Learning the Lingo



Is it just me, or do you need a glossary every time you hear someone talking about the military? I wish people spoke in parentheses about the DoD (Department of Defense) the way they write. Or that tiny floating asterisks would come out of their mouth with every acronym, that correlated with an asterisk on the floor, where a definition was written.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Maybe that’s one reason why the Army didn’t meet its recruitment goal for the first time in 13 years, this past year. So many people don’t understand the Army. They don’t have any friends, family, or mentors in the Army, so this strange military world seems intimidating and scary to them. (See this news article: https://www.foxnews.com/us/army-stepping-up-recruitment-with-rap-video-for-young-potential-enlistees)

Nobody likes feeling like they don’t know anything, and there’s no faster way to make someone feel that way than throwing a bunch of acronyms at them. As a result, many people try to avoid military conversations altogether. I know I did for most of my life.

The change comes when you realize, the only way to not be ignorant is to ask questions. The sooner you ask, the better. Everyone had to learn the lingo at some point. Stop your recruiter when they throw out an acronym you don’t know. Or write it down and look it up later. Slowly but surely, you will start to understand what is going on around you. You can answer confidently to “you’re looking for an MOS in the 68 series, right?”, instead of taking your chances with a random head nod.

Pretty soon you will find yourself talking to your family and friends about your whole acronym world. You might have to be the one slowing down to explain things. As my recruiter told me, “It’s hard to switch my brain from military language to civilian language. I can feel the abbreviations starting to slip out, especially on Monday mornings.”

Here is a quick cheat sheet for common abbreviations you might hear in the beginning of your military journey:

M.O.S.- Military Occupational Specialty. This is what you do in the military. Are you an infantryman, a medic, a mechanic? Basically, it’s your job.

B.T.- Basic Training. This is the 10 week long “boot camp” you go to after signing up with the military and before starting your specialized job training (AIT). It prepares soldiers mentally and physically for their service in the military. Also can be heard as B.M.T. (for the Air Force) or B.C.T. (for the Army).

A.I.T. or “A” School- Advanced Individual Training. This is the program following Basic Training and preceding the start of your MOS. It teaches you the skills you need for your specific job.

P.T.- Physical Training. You get scored on this based on running times, how many pushups and sit ups you can do, etc. and are expected to maintain a certain score throughout your military service.


Your next lingo to get down is the ranks of each military branch. For the Army, I’ve posted a tidy little rank chart on the G.I. Josie Facebook page and Instagram. This will help you understand who is higher, a sergeant or a staff sergeant, etc.

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