Having a loved one in the military comes with a lot of its own unique quirks and experiences. When I first met my husband, I already anticipated a lot of the more common things associated with the Marine Corps, but what I didn’t count on were the acronyms…so many acronyms. It becomes a language in and of itself, and learning a handful of them can help decipher a lot of the more commonly used terms.
Some of these may be the same across all branches, but here are some things you may hear in everyday conversations with a Marine.
Mention PCS to a military spouse and they’ll probably be able to rattle off the ten best ways to pack, move, and readjust to a new environment without even batting an eye. A PCS, or Permanent Change of Station, basically means you’re getting a new duty station.
The time in between moves can vary between branches, but if you’re in for more than a few years, chances are you’ll experience a PCS at least once. For Marines, it’s typical to be assigned a new duty station after about 3-4 years, but you can technically PCS with at least 24 months on station.
If you’re in the first half of the year, chances are you’ll hear your Marine talking about it being “PFT season”. PFT’s, the Marine acronym for physical fitness tests, are pretty straightforward, annual assessments of a Marines physical ability. A PFT will typically involve a 3-mile run, and set numbers of both crunches and pull-ups. The minimum requirements, barring the run, can vary for male and female Marines, and also by age.
When it’s not PFT season, it’s CFT season. The Combat Fitness Test happens in the second half of the year and its main purpose is to assess a Marines aptitude in a variety of different combat-related tasks.
A CFT is a little more involved than a traditional PFT, starting with an 880-yard sprint, and two minutes of ammo can lifts (which sounds okay until you realize those bad boys weigh 30 pounds). Following that, Marines are paired up according to height and weight and complete a “maneuver-under-fire,” which includes another sprint, low crawl, high crawl, partner body drag, fireman carry, push-ups, ammo can carry, and grenade throw. I asked my husband which test he preferred, and he is unequivocally a CFT kind of guy.
Military Occupational Specialty is essentially a fancy way of saying job. With over 10,000 occupations and specialties throughout the military, being placed into an MOS can mean doing virtually any kind of job you can imagine.
Some are hyper-specific to the military, while others are more universal and relatable to a civilian work environment. MOS’s can range from admin, intel, operations, supply and logistics, training, communications, and more.
A lot of the time when a FRO is mentioned, it’s in the capacity of at home deployment support. While Family Readiness Officers are invaluable in this area, they can also be integral to so many other aspects of military life.
FROs are armed with resources and connections to be able to help Marines and their families with day-to-day challenges such as financial planning, marital stress and support, and more. FROs also work to coordinate family events to not only boost morale, but also to allow Marines, spouses, and families to meet each other and build social connections.
Where there’s a duty station, there’s a BAH. A Basic Allowance for Housing is exactly what it sounds like: a predetermined, monetary housing allotment specific to each duty station. The amount of BAH, or whether or not you get one, is based on duty location, rank, and where you will be living. Marines living on base, either in the barracks or in base housing, won’t receive a housing stipend, per se (their allotted BAH is assumed by the base).
Those living off base, or “out in town,” receive their BAH in their paycheck, which they then use to pay their rent or mortgage wherever they end up living. There are pro’s and con’s to both on and off base housing, and while the idea of actually receiving BAH off base may seem incentivized, it’s typically so close to local cost of living that there is little difference between that and the way it’s handled on base.
Officer Candidate School is where aspiring Marine officers go for specialized leadership training. Candidates are assessed in the areas of leadership, academics, and physical fitness and are expected to be able to improvise, adapt, and overcome in a myriad of challenging scenarios.
Those who make it through the 10-week training program will become Second Lieutenants and move on to attend The Basic School. TBS is a six month follow on training, teaching additional skills beneficial to officers. From there, officers then move into their MOS school.
Professional Military Education focuses on professional growth, the responsibilities of a Marines given rank, and skill-building for the future.
The goal is to educate and inform Marines on the core values of the military, and their role in fulfilling duties for both personal professional growth, as well as being a piece of a bigger puzzle. Every Marine will go through PME at some point in their career, and it becomes a fundamental part of their development.