Military nomenclature, acronyms, and slang


This novel relies occasionally but considerably on military jargon which, while certainly familiar to veterans of either the U.S. service or reading enough Tom Clancy, is not always decipherable from context.  I have added explanations where not too awkward, but to do more than that, I feel, would compromise the realism.  Luckily, Will has been out of the Marines for nearly twenty years, and so he needs frequent reminders himself.

So, as I do the final editing, I will compile a running list (in roughly order of appearance) of terms here, with brief explanations as I understand them myself.  Please add a comment if you want to correct, clarify, or elaborate something, and of course questions are welcome.

the Gulf: the first, so-called “Gulf War,” in summer 1990 through early 1991, officially a U.S.-led reprisal against the Iraqis for their invasion of Kuwait. Will lead a squad of men there, and also participated in a secret weapons program involving electronic upgrades to the .50 caliber sniper rifle.  Also known as Operation: Desert Storm

the ‘Nam, or Vietnam: the Vietnam War (1965-1975).  Highly debatable on nearly every point.  Officially, the United States attempted to repel the invasion of North Vietnamese Communists, led by Ho Chi Minh, from South Vietnam.  Tens of thousands of American men were drafted, 57,000+ killed in action.  Will’s father had an unclear history there in the early 1960s, during the French occupation and before the U.S. escalation following the Gulf of Tonkin incident

in-country: within the borders of a country where a war is actually being fought.  This term would thus not apply to U.S. soil

fast movers: jet aircraft as seen from the ground, especially bombers or fighters that pose an immediate threat or help to troops

chopper: helicopter of any design or class

OCS: Officer Candidate School–the equivalent of enlisted men’s boot camp for college graduates

CO: Commanding Officer.  The ultimate authority of a unit or base

Lieutenant: a low-level officer, O1 or O2, answerable to all higher-ranking officers, but above all enlisted personnel

Colonel: a high-ranking officer, O6 or O7, second only to the various Generals

BOOM: Bombing-operation mop-up (invented grunt slang)

sandbagger: a waste of time, or a person who wastes time from a position of concealment

NCO: non-commissioned officer.  An enlisted man above the rank of E3.  Typically, a corporal or sergeant, or a petty officer in the Navy.  They range from very inexperienced, to much more experienced than the officers who lead them

S2 or G2: intelligence staff at the battalion or larger-unit level

the theater: entire geographical scope of the war zone

MP: Military Police Officer

KIA: Killed in Action, usually applied to military personnel, not civilian casualties

grunt: a marine generally, but especially an infantryman who operates on the ground

klick: one kilometer (1000 meters).  There are roughly three klicks in two miles


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