22 phrases that only people in the military will understand

Every region of the country has its own unique phrases, but they have nothing on the complex lexicon that people in the US military share.

Members of the military serve together in close-knit groups that must fully trust each other. Potentially serving in dangerous areas, service members must be able to communicate as efficiently as possible while still being understood.

This need for quick communication, coupled with the strict uniformity of the military, has produced an amazing range of slang terms and acronyms that only military members can understand — “I was on the FOB when the IDP hit, so I radioed the TOC” doesn’t mean much in the civilian world, after all.

Scroll down to learn 22 of the most interesting military slang terms.

Geoffrey Ingersoll wrote the original version of this post.

1. '15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior'

Sgt. Brian Glass/US Army

Military people are taught that they must show up to everything (especially an official formation) at least 15 minutes early.

The 15 minutes to 15 minutes arises as the order filters down through the ranks. The captain wants everyone to meet at 0600, so the master sergeant wants folks to arrive at 0545 -- and when the order finally finally hits the corporal-level people are told to show up at midnight.

2. 'A good piece of gear' (in reference to people)

Only in the service is it OK to refer to one of your coworkers or (worse yet and most frequently) a person working for you in a section you manage as 'a good piece of gear.'

3. 'Blue falcon'

A Blue Falcon is someone who blatantly throws another Marine/soldier/sailor/airman under the bus. You don't want to be called a Blue Falcon.

4. 'Days and a wake-up'

A 'wake-up' refers to the last day you will be some place (generally while deployed). So, if a service member is getting ready for bed on a Sunday, and flying out on a Friday, he'll say 'four days and a wake-up.'

5. A 'drug deal'

When personnel or materiel are obtained through unofficial channels.

11. 'Mandatory Fun' or 'Mandofun'

US Army

Office dinner parties or get togethers that are mandatory. Sometimes these are just understood as mandatory, other times the order is given expressly.

12. 'Birth-control glasses'

US Army photo

Military-issued eyeglasses known for their lack of aesthetic appeal.

13. 'No impact, no idea'

If a shooter on the range is so far off target that spotters don't see an impact. Used loosely to mean that the speaker doesn't understand an idea, or that someone is totally clueless.

Similar to 'high and off to the right,' which is the military equivalent of 'out of left field' -- a personality type gone crazy, or an idea that no one saw coming.

14. 'Chair Force'

An Air Force-specific term for personnel who never fly planes, but instead spend their time 'flying a desk.' Those in the Chair Force do office work.

'Chair Force' is also used as a pejorative against the Air Force by the other services.

15. 'PowerPoint ranger'

US Army photo

Like a member of the Chair Force, a 'PowerPoint ranger' is a service member tasked primarily with creating Power Points for briefings.

PowerPoint rangers can be notorious for creating overly complicated briefs that feature too many animations or sound effects.

17. 'Police call'

HBO/Generation Kill

A police call is when an entire unit lines up and walks across a certain area looking for trash.

'Policing,' on the other hand, is when a unit internally checks the behaviour of its members, or when people are ordered to take care of their own outward deficiencies (e.g., 'Police that mustache!').

18. 'S--- hot'

Something that is really awesome, hardcore, or tactically skilled. For example, you can be 's--- hot' at your job. An operation that was carried out well would also be 's--- hot.'

20. 'Standby to standby' and 'hurry up and wait'

Sgt. Jennifer Pirante/US Marine Corps

Believe it or not, the military is government, and government isn't always efficient.

'Standby' is a 'preparatory command.' Usually the order to standby alerts a unit that it will receive some kind of marching orders -- 'standby to launch.'

Unofficially, it's used to tell junior members to be ready and wait. Often, troops find themselves waiting for long periods of time because of logistics or command indecisiveness.

Said sarcastically, 'standby to standby' means that a unit is waiting to wait some more.

'Hurry up and wait,' also said sarcastically, pokes fun at the military's propensity to perform tasks quickly, and then sit idly for long periods of time.

21. 'Voluntarily Told,' 'Voluntold'

Sgt. Christopher Green/USMC
Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett, left, speaks a man dressed as Santa Claus during the 55th Annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program in Washington, D.C., Dec. 3, 2012.

There are two different kinds of voluntold:

A. The gunny walks into the office and says, 'Man, wouldn't the floor look nice if somebody buffed it?' Which means,'Buff the floor.'

B. 'I need two volunteers to stand out in front of Best Buy this Saturday collecting Toys for Tots.'

' ... '

'Jones, Smith, you're collecting Toys for Tots this weekend.'

22. 'Smoking and joking'

Being unproductive, horsing around, or literally smoking and joking.

23. 'Secret squirrel'

US Marine Corps Photo

Intelligence personnel, secret communications, classified ops, or someone with higher classification.

24. 'Make a hole'

DVIDS/Octavia Davis
Drill instructor Sgt. Donald Miller corrects a recruit on March 25, 2014, on Parris Island, South Carolina.

'Make a hole' is the preferred method to tell a group of people to get out of your way.

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