Military Slang Part 1

I served in the United States Army from 1988–91. It was a time of transition for the military. The steel pots were being replaced with Kevlar helmets. The M1 Abrams, M2 Bradley, and the Apache attack helicopter were replacing the old Vietnam era equipment. The new camo BDU’s had also shoved out the old green fatigues remembered from the movie Stripes.

But some things change much more slowly — if at all. The military has its own language, and each service branch takes it to its own level. That level is not always a great place to be.

Here are 10 that I remember.

  1. Fuck. This word covers most everything. It can be an adjective, a verb, a noun — basically anything. This is the go-to word for most situations.
  2. Nut to butt. Basic trainees are taught to stand in line — closely. I remember one Drill Sergeant explaining it this way, “Scoot up to your buddy until he giggles, back off when he squeals”. Standing in line is one of the first skills learned by a new trainee.
  3. Sham. Lazy. Every other unit in the Army is a sham unit. They do nothing, while your unit single-highhandedly maintains the high standards of the US Army.
  4. Full battle rattle. When all your gear is hanging off your body, when the butt of your weapon is tucked tight in your shoulder and you have more than doubled your body weight in equipment and you are mentally ready— you are in full battle rattle.
  5. Pucker factor. A measurement of how tightly your butt is squeezed. Anticipation of action requires a “pucker factor 10”.
  6. SNAFU. Situation Normal — All Fucked Up. No matter how well the leadership leads and no matter how well the unit is performing — it is always SNAFU.
  7. Jody. This is the guy that hitting on your girlfriend and / or wife while you are away at basic training, in the field, or out of the country. Jody is talked about, mentioned in cadence, and universally hated. Hispanic soldiers refer to the same guy — but they call him “Sancho”. Jody and Sancho are both used by Drill Sergeants to make you miserable. Mental torture. Soldiers without any female attachments back home also use Jody to screw with other soldiers — and screwing with your buddies will never go out of style.
  8. Squared Away. Used to describe a good soldier, a good unit, anything that is impressive. “That guy is squared away” is a very high compliment.
  9. High speed. See above. High speed is usually used in reference to a unit or a piece of gear, but only used complimentary.
  10. Aim High. A derogatory greeting from a soldier to an airman. Usually spoken out the side of the soldier’s mouth only loud enough for his buddies to hear and then laughed about.

That’s just 10. Part One.

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