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Say What: A Crash Course in Army Acronyms

Apr 25, 2017, 13:48 PM

We are lucky enough to get the opportunity to regularly connect military family members with their service member for military graduation ceremonies. Many times, families haven’t seen this person in a long time and have never been on a military installation. For those families who now have a family member serving in the military, they often notice quite a few differences. One of the first is the jargon that accompanies military life.

“Our OSUT class went to AAFES to purchase MREs for the upcoming FTX, but I had to go to the MTF with my battle buddy because he fell during PT.”

Though this sentence is easily decoded by those with military experience, for those new to this world, it can make your head spin. We’ll be nice enough to translate it to layman’s terms:

“Our One Station Unit Training (or entry training group) class went to the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (the Army & Air Force’s version of a large retail store) to purchase Meals Ready to Eat (complete meals in a bag that are made using only water) for the upcoming Field Training Exercise (an event that requires Soldiers to practice the skills they’ve learned in realistic scenarios/situations – held away from the garrison), but I had to go to the Military Treatment Facility (military hospital or clinic) with my Battle Buddy (an assigned partner that is with you through thick and thin) because he fell during Physical Training (specific time of day where a Soldier or unit performs exercises to keep them in “fit to fight” shape)”.

Though it doesn’t hurt to stop your Soldier and ask him or her to explain these acronyms to you, it can also help to learn a few of the most common ones. We’ve listed a few below, as well as some terms that you may find helpful.

PCS – Permanent Change of Station: this is the process of moving from one duty station to the next.

POV – Privately Owned Vehicle: a vehicle owned by a Soldier. Sometimes these are authorized and sometimes they are not depending on the Soldier’s orders.

OPSEC – Operational Security: the important actions we take, especially in today’s age of social media, to ensure that unclassified information can’t be used against us. We commonly use the phrase “loose lips sink ships” when referring to OPSEC.

FRG – Family Readiness Group: a group of spouses in each unit that gather together regularly to share resources and information and to support Soldiers while they are in garrison and downrange.

NCO – Non-commissioned Officers: an enlisted Soldier that leads other Soldiers. They generally possess great knowledge of their branch and experience with the Army, in general.

DEERS – Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System: a way to determine who is eligible for military benefits, including TRICARE (medical and dental benefits).

Leave – the military’s name for vacation time. Remember, your Soldier is a Soldier 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so when they submit their leave form, they’ll have to also ask for weekends.

Garrison – this is a fancy word for “home base.” When Soldiers are “in garrison” they are not deployed, but are conducting regular business at their offices on their installation.

Installation – another name for a post or base. This term is usually used for joint services installations (where multiple branches of the military are stationed at the same location) 
*As a side note, Army installations are called “posts.” Air Force, Navy, and Marine installations are called “bases.” This is helpful if you’re asking your Soldier if she’ll be living on post or if you ask your Airman if his kids will attend a school on base.

Orders – typically this refers to PCS orders or the official documents used to relocate a Soldier or family member. These can be very complicated, but are critical to begin the PCS process.

Downrange – this slang term refers to deployment (you’ll also hear sandbox and a variety of other terms).

This lingo can take years to master, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep it all straight. Take advantage of this resource or just ask if you’re curious…most new Soldiers love to explain their new world! 

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