This glossary of terms will be updated as needed. My sources include websites linked to in the descriptions, material from Army Family Team Building programs I have attended, and my personal experience. The Army especially loooooooves acronyms so I list those and then what they stand for. This list is mostly alphabetical. For the most part I’m putting in terms that are resources or will come up in day-to-day life, avoiding slang for now. If you need clarification, see something that needs changing, or a word that needs adding, don’t hesitate to comment or email me.
ACS (Army Community Services) [Air Force similar organization is Airmen & Family Readiness Center]: ACS provides a lot of services to help families out, like financial planning or grants in case of emergency, or job searching. They also have counselors to help you out in times of need, or you just need someone to talk to.
ACUs (Army Combat Uniform): For Army this is the current uniform worn day-to-day. It is kinda a khaki gray camo and is basically cargo pants on steroids (seriously try washing them and not find papers, pens, coins in your washing machine. moral of the story: check the pockets before washing.)
Base Pay: Your salary, based on rank and years of service.
BAH (Basic Allowance for housing): Money, in addition to your base pay, determined by location, rank and family size. If you live off-post it should be enough to cover rent for what is deemed suitable housing that fits your whole family. If you live on-post the housing provider/contractor gets your entire BAH each month.
BAS (Basic Allowance for Subsistence): Money, again determined by rank, family size, to cover food and basic needs.
CAC Card: Service members ID card, it has a little chip in it that the computers use to read/log in on secure networks.
Casing of Colors: A ceremony where the unit puts its flag and decorations away to transport to their new location during deployment.
Change of Command ceremony: Marks the change of a commander (officer) of a unit (company level and higher).
Change of responsibility ceremony: Marks the change of a senior NCO of a unit (company level and higher).
Chain of Command: The Soldiers/Officers that a Soldier reports to. See rank info for more details, basically follows that structure.
Commissary: Grocery store on military bases. Run by DeCA (Defense Commissary Agency).
“Company/Battalion Name” 6/7: Head of the unit. You’ll often hear “Household 6” which means head of the household, usually the wife in that case. 7 is second in command, in a household that’s the husband.
Dependent: Family members of the service member. Receiver of benefits basically.
Deployment: Super not fun time. No, but in actuality: when service members are sent to another country in support of an operation. Most commonly seen to a war zone. But there are deployments to help stabilize countries as well. These range in length. Currently for Army units deployments are 9 months long to Afghanistan.
Downrange: This is used to describe troops or location of troops that are deployed.
Duty Station: Military installation, post, base, etc. Where your unit is located, you live and work.
Exchange/PX/BX/NEX: Originally the PX (Post Exchange) for Army posts and BX (Base Exchange) on Air Force bases, now it’s just the Exchange. It’s basically Target on military bases. It’s run by AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Services). They also run the restaurants (mainly chains like Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, etc.) found throughout bases. There is no sales tax on post.
FRG (Family Readiness Group): A commander’s program designed to bring together the families of a unit. Typically they are broken down by company (see unit info for more details) and run by the commanding officer’s spouse, but also by a volunteer or other spouse of a Soldier/Officer in the unit. They pass along vital information and help family members navigate issues particularly during the deployment. It’s a great place to meet people as well. I have been very fortunate in having very friendly, supportive FRGs, the environment can depend on the personalities and attitudes of those in charge and in the FRG and often get a bad reputation.
Family Separation Allowance (FSH): Paid to service members when they are assigned to be apart from their families/permanent duty station. This occurs during deployment, as well as long term training.
FTX (Field Training Exercise) [Also MRX-Mission Rehearsal Exercise]: I lumped these together because MRX is new to me, but it is a type of training. FTX usually happens close to the duty station, MRX is at a training center and trains for specific mission operations and are for longer periods of time.
Hardship Duty Pay (HDP): Service members are eligible for this when they are serving overseas, this is usually received during a deployment. Different countries/regions are classified differently so this rate varies from $50-150.
Hostile Fire Pay (HFP)/Imminent Danger Pay (IDP): This is a flat rate given to all Soldiers when deployed to a war zone. This is determined by Congress. Currently it is $225/month.
“I love me” book: This is basically a book of all orders, paperwork related to service. I know this is definitely an Army thing. Make sure it’s organized. It took me awhile to figure out what the heck my husband was referring to, but this book is golden. When you move bring it with you, don’t let the packers pack it!
In theater: This basically means wherever the troops are deployed to, where the action is happening, where the war is, etc.
LES (Leave Earnings Statement): The service member’s paystub basically. It it super elaborate, but breaks down base pay, BAH, BAS, money you owe, days of leave you have, etc.
MRE (Meals Ready to Eat): Food on the go, typically eaten in the field, but it comes with a warming pad and condiments. Each Soldier has their favorite MRE. My husband gave me one once and I never ate it because it freaks me out, but one day I’ll try one.
Multicam: For Army this is the current uniform Soldiers and Officers deploy in. It’s a green/brown camo. Same deal with the pockets.
MWR (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation): Army organization that sponsors and plans recreation activities on post, everything from the gyms, childcare, recreational leagues, intramural teams, trips to local attractions, and concerts. Overseas troops use MWR Centers to call home, play video games, use computers, and relax.
NCO (Non-commissioned officer): These are senior enlisted service members. They are in a leadership position (such as squad leader, platoon sgt. for army–see units for more info, and ranks).
OPSEC (Operations Security): This is an important one! It boils down to this: not sharing details about troop locations and mission objectives. This keeps the service members safe. I’d also add that this is about personal security, not putting a spouse at risk for harm, locally or not, if they are living alone, traveling, etc.
PCS (Permanent Change of Station): This is when we move! Service members are moving units, basically job change to a new location.
POC (Point of Contact) or Key Caller: One of many volunteer positions in the FRG. The POC is given a number of spouses (and sometimes parents) to call, usually every month. They pass on information about upcoming events and are a first line of contact for questions, emergencies, etc.
PT (Physical Training): They work out! Keeping the service members in shape. There is also an APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) that measures if service members are in shape based on how they perform doing certain activities (running, sit-ups, etc. which is changing soon fyi).
Ranks: will do this by branch of the military. Starting with lowest rank and going up. For Army folks army.mil has a good chart and descriptions of all ranks.
- Army (Enlisted): Private (Pv1) — Private 2nd Class (PV2) — Private First Class (PFC) — Specialist (SPC) — Corporal (CPL) — Sergeant (Sgt.) — Staff Sergeant (SSG) — Sergeant First Class (SFC) — Master Sergeant (MSG) — First Sergeant (1SG) — Sergeant Major (SGM) — Command Sergeant Major (CSM) — Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA)
- Army (Warrant Officers): Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) — Chief Warrant Officer (CW2) — Chief Warrant Officer (CW3) — Chief Warrant Officer (CW4) — Chief Warrant Officer (CW5)
- Army (Officer): Second Lieutenant (2LT) — First Lieutenant (1LT) — Captian (CPT) — Major (MAJ) — Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) — Colonel (COL) — Brigadier General (BG) — Major General (MG) — Lieutenant General (LTG) — General (GEN) — General of the Army (GA)
Rear detachment: A unit that exists during deployments and remains at home. They help families navigate issues, coordinate memorials (if necessary), pass on information, etc.
Redeployment: This is when troops come home from deployment. “They redeploy to their home base.” (It is also BEYOND confusing and many people think it means they are deploying again, but nope, it means coming home!)
S1 through 9/Shops: These shops are at battalion levels and higher. They have a number of functions that deal with daily operations, overall planning, etc. They are often referred to as “Staff” positions.
- S1: Admin/personnel/public affairs
- S2: Intelligence
- S3: Operations
- S4: Logistics/Supply
- S5: Plans
- S6: Communications/IT
- S7: Training
- S8: Finance
- S9: Civil Affairs
Savings Deposit Program: A savings option available to deployed service members. They can earn a higher annual rate than most plans at 10% for the time they are deployed.
Space A: Also, Space-Available. This is a form of travel for service members, their families, and retirees. Military flights from one installation to another with open seats. The seats are assigned in a priority order. A great resource is: spacea.net
Sponsor: The service member responsible for their dependents, aka family members, receiving benefits, such as base access and health care.
Staff Duty (or CQ): I think of this as the person in charge of answering phones and questions of people that come into the office of a unit. They are often first to receive words of incidents and must react accordingly, informing those who need to know. This duty is often overnight and on weekends.
TDY (Temporary Duty): Service members are on TDY when they go somewhere for a short amount of time, usually for training.
Tricare: The health care program for service members and their families (and retirees). It is broken into different regions which has it’s own contract, as well as dental benefits.
TSP (Thrift Savings Plan): This is a retirement savings plan for federal employees, service members and civilian. You can allot a certain amount out of each paycheck.
Unit Hierarchy (Army): Corps — Division — Brigade — Battalion — Company — Platoon — Squad
- Corps: Encompasses 20,000-45,000 Soldiers, there is a headquarters unit but they oversee a lot of smaller units (listed below). Led by a Lt. General and Command Sgt. Major
- Division: 10,000-15,000 Soldiers, made up of 3 brigades. Led by a Major General and Command Sgt. Major.
- Brigade: 3,000-5,000 Soldiers, made up of 3-5 Battalions. Led by a Colonel and Command Sgt. Major.
- Battalion: about 1,000 Soldiers, made up of companies. Led by a Lt. Colonel and Command Sgt. Major. (Note: called a Squadron if Armor or Air Cavalry.)
- Company: about 200 Soldiers, made up of 3-5 platoons. Led by a Captain and 1st Sgt. (Note: Artillery units at this level are called a Battery. Armored and Air Cavalry units are Troop.)
- Platoon: about 30 Soldiers, made up of 2-4 squads. Led by a Lieutenant and Sgt. First Class or the Platoon Sgt.
- Squad: made up of about 10 soldiers in about 3-4 teams of 3-4 soldiers. Led by a Staff Sgt.
Uncasing of colors: A ceremony upon redeployment signifing that the unit is home.
Woobie: field blanket, keeps you super warm, seriously ask a Soldier about their woobie and they probably love it.
XO: Executive Officer. These are at company levels and higher. Pushes a lot of paper, makes sure everything is operational, etc.