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Common Terms and Lingo

As with any large organization, the military has its own set of common terms and lingo. Here are some selected terms, acronyms, phrases, and slang terms that may be of use to you.

Members of the military are referred to differently depending upon their specific Service.

  • Soldiers: Members of the Army
  • Sailors: Members of the Navy
  • Airmen: Members of the Air Force
  • Coast Guardsmen: Members of the Coast Guard
  • Marines: Members of the Marine Corps
  • Guardsmen: Members of the National Guard
  • Reservists: Members of the Reserve

Official acronyms

  • AWOL– Absent With Out Leave: not at one's place of duty and not authorized to be absent
  • CDR – Commander
  • CO – Commanding Officer
  • CONUS – Continental United States
  • COB – Close Of Business: the end of the day or duty shift
  • CoS – Chief of Staff
  • DD or DoD – Department of Defense
  • IAW – In accordance with
  • ICO – In case of, in care of
  • IED – Improvised Explosive Device
  • IRT – In reference to
  • GWOT – Global War On Terror
  • NCO – Non-Commissioned Officer: an enlisted person with command responsibility over soldiers of lesser rank
  • NCOIC – Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge
  • OEF – Operation Enduring Freedom: official name used for the War in Afghanistan
  • OIF – Operation Iraqi Freedom: official name used for the War in Iraq
  • OND – Operation New Dawn: new name for the War in Iraq starting in September 2010 to reflect reduced role of US troops
  • MOS – Military Occupational Specialty: job or career specialty (e.g., infantryman, intelligence analyst, operating room specialist, military police, etc.)
  • OCONUS – Outside the Continental United States
  • POC – Point Of Contact: the person to liaise with on a given matter
  • ROTC – Reserve Officer Training Corps (often pronounced "ROT-SEE")
  • R/S – Respectfully Submitted: used as an end greeting in written communication or email
  • SOP – Standard Operating Procedure: the routine manner of handling a set situation
  • TDY – Temporary Duty Yonder
  • V/R – Very Respectfully: used as an end greeting in written communication or email


  • Battle assembly – new term used for Army Reserve weekend drills, unit training assemblies, or multiple unit training assemblies
  • Boots on the ground – to physically be in a location (some may use this to say that they want "boots on the ground" for a particular project, which means they want everyone physically in the office, rather than having people call in.)
  • Drill – preparation of military personnel for performance of their duties through the practice and rehearsal of prescribed movements; members of the National Guard and Reserve are required to attend one weekend drill a month (sometimes starting Friday night until Monday morning)
  • Extended drill – extended time for drill in preparation for a deployment
  • Liberty – authorized free time ashore or off station, not counted as leave, also known as a "pass"
  • Ma'am – proper method of addressing female officers in particular and women in general
  • Sir – proper method of addressing male officers in particular and men in general
  • Tour of duty – time period during which a particular job or assignment is done (e.g., my tour of duty is 8am-5pm)


  • Above my/your pay grade – expression denying responsibility or authority (indicating that the issue should be brought to higher-ranking officials)
  • Civvies – civilian clothing
  • Down Range – physically in a combat zone
  • In-Country – physically in a war zone
  • Quarters – (a) military family housing, or (b) doctor's direction to stay home from work (e.g., I'm confined to quarters.)
  • Say again (your last) – request to repeat a statement, question, or order, especially over a radio
  • Stay in your lane – stay within your boundaries; do your job as commanded and trust that you will know what you need to know when you need to know it
  • Wilco – Will comply