Inside the Gates: the language of military acronyms
When you join the military, you have to learn a whole new language: how to speak acronyms. It can make the conversation hard to follow for newcomers.
“You had to talk that way. You had to learn the lingo,” said Donn Griffith, a retired Air Force member.
The military has an acronym for everything, from job titles (MOS – military occupational specialty) to equipment (LARP – light airfield repair package) and even the commissary itself, depending on the branch.
“In the Air Force, BX stands for base exchange but if you’re in the Army it’s PX which is post exchange,” said Cpt. Jamie Longmire, chief of satellite pharmacy operations on base.
Even the name of the base, JBER, is an acronym which stands for Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Service members can rattle them off, one after another.
FA – fitness assessment.
NCO – non-commissioned officers.
FYSA – for your situational awareness instead of FYI.
PT – physical training.
SFPT – snowflake PT.
UTA – unit training assembly.
There are thousands and everyone has their favorite, some of which are not polite.
“Probably the SOS and I won’t say that,” said Ann Woehr, an Air Force spouse.
She laughed and finally explained, “S#** on a shingle. That’s what it means.”
The acronym dates back to World War I and refers to the food service members ate.
The many acronyms can lead to confusion.
“They always talk about the CDC and so being medical, I always think of the Center for Disease Control but in the military, it actually means Child Development Center,” said Longmire.
It can be especially confusing when different branches work together. They have different acronyms for the same thing or the same acronyms for different things, or they often have to decipher each other.
Service members say they often understand the acronym, even if they’re not sure exactly what it stands for.
“Sometimes I find myself sitting there thinking man, what does that actually, what do those letters actually mean,” said Cpl. Michael Harris, an 11 Bravo Infantry Scout.
Just any language, learning to speak military is a matter of patience.
“A little bit of time and experience and just kind of bumbling through everything,” said Longmire.
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