Military Jargon from Iraq and Afghanistan

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Marine patrols in Iraq
Lance Cpl. Mike J. McGrath of Lima Company, 3d Battalion, 3d Marines (3/3), patrols the city of Barwanah, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Cpl. Brian M Henner/U.S. Marine Corps)

In most fields of endeavor, a shorthand develops to promote the transfer of the most information in the shortest amount of time. Military lexicon is no exception. What is different is the amount of information that must be transmitted quickly due to operational considerations.

Ali Baba: Generic Iraqi term for bad guy, be it insurgent or criminal.

Angel: A soldier killed in combat, used among some U.S. medical personnel.

AO: Area of operation.

AOR: Area of responsibility. The assigned area to any given unit.

APC: Armored personnel carrier. Primary mode of transportation for mechanized infantry units. AMTRAC used by Marines and Bradley, Stryker used by Army.

Battlefield Airmen: Air Force Special Operations Command [AFSOC] pararescue, combat control and weather troops. The term Battlefield Airmen may be new, though AFSOC troops have been filling those combat jobs for many years.

Battle rattle: Full battle rattle is close to 50 pounds' worth of gear, including a flak vest, Kevlar helmet, gas mask, ammunition, weapons and other basic military equipment. One component is the soft vest that covers the torso, shoulders and back. It's made of soft material, a mixture of Kevlar and Twaron. These are sewn together in sort of a sandwich fashion inside a nylon camouflage-pattern shell. The nylon vest has attaching points for load-bearing equipment. The second component of the system is ceramic plates that fit in pockets in the front and back of the vest. These plates protect the heart and lungs. Any TV news report from Iraq or Afghanistan shows American service members wearing "full battle rattle." Wearing the battle rattle has saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. A soldier in full dress, including helmet, flak jacket and automatic weapon is said to be wearing "battle rattle," "play clothes" or "Mommy's comforts" -- terms that preceded the war in Iraq, though used less frequently because the gear was used by smaller numbers of troops. The term battle rattle previously was associated with a call to arms on warships in the 1812 period.

BIAP: Baghdad International Airport

Bombaconda: Nickname for LSA Anaconda, a major base near Balad, reflecting the frequent mortar attacks.

CC: Coalition country -- the coalition of the willing allies.

CHU: Containerized Housing Unit (pronounced "choo"). Aluminum boxes slightly larger [22' x 8'] than a commercial shipping container with linoleum floors and cots or beds inside. This insulated CONEX shipping container has a door, window, top vent, power cabling and air conditioner. One version houses four people while another is split into two two-person rooms. The version with a shower and toilet shared between two rooms is called a "wet CHU," which provides less crowded latrine and shower conditions than tents. The CHU gives soldiers a lot more living space than tents.

CHUville: A base consisting of a large number of CHUs.

CP: Checkpoint. Usually numbered.

CSH: Combat surgical hospital. Pronounced "cash".

Death blossom: The tendency of Iraqi security forces, in response to receiving a little fire from the enemy, either to run away or do the "death blossom," spraying fire indiscriminately in all directions. The term originated in the 1984 movie "The Last Starfighter" as a maneuver in which a single starfighter single-handedly can wipe out an entire armada.

DFAC [Dining FACility]: A DFAC is where you eat. Soldiers eat in a dining facility, or DFAC (pronounced dee-Fak). Old soldiers show their age when they call it a "chow hall," and if you say "mess hall,'' it also dates you. DFACs are modern-looking cafeterias; some are decorated with sports memorabilia, movie posters and televisions with channels like ESPN.

Dirt sailor: A member of the Navy's Construction Battalions (Seabees). In Iraq, a sailor playing a part that is not a normal Navy role.

Drive on: The ethos of soldiers and Marines. It can be summed up as, "Just keep on goin'." Usually used in the phrase, "Suck it up and drive on."

FOB: Forward operating base.

FOB taxi: Any vehicle that never leaves the FOB.

Fobbit: Service member who never goes outside the wire off the forward operating base.

FRAGO: Fragmentary order. Fragmentary order is an abbreviated form of an operation order (OPORD), usually issued on a day-to-day basis, which eliminates the need for restating information contained in a basic operation order. FRAGOs do not take the place of an OPORD. A FRAGO determines timely changes to an existing order. The important point here is that a frag order is issued based on the basic operation order and is not a "stand-alone" directive. It normally will state the changes from the basic order, such as enemy situation and new taskings. A more formal decision-making process may be required before issuing a FRAGO, especially if a major adjustment to the operation order is needed.

Frankenstein: A Marine Corps monster truck, bulging and rippling with spot-welded seams of add-on armor. "We scrounge around for what we need and 'Frankenstein' it together."

Green Zone: Heavily guarded area with several former Presidential Palaces in central Baghdad where U.S., coalition and Iraqi authorities live and work. Much of the rest of Iraq is the "red zone."

Grunt: Infantryman.

Gun truck: An armored and heavily armed vehicle used for convoy security.

GWOT: Global War on Terrorism.

Haji: 1. Arabic word for someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca; 2. Used by the American military for an Iraqi, or anyone of Arab descent, or even of a brownish skin tone, be they Afghanis or even Bangladeshis; 3. The word many soldiers use derogatorily for the enemy.

Haji armor: Improvised armor installed by troops hiring Iraqis to update the vehicles by welding any available metal to the sides of Humvees.

Haji mart: Any small store operated by Iraqis to sell small items to Americans.

Haji patrol: 1. Escort detail; 2. Local national unit also is referred to as the Haji patrol, with all the projects that are being performed by the local nationals.

Haji shop: Even the smallest base has some form of what soldiers call a "haji shop," or in more politically correct terms, a shop run by locals. Frequently near the PX, the "haji" shop would sell everything from cigarettes to knock-off sunglasses and pirated DVDs.

Hillbilly armor: Improvised vehicle armor, salvaged from digging through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal to bolster armor on their vehicles. Typically a half-inch of scrap steel hastily cut in the shape of the door and welded or riveted on. The name derives from the Tennessee National Guard 278th Regimental Combat Team, whose Spc. Thomas Wilson grilled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in December 2004 about the need for such scrounging. "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Spc. Wilson asked.

IED: Improvised explosive device.

ICDC: Iraqi Civil Defense Corps [obsolete].

Indirect: Indirect fire, usually referring to mortars and rockets.

inside the wire: Inside an enemy combatant detention facility. Working "inside the wire" of the enemy combatant detention facility can lead to stress for U.S. troops working here. But experts and leaders are working hard to help service members deal with the unique conditions of working in an isolated island base such as Guantanamo. Troops working inside the wire must pass through several sets of intimidating double gates. They always cover their name tapes and never call each other by their real names when they're near detainees. It's the Vietnam-era phrase for the perimeter of any U.S. base in Vietnam.

Jingle trucks: [Afghanistan] Transport trucks with a narrow wheel base that usually are adorned with colorful stickers and chimes. The military contracted for host nation delivery trucks, known as "jingle trucks," because of the decorative metal tassels hanging from the bottom of the truck frames that jingled when the trucks moved. These trucks are contracted through Afghan government officials. The NCO responsible for these contracts was known as the "jingle man." The contract price was based on the destination and the type of truck used. Fuel tankers and trucks that could carry 20- and 40-foot containers were available. Although serviceable, these trucks would not pass standard U.S. specifications.

KAF: Kandahar Airfield, the main base of operations for the southern part of Afghanistan. The main post is big, has lots of people and is a main transportation hub -- both helo and fixed wing. Also, convoys of Humvees go in and out.

Kevlar: helmet.

LN: Local national. A citizen of Iraq, if you're in Iraq, Afghanistan if you're in Afghanistan, etc. Usually brought on post to do construction or other labor.

Mortaritaville: Nickname for LSA Anaconda, a major base near Balad, reflecting the frequent mortar attacks.

MRE: Meals Ready to Eat. Alternately known as meals refused by everyone, mysteries and the 3 lies: They aren't meals, they aren't ready and they certainly aren't edible.

Muj (pronounced: Mooj): Short for Mujahideen. Formally a person who wages jihad, informally used for the Iraqi insurgents starting in 2005.

NCO: Non-commissioned officer. A fancy way of saying sergeant.

NCOIC/OIC: Non-commissioned officer in charge/officer in charge.

Outside the wire: Outside the security perimeter surrounding the FOB.

OEF: Operation Enduring Freedom.

OGA: Other government agency, such as the CIA or FBI.

OIF: Operation Iraqi Freedom.

OTV/IBA: Outer tactical vest/individual body armor. Body armor. Usually consists of a Kevlar vest and ceramic plates. Combined, rated to a threat level IV, meaning it can stop a 7.62mm round.

PPE: Personal protective equipment.

POG [pronounced "pogue"]: Originally used mainly by infantry personnel, referred to 'people other than grunts,' rear-echelon support troops. Varies in usage. Usually referred to someone that is a "shammer," or someone who is no good. Usage moved throughout the Army, now generally refers to anyone who is a poor excuse for a soldier or Marine.

PRT: This stands for Provincial Reconstruction Team. These are military or government departments and civilian aid organizations from the U.S. and many others who help rebuild a town. The PRT coordinates construction projects and provides humanitarian assistance.

PSD: Personal security detail -- often private security contractors.

Red on red: Enemy-on-enemy fire. In June 2005, it was reported that Marines patrolling the desert near the Syrian border had seen a new trend in the Iraq insurgency over the previous several months. Insurgents were fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba to Qa'im. This suggested that there had been a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

REMF: Rear-echelon motherf**r. Vietnam-era phrase revived for the sandbox. The term REMF seems to have fallen into disuse, replaced by "fobbit."

REMFland: The rear-echelon areas where support personnel live and work in relative safety -- the paradox being that in the Sandbox, unlike Vietnam, REMFland is more a state of mind than a physical location.

RPG: Rocket-propelled grenade. Insurgents like to fire these at coalition forces.

S-shops: Battalion-level organizations that handle administrative duties. Usually there are only four but can be more dependent upon the level of command. Many times referred to as "shops'' as in the "3 shop'' (operations).

S-1: Personnel

S-2: Intelligence

S-3: Operations

S-4: Logistics and supply

Sandbox or Sandpit: Iraq

SAPI: Small arms protective insert, usually pronounced as "sappy." Ceramic plates inserted into the front and back of the IBA/OTV.

Shake and bake: First used during the Vietnam War and revived in Iraq to refer to attacks using a combination of conventional bombs, cluster bombs (CBU) and napalm. In the battle of Fallujah in 2004, it was used in reference to a combination barrage of white phosphorus and explosive artillery shells.

Sustainer theater: The Army and Air Force Exchange Service motion picture team has assembled an opening lineup of movies for the Balad Camp Anaconda theater dubbed "Sustainer." The process of getting movies here takes weeks of time and effort, initially beginning at the AAFES headquarters in Dallas.

TCN: Third-country national. A citizen of a neutral country who is in the theater of operations as a contractor. The Nepalese truck drivers who were killed by Ansar Al Sunna in the summer of 2004 were TCNs.

TCP: Traffic control point

Terp: interpreter

TOC: Tactical operations center. Usually pronounced "tock.'' Where command elements are primarily located.

VBIED: Vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, i.e., car bomb.

XO: Executive officer. One step below commanding officer.

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