17 Common Military Terms Most People Don’t Know

The military has its own secretive way of saying some things, coding them in slang so that the enemy doesn’t understand. However, this will also leave regular people in the dark, so here are 17 common military terms you probably don’t understand.

Drug Deal

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Drug deals are the exchange of military information or material through unofficial means. You can easily see where the correlation with an actual drug deal stems from—it’s a secret and unofficial activity that may get military personnel in trouble, depending on what the deal is about.

Field Strip

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Field stripping is slang for taking things apart on the battlefield. It originally describes the process of stripping down guns for cleaning and lubrication, but the term has been expanded to cover pretty much anything that needs to be torn down either for repair or for its spare parts.


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Let’s start with one that sounds particularly strange. An ‘anymouse’ is a locked box that sailors in the US Navy use to share anonymous comments while on board. It’s a safety system to encourage honesty, keeping tension off the ship in case someone has a particularly heavy displeasure to let off his chest.

Snake Eater

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The US Army’s Special Forces caught and ate snakes in a show-off of survival skills to President Kennedy, and the name “snake eater” has stayed with them ever since. It’s a nickname representative of how the Special Forces adapt to harsh conditions to survive.


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Another amusing example is a ‘fobbit,’ a military personnel who prefers to fight from the safety of the forward operating base (FOB). The Times explains that the term originates from a David Abrams satire and merges the words “FOB” and “hobbit.” It’s generally used as an amusing way to refer to cowardly army members.

Slick Sleeve

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A military personnel who’s slick-sleeved is someone who has never been deployed for combat before. The term describes the absence of combat patches—more precisely, the absence of the former wartime service (FWS) shoulder sleeve insignia (SSI) on a personnel’s right shoulder.

Base of Fire

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Providing a base of fire means providing supporting fire to advancing units, helping to keep enemies occupied and allow advancing units to keep shooting during tactical movements. It could be provided by either a platoon, an armored tank, or an individual soldier.


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COP stands for “common operational picture,” which is an overview of information (like the position of troops, for instance) shared among multiple military commands. It also means a small military outpost consisting of between 50 and 150 soldiers, typically situated within hostile territory.

Sniper Check

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In the army, you don’t want to give your fellow officer a sniper check. Why? Well, a sniper check is a salute to an officer while out on the fields. When reciprocated by an undercover officer, you risk blowing his disguise and, hence, exposing him to a sniper that may be lurking.

O’ Dark Thirty

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Sometimes called “zero dark thirty,” this slang aptly refers to the times “00:30” or “12:30 AM”. However, “O’ dark thirty” is used more loosely these days, with The Guardian decoding it to simply describe a time after darkness has fallen.

Blue Buddies

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The Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force wear blue dress uniforms for formal social events like military ceremonies and parades, particularly in the fall and winter. Hence, “blue buddies” is a term used to describe personnel who leave the base or commonly work together in their blue dresses.

Blue Falcon

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In place of a more expletive term, “blue falcon” is slang used to describe a member of the military who’s betrayed the rest. It’s the choice term for soldiers, airmen, marine corps, and sailors who selfishly give their interests or lives more thought than the safety of the group.

Goat Locker

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A “goat locker” is the designated area where naval chief petty officers go to socialize, eat, and relax. The US Navy says this is a well-intentioned term, coming from the nickname “old goats,” which has long since been given to long-serving naval personnel.

Chair Force

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Within the Air Force, the “chair force” is a pun that refers to personnel who don’t fly planes but sit behind a desk—the personnel who fight wars from office chairs. This is typically used in a light-hearted manner, although it is sometimes used with a more derogatory tone.


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Tell military personnel to go do something, and you may be replied with “hooah.” The US Army University Press understands that this is a phonetic variant of the acronym H-U-A, which means “heard, understood, acknowledged.” Ultimately, it’s just an enthusiastic way to say you’re getting on a task.


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A mustang is an officer in the US Armed Forces who was an enlisted service member before getting promoted to a commissioned officer. In the Navy, the term mustang also covers former enlisted personnel who now serve as limited-duty or warrant officers.

Double-Digit Midget

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We saved the weirdest for last: ‘double-digit midget.’ The term comes in the variant “two-digit midget” and applies to anyone who has only double digits remaining to serve. In other words, whether you’ve only got ten days left or you’re counting down from 99, be prepared to be called a double-digit midget!

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