• October 1, 2014

A look at some Army acronyms

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Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2012 4:30 am

We all know Army jargon is filled with acronyms and abbreviations.

PX, for example, stands for post exchange.

AA, in my experience, stands for assembly area.

FOB is forward operating base.

I recently stumbled upon a Department of Defense website that lists just about every military acronym possible.

AA, for example, can also mean “assessment agent” or “avenue of approach.” And AA shouldn’t be confused with AAA: “antiaircraft artillery” or “arrival and assembly area” or “assign alternate area.”

And AAA, obviously, shouldn’t be confused with AAAS: amphibious aviation assault ship. AABB, by the way, stands for American Association of Blood Banks.

Who knew?

The key to understanding military acronymic jargon, or MAJ, as I call it, is to listen carefully to the context.

For example, if someone says: “I’m going to the PX for some Christmas shopping,” then it’s pretty clear that a PX is a store of some kind.

Here’s another example, and this one is probably only used among top brass or at the Pentagon: “The Army’s fuel cost will be an MBI next year, especially with all these proposed budget cuts.”

MBI, according to that Defense Department website, stands for major budget issue.

A quick count of that online database revealed close to 10,000 different acronyms. I’m not surprised, and I’m sure this is not the first column to poke at little fun at the process.

However, while military acronyms might be the brunt of jokes sometimes, they certainly are useful.

As long as everyone is on the same page with what the acronyms mean, it can actually make communication easier, especially when communicating over a radio or when the message needs to be short and concise.

Of course, not every acronym is an official Department of Defense abbreviation.

A good example of this is FUBR (pronounced ‘fuu-bar’). This acronym was not in the DOD dictionary database of acronyms, and I can’t say what it means in print. I will say it is used quite a lot, and was also used in the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” It’s probably been in use in the Army 100 years, maybe more.

Anyway, enough about MAJ.

Common sayings

Another component of Army jargon is common sayings from soldiers. Here are a few:

“Hurry up and wait”: Anyone who has been through basic training has most likely heard this saying and understands it. In fact, I head this saying last Saturday night at the Trail of Lights in Austin. My wife, our daughter and I went to see the lights with another veteran and his family, and as soon as we rushed to get there, we were greeted by a huge line of people moving very slowly.

“Hurry up and wait,” he said.

As a former M1A1 tank gunner, here is my favorite Army saying: “What can be seen can be shot, and what can be shot can be killed.”

A good gunner on a tank can nail a moving target from 2 kilometers away or more, and with today’s high-tech weapons systems, this old saying is pretty much a fact.

I guess I’ll just end this column with another well-used saying at Fort Hood this week: “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

And, by the way, that website with the list of all the DOD acronyms is: www.dtic.mil/doctrine/dod_dictionary/.

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