Military Lingo: All Right, Slick Sleeves, Grab Your Bang-Bang and Let's Go!

Nathan Chandler

These days, what term do soldiers typically use for helicopters?

The most common modern nickname is "birds." If you use the term "chopper," everyone will know you've seen too many old war movies.

Here's another easy one. What's an IED most likely to do?

IEDs, of course, are Improvised Explosive Devices. They're often made from found objects, but they're no less deadly than mass-manufactured bombs. They're often concealed and then detonated when a vehicle or soldier travels nearby.

What do soldiers do at DFAC?

DFAC stands for Dining Facility. In other words, it's the mess hall where soldiers eat.

"Puddle pirates" can refer to very dangerous military units.

The term "puddle pirates" refers to the Coast Guard, with the implication that these ships ply only shallow waters and don't fight battles. In fact, Coast Guard ships go all over the world and sometimes wind up in the middle of battles.

When would you NOT want to be "black" on ammo?

If you're "black" on ammo, it means your gun is empty. That's no good, particularly in the middle of a pitched battle.

If you were in a vehicle struck by an IED, you were WHAT?

Being "blowed up" by an IED is a terrifying event. Many soldiers in the Middle East have been blowed up repeatedly during their tours of duty.

Where would you find "moon dust"?

"Moon dust" is a catch-all term for the inescapable dust that seems to plague every country in the Middle East. Moon dust means that frontline soldiers exist in a constant state of gritty filth.

JDAM refers to what sort of weapon?

JDAMs are Joint Direct Attack Munitions. They are a type of smart bomb that can be guided into even hard-to-hit targets.

What does a "squirter" do?

Squirters are the guys who take off running once a battle begins. In many cases, squirters are enemy combatants looking for cover or safety.

What's a CHU?

A CHU is a Containerized Housing unit. They are climate-controlled trailers that can be matched with other CHUs to make larger living areas. They are, shall we say, not exactly fancy living.

If someone tells you there is imminent TIC, what should you do?

Grab your gun -- TIC means Troops In Contact. That means that there is an active firefight or an otherwise treacherous situation.

What does it mean if one of your personnel goes "over the hill"?

If one of your service personnel goes over the hill, he or she is missing. It could be a normal screw-up, or it might mean something more ominous.

If an area in a war zone is "kinetic," it is what, exactly?

If a fellow soldier tells you that an area is kinetic, keep your wits about you -- it means that the area is full of violence.

When would you be most likely to "rack out"?

If you "rack out," you're going to sleep, a luxury that evades many combat veterans who have seen too much violence and too little peace.

When do you want the "Fitty"?

The "Fitty," refers to the .50-caliber machine gun. For many decades, the Fitty has been one of the most potent and terrifying weapons on the battlefield.

Infantry soldiers are often called what?

For decades, G.I.s have been called "Joes." In older days, "G.I. Joes" was a common term.

When does "pink mist" occur?

Pink mist refers to the ominous (sometimes pink) mist that happens when a soldier is struck by bullets. At the very least, it means he or she has been wounded.

Who's "T-Man"?

T-Man is a nickname for the Taliban, one of the most consistently befuddling and dangerous enemies that U.S. soldiers have faced in decades.

An "oxygen thief" is a soldier that does too much of what?

Oxygen thieves are soldiers who'd rather sit around chatting than accomplishing their actual duties. Oxygen thieves aren't good for much.

American troops refer to rifles as "guns."

U.S. troops reserve the word gun most often for artillery guns or mortars. These guns have far more power and range than machine guns and rifles.

What does it mean if you've "gone Elvis"?

You are most likely not sporting huge sideburns and singing "Heartbreak Hotel" in a dingy Vegas bar. If you've "gone Elvis," you're missing in action.

What's happening if you're getting the "dustoff"?

A dustoff means a medical evacuation by helicopter. It's no fun to be wounded, but if you are, you definitely want the dustoff treatment.

Jets are often called what?

Jets are "fast movers." Especially at low altitude, jets come and go in the blink of an eye. They are definitely fast movers.

If you are "outside the wire," you are where?

Being "outside the wire" means that you've left your primary base. In other words, you're beyond the concertina wire that’s often strewn about the perimeter of a base as a defensive measure.

What's "chest candy"?

Heavily-decorated soldiers often have loads of chest candy, or medals and ribbons. Some soldiers mock people who have too much chest candy; other times, they give them the utmost respect.

"Fobbits" have a reputation for what?

"Fobbits" is a blend of FOB (forward operating base) and "Hobbit," the creatures from "The Lord of the Rings." They're the guys who hunker down on base and rarely risk their necks outside the wire.

If your commanding officer tells you to "beat your face," what will you be doing?

"Beat your face" refers to pushups, for fairly obvious reasons. If someone tells you to beat your face over and over again, you clearly aren't grasping the message.

What's a "bang-bang"?

If you're heading outside the wire, don't forget your bang-bang. You gotta have a rifle or pistol if you want to face off with the enemy.

What happens if you're "expectant"?

"Expectant" is a gentle term for a not-so-gentle event -- you're going to die.

If you're trapped behind enemy lines, you definitely want to see "sky blossoms" coming to your location.

"Sky blossoms" is slang for paratroopers. If you're trapped and need reinforcements, sky blossoms might be your new best friends.

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About This Quiz

The military is a world all its own, full of obscure acronyms and weird, esoteric language that only soldiers really understand. How much do you know about military lingo?

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