Army Talk (Part Two)

This is the second of a three-part series.  To view Part One, click here.  To view Part Three, click here.

The military (known in the biz as “DoD”) has it own lingo.  The Army (“DoA”) is further sub-specialized.  Here are some more aspects of Army culture and Armyspeak that I find amusing:

More on saluting — Remember, only officers are saluted.  However, military members are required to salute superior officers in all sister services.  With the Marines and Air Force, there is no problem posed as they have the same rank structure and insignia as the Army.  As always, the Navy poses a problem.  If Naval officers are wearing those fancy uniforms with the ribbons on their sleeves, you stand a better chance.  But, they have so many uniforms that it’s really hard to tell whom you are encountering.

In these situations, the rule of thumb is When in doubt, whip it out.  If you salute ’em, you can never go wrong.  Otherwise, you risk an upbraiding in front of the entire world plus a lesson on the proper military courtesies owed to a Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy (whatever that is).

U.S. service members also must render appropriate courtesies to foreign officers.  This is even tougher.  In the armed forces of many nations, the lowest-ranking officers wear a certain number of stars.  In the U.S. military, encountering an officer wearing stars tends to provoke a certain reaction.  Courteous foreign officers will attach the equivalent American rank to their uniform while serving in CONUS (within the continental USA).  This avoids the uncomfortable situation in which a U.S. Colonel treats a Saudi Lieutenant like a Brigadier General.

The only good thing about this show is that it took place in the Navy.

Military law –– is different than criminal law in civilian court.  A defendant is referred to exclusively as “the accused.”  When charges are formally brought, it is called “the preferral.”  An arraignment in military courts is called an Article 32 hearing (after that particular chapter of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or UCMJ).  At trial, the jury is called a panel.  It is composed of officers and enlisted who outrank the accused.  The senior panel member is the President.

Unlike in the civilian world (where the the defendant must either post bail or demonstrate to the court that he is not a flight risk), in the military the accused is under constant command and control.  Thus, the presumption is that the soldier is not a flight risk and it is difficult to place him in pretrial confinement.

There is also a form of non-judicial punishment for minor infractions called an Article 13. Under this procedure, a soldier has a short hearing in front of his commander who decides if punishment (usually loss of pay or extra duty) is in order.  There is no equivalent in the civilian world — it would be as if your employer were permitted to punish you for minor offenses, either work-related or non work-related.

Scrambled eggs

Fruit salad and scrambled eggs — God did not create wittier beings than soldiers.  They come up with expressions that can be side-splittingly funny.  Most of them I cannot state here.

“Groundhogs Day” refers to a boring duty which repeats itself day after day.  “Kiwi College” is a session held by a Drill Instructor to teach soldiers to shine their boots properly.  The TMC (or Troop Medical Clinic) is informally known for what the medics most often dispense, Tylenol, Motrin and crutches.  Sometimes it is referred to as the Mengele Clinic (after the notorious Nazi death camp doctor who experimented on his prisoners).

Fruit salad

A soldier in a bad mood has a case of the ass.  The commander’s pet peeve often prompts the warning: The Old Man is death on that.  Anything that doesn’t work properly is a bolo.  A failure is a no go at this station.  All soldiers who do their job properly are fat, dumb and happy.  Civilian employees are Old Ladies in tennis shoes (sometimes regardless of gender).  A tank is known as a 60 Ton Serta after the brand of mattress because soldiers sleep on it in the field.  Dying in combat is getting smoked, getting waxed or taking a dirt nap.

This one is slightly on the ribald side: any senior officer who is judged “over the hill” is broke dick.  Failing to meet weight standards is known as becoming too short for your weight class.  Of course, fruit salad refers to the ribbons worn on the left breast of the uniform.  Scrambled eggs are the oak leaves on the Class A hat of a Field Grade officer (Major and above).

Those peculiar dress blues.

Getting dressed — Sometimes people wonder how military members know which uniform to wear.  Usually, there are standing orders that are pretty clear.  Different types of situations warrant different uniforms.  Back during my time on active duty, we wore BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform) every day.  There were few days when we needed to wear other uniforms such as Class A’s or Class B’s.  Even less frequent were the social engagements when one would don Dress Blues, the navy blue blouse with shoulder boards sewn on appropriate to your regiment and light blue pants which served as a reminder from cavalry days.

The Navy always struck me as more troublesome because they appear to have so many uniforms.  They have khakis and blacks and whites and probably some others that I don’t know about.  Submariners (a strange lot to begin with) wear blacks.  Aviators get to wear brown shoes.  They have tons of traditions.

Soldier going to work

Getting back to Army dress, putting it all together (properly positioning badges, medals, ribbons, insignia, name tag, etc.) can be a big pain.  However, once you’ve got it place, it’s pretty easy to maintain.  When you have your uniform on, you need to make sure that your gig line is straight — the folds of the shirt line up with your fly.  With BDUs, you have to properly blouse the pant leg in the boot.  Some of us would cheat by wearing blousing rubbers, a strap-like device that would keep the folds of your pants properly tucked.  I won’t even get into what it takes to shine those black Corcoran jump boots to an acceptable level.

Those other services —the Army owned the Air Force until 1947.  Therefore, the “Zoomies” are the closest branch to the Army.  But, they’re still weird.  Did you know that they call their female enlisted personnel Airmen?  The Navy (the Squids) have all sorts of arcane ranks and customs.  But, at least you can understand them when they speak.  The Marines (Jar Heads or Gyrenes) don’t even talk.  They grunt.  And they call their Drill Sergeants “Sir.”  As for the Coast Guard, they don’t even belong to the Department of Defense in peace time.  They used to be a part of the Department of Transportation.  Now they’re Homeland Security.

Sierra papa echo lima lima india november golf — This form of spelling is far superior to the normal “P as in Peter.”  When I got out of the Army, I tried using this in the course of a regular business conversation.  The person on the other end was totally confused.  She thought I was speaking some form of pig latin.  I still will throw in a Tango or an Echo when I’m trying to spell something — partly out of habit; partly because those terms work so much better than proper names.  This immediately gives me away as prior service.

— The Major


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