Understanding Milspeak (Military Lingo)

One of the first lessons a new recruit learns is that the Army speaks a different language than the rest of the nation. Recruits will know some terms most of the time, such as “latrine” rather than “Bathroom.” Others are more obscure, like PT or BRM. So here are a few useful terms and phrases.

AAR refers to an “After Action Review.” Everything done in the Army should end with an AAR to identify lessons which can be used to improve the next such operation.

Blue and Red are terms used to describe the friendly and enemy forces. A “Blue on Blue” would be a friendly fire incident, while “Red on Red” would mean our enemies don’t get along with each other.

Combined is a term that means a command has elements from more than one nation involved. Joint is a term that means forces from more than one service is involved. If the US and Australian Armies are both represented in a task force, it is combined. If the Australians were replaced with Marines, it would be joint. It is possible to be both at once.

Concealment is something that protects you from being seen. Cover is something that protects you from being hit.

Despite all of the movies you’ve seen, EPW is Enemy Prisoner of War, while POW is Privately Owned Weapon. Similarly, a POV is a Privately Owned Vehicle, as opposed to a government vehicle.

FA stands for Field Artillery, one of the most important features distinguishing the Army from the Boy Scouts.

A “Formation” refers to having the unit assemble into a standard array, usually shaped like a rectangle. Everyone will remain there for inspections, speeches, roll calls or to keep the soldiers handy for later. When the formation is marching, and is about to cross a road, soldiers will be detailed to run out to block traffic. These are called “Road Guards.”

A “Gun” is a specific type of artillery tube, the thing you hold in your hands and point at the enemy is a “Rifle.” BRM is Basic Rifle Marksmanship, which means going out to the rifle range to practice shooting. Remember, pointy end towards the bad guy.

MSR stands for Main Supply Route. This is the path the supplies and replacements and such take. An ASR is an Alternate Supply Route.

OPFOR, Opposing Force. This is a friendly unit that is tasked with being the other side in a training event. Sometimes it is used ironically for real enemies.

PT is Physical Training, or exercise. It is not Practical Torture.

ROE stands for Rules of Engagement. These are strict rules that change over time as the chain of command reacts to changing situations and which is different from one theater to another. Knowing and following the ROE is serious business.

SNAFU might be described as Situation Normal, All Farked Up. JANFU is a Joint Army/Navy Fark Up. A FUBAR is Farked Up Beyond All Recognition.

SOF stands for Special Operations Forces, the ones that the news always calls Commandoes out of a sense of ignorance.

TLAR means That Looks About Right.