleaning up trash in a very precise, intentional way. The unit lines up and walks slowly, picking up any debris in their path. This is important when cleaning up brass from a range or when assuring a runway is completely clear.

Police from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 G20 Voice, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

13. Tactically acquire

No, it’s not stealing if it is tactically acquired. At least, that is what service members are taught early in their careers. Sometimes, in order to get the job done with the correct gear, you need to tactically acquire it from another company or unit. Stealing is still punished in the military but the whole point of tactically acquiring something is that you don’t get caught.

Bank Robbery In Progress from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Henry Burrows, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

14. Tango

The phonetic alphabet for the letter T. Specifically, tango refers to a target. Instead of saying “I see a target” or “target down” the military says “Tango spotted” or “Tango down.”

Tango! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Rande Archer, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

15. Working party

Much more work than party, a working party is called to gather a group to complete a specific job. Participants are usually found using another military term: they are voluntold to participate. This means they are told that they have been selected to volunteer.

party from Flickr via Wylio
© 2013 gabia party, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

What crazy military terms have used that got strange looks from civilians? Tell us on the MOC Facebook page.