In the Clear

I’m home for a long weekend.  It’s been nice seeing family and friends, laying low on the couch, and taking care of this and that.

When I was teaching, I tried to not use Army jargon and expressions in the classroom, or anywhere else for that matter. Now, however, avoiding military lingo is hard, and not even advisable.  Army-isms help us communicate quickly and accurately.  Still, the ominpresent acronyms are unimaginative and the unit designations baffling.  For example, my transition team is known by a five-digit “URF” number.  Our headquarters for training is Charlie Battery, 1-5 Field Artillery.  But our mailing address is D Co/101st FSB/1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.  

Much military-speak is bureaucratic and formal.  For example, we don’t “shit, shower, and shave,” but “conduct personal hygiene.”  Other terms and phrases are more colorful or evocative.  An example is the phrase “movement-to-contact.”  It refers to a mission in which a unit moves through enemy territory, expecting to encounter bad guys, but not sure where or when.  It replaces the Vietnam-era phrase “search and attack.”  Now search-and-attack is vivid and easy to understand, and movement-to-contact something of a euphemism, but I’ve always liked the suggestiveness of the latter phrase.  “Search-and-Attack” sounds like a heavy-metal song title.  “Movement-to-Contact” could be a tune by a dreamy 80s band like REM or Echo and the Bunnymen.

But most Army slang is blunt and immediately apprehensible.  We call cold-weather clothing such as long underwear, scarfs, gloves, and knit caps “snivel gear.”  Our sleeping bags are “fart sacks.”

A screwed-up operation is a “soup sandwich” or a “cluster fuck.”  A quality person, unit, or piece of equipment is “high speed.”

When we have our radios up and running, we’ve “got comms.”  When we communicate by radio without encryption, we speak “in the clear.”

The current war has generated new, simple-but-graphic ways of talking about combat realities.  Around Fort Riley, some of the civilian employees are ex-soldiers who were medically retired from the Army after suffering wounds in action, a lot of them via IEDs.  When the vets talk about the explosion that did them in, they say, “I got blown up.”  In training, we practice applying tourniquets until we can put them on our buddies as quickly as we tie our shoelaces.  That’s so none of us “bleed out” after getting hit.


2 Responses to “In the Clear”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Glad to read that you’re getting a little R&R at home. The only thing missing from this week’s entry is a picture of you sprawled out on the couch and snoring!

    Stay away from the soup sandwhiches!

    Best and be safe,

  2. Peter Molin Says:

    Should probably stay away from the cluster-fucks, too…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s