Understanding Military Lingo, Jargon and Acronyms

Marine Corps Drill Instructor

How would you respond if your next job applicant said to you, “I’m a 90A, and I just finished up as the S1 for the 728th. I ran the battalion PAC and was responsible for OERs, NCOERs, awards and all MILPO actions”?

Do you know what any of that means? Me, either. The military jargon used to communicate systems, positions, geography and terminology is plentiful. Some people argue it’s a shorthand that makes communication more efficient, others claim the acronyms serve to confuse civilian listeners, others say it stems from habit.

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What is Military Slang?

Also known as military slang, this jargon is a “set of colloquial terms which are unique to or which originated with military personnel. They are often abbreviations or derivatives of the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, or otherwise incorporating aspects of formal military concepts and terms. Military slang is also used to reinforce the (usually friendly) inter-service rivalries. Some of these terms have been considered gregarious to varying degrees and attempts have been made to eliminate them.”

To make things more interesting, military jargon and slang can change from region to region, and sometimes evolves over time and with different missions.

Understanding Key Terms and Acronyms Following are explanations of some common military terms and acronyms helpful for private sector employers to know:

•CONUS -- Continental United States, the 48 states on the U.S. mainland (not including Alaska or Hawaii.)

•DD 214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) -- Every separated service member receives a Department of Defense (DD) Form 214 upon retirement, separation, or discharge from military service. This document states all the information related to their time of service (such as assignments, awards, dates of service, etc.) as well as the type and characterization of the discharge.

•Duty Station -- the geographic location at which a service member is conducting official duties. This may be a temporary location for professional military education or training, or it may be permanent (i.e., home station).

•FOB (Forward Operating Base) -- Larger than a COP (smaller base located in a particularly hostile area.) A FOB typically offers more resources and comfort provisions such as hot meals, hot water and laundry facilities.

•IED (Improvised Explosive Device) -- A popular weapon with insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs are roughly-organized, inexpensive bombs that are be easily modified to exploit an enemy’s vulnerabilities.

•MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) – Military jobs are classified by codes that attaches to their specialty. The Army, Marines and Coast Guard call this an MOS (military occupational specialty) or MOC (military occupation code); the Air Force calls them Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC). The Navy uses a system of ratings and the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) system. The Department of Defense lists more than 7,000 codes representing various job skills someone might perform while on duty.

•OCONUS – “Outside of the Continental United States”

•OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom) – The combat operation that Veterans may have deployed to in support of the War on Terror, where the theater of operations was in Afghanistan.

•OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) -- The combat operation that Veterans may have deployed to in support of the War on Terror where the theater of operations was in Iraq.

•PCS (Permanent Change of Station) -- When a service member and their family from one geographic unit location to another due to orders for a new assignment. This is not temporary; thus, the use of the word “permanent.

•Sandbox – Refers to a desert area, specifically either Iraq or Kuwait. To say this is a short list is an understatement. Having a “cheat sheet” of commonly used terms is helpful for your hiring managers to refer to and use in interviewing and hiring. As an employer, work with your veteran hires to teach them common lingo and jargon for your company and industry, and accept that it might take time for your veteran employees to break old habits.

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