Get to Know Army Lingo

Becoming a Soldier requires a lot of learning. Moreover, a significant part of that learning …


Becoming a Soldier requires a lot of learning. Moreover, a significant part of that learning curve is understanding how to speak like a Soldier; it practically means learning a new language. Initially, this process starts with getting familiar with the phonetic alphabet. Subsequently, one dives into Army lingo and abbreviations. However, with a little practice, you’ll have it down in no time.

Your Trainee will learn a lot of specific terminology in basic training, but you’ll also hear some Army terms around military establishments like bases or government buildings. If you’re getting ready to head off to Army Basic Training or have a Trainee in basic training, reviewing these terms will give you a basic understanding of what certain abbreviations and terms mean. Getting familiar with the phonetic alphabet is a great starting point in order to make learning Army lingo easier. 

What is the Phonetic Alphabet?

You may have wondered why your Trainee is in B Company in basic training but they refer to it as Bravo Company. The phonetic alphabet is used throughout the U.S. military to ensure letters spoken over communications systems, like a radio, are received without any confusion.  

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Army Lingo: Get Familiar with Abbreviations

While the phonetic alphabet takes a little time getting used to, in no time you’ll be a pro at translating military terms and have a better understanding of what they mean. Give “Lima Charlie” a try next time you want to tell your trainee you understand what they’re saying loud and clear. Or ask if they are continuing the mission, using “Charlie Mike”.

There are many more terms you’ll learn than what’s listed here, but these are some of the main military terms you’ll want to know right away. Below, we’ve included a list of words to help you get started.

Army Lingo: Terms to Know

AGSU – The Army Green Service Uniform (AGSU) is the U.S. Army’s new service uniform. With that, the AGSU is inspired and based off the iconic service uniform worn by America’s “Greatest Generation” during World War II.

AWOL – Absent without leave

BAH — Basic allowance for housing

Barracks – Building where Soldiers or trainees live

BAS — Basic allowance for subsistence (meals) for service member 

BDE – Brigade

BN —Abbreviation for Battalion

BRM – Basic Rifle Marksmanship

BTRY – Abbreviation for Battery

Carry On – Order to resume work or duties

COB – Close of business

CO – Abbreviation for Company

Commissary – A place on base to buy groceries

CONUS – Continental United States. US territory between Canada and Mexico, including territorial waters.

DFAC – Dining Facility

DoD – Department of Defense

FTX – Field Training Exercise

G2G – Good to go

Getting Smoked – Rigorous exercise as a punishment

Hooah – Pronounced hu:a. A spirited cry, which can mean nearly anything positive. Others claim that it is an acronym for “Heard, Understood and Acknowledged”.

HQ – headquarters

Joe – an Army Soldier

JTF – Joint Task Force. A multi-service military unit.  

Latrine – bathroom

Leave – Vacation

Leg – Non airborne Soldier

Lima Charlie – radio speak for “loud and clear”

Negative – a form of saying “no”

OCONUS – Outside continental United States. Areas outside of the continental U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska

OCP – OCP represents the Operational Camouflage Pattern. It is the camo pattern. Operational Camouflage Pattern was codenamed originally as Scorpion W2. This is a pattern used by the military by the United States Army.

Oscar-Mike – On the move

PCS – Permanent Change of Station; when you move from one duty station to another.

PLF – parachute landing fall

PLT – Platoon

Pop Smoke – Call for extraction. Alternately to leave work or complete a period of service.

POV – privately owned vehicle

PT – Physical Training

PTs – Physical fitness uniform

PX – Post Exchange. This is a shopping area on base that is similar to a department store.

Rack – Bed

Red Star Cluster – A distress call. This literally refers to the hand-launched red pyrotechnic signal flare. Alternatively, in non-combat situations, this is an acknowledgement of a precarious situation or need for help.

Roger – Another form of “yes”

Ruck Up – “Ruck” is short for “ruck sack,” which refers to backpacks service members sometimes wear. To “ruck up” is to get through a particularly challenging or stressful situation.

Sick call — time designated for personnel to seek non emergency medical attention

S.I.T. – Soldier in Training

SOP – Standard Operating Procedures. SOPs often offer guidance where official doctrine does not cover a situation, or treats a situation only in extremely broad terms.

Soup Sandwich – all messed up

TA – Tuition Assistance

TDY – Temporary Duty outside of normal duty location

UCMJ – Uniform Code of Military Justice

XO – Executive Officer (2nd in command)

Zero Dark Thirty – Humorous term for really early in the morning

The Bottom Line

Mastering the language of the Army is an essential aspect of becoming a Soldier. Ultimately, from understanding the phonetic alphabet to familiarizing yourself with Army abbreviations, embracing Army lingo is a vital step towards building camaraderie as a Soldier, and ensuring clarity in all missions.

Kris Broadus
Kris is the Army Relations Manager for Sandboxx. He served in the Army over 25 years, holding various assignments throughout the his career rising from the rank of Private to Sergeant Major. In his last assignment he served as the Operations Sergeant Major for the 2nd Recruiting Brigade overseeing recruiting operations for the Army for the southeastern part of the nation.