Glossary: Military Jargon

What did they just say? The following list of common military acronyms and slang will help you learn how to "translate" a military conversation.


About face: The drill movement where a person or group turns and faces the opposite direction.

ACU: Army Combat Uniform. It is the daily work uniform, as opposed to the dress uniform (for Army personnel).

AWOL: Absent Without Official Leave, which means to leave duty without permission.

Bravo Zulu: Praise for a good job or "well done."

Blues: Blue dress uniform (for Marine Corps and Air Force).

Bubblehead: Any person serving on a submarine or in the submarine service.

Doolie: Nickname for a first-year Air Force Academy cadet.

EOD: Explosive Ordnance Disposal, responsible for the safe handling, deactivation and removal of an unexploded ordnance—the military version of a bomb squad.

EPW: Enemy Prisoner of War

File 13: The garbage can.

Galley: The kitchen aboard a ship.

Gitmo: U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Head: The bathroom or latrine aboard a boat or ship.

HMMWV: (Pronounced "humvee") High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle

IED: Improvised Explosive Device, which is a type of homemade bomb used in unconventional warfare.

IRR: Individual Ready Reserve, which is a Reserve component of the Armed Forces made up of former active duty or reserve personnel.


JTF: Joint Task Force

MEDEVAC or Medivac: Removing a wounded person by using designated ambulance equipment, vehicles or aircraft.

MOS: Military Occupational Specialty, a job classification.

MP: Military Police

NCO: Noncommissioned Officer

OCS/OTS: Officer Candidate School/Officer Training School

Oorah/Hooah: Marine Corps'/Army's (respectively) spirited cries. It's usually in response to a verbal greeting or as an expression of enthusiasm.

PCS: Permanent Change of Station; relocate to another base.

PFT: Physical Fitness Test

POC: Point of Contact, the person to connect with on a given matter.

PT: Physical Training, physical exercise to build or maintain strength, agility and flexibility.

ROTC: Reserve Officers' Training Corps

Sandbox: Iraq or other desert area.

SEALs: United States Navy SEALs (stands for SEa, Air, Land).

TAD/TDY: Temporary Additional Duty/Temporary Duty

Topside: The upper deck of a ship.

UA: Unauthorized Absence (similar to AWOL)

UAV: Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

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