Can You Guess the Meaning of These Obscure Military Terms?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Outside of computer geekdom, few places on Earth rely on as much jargon, slang, and acronyms as the United States Armed Forces. From the Army to the Marines to the Air Force and the Navy, every branch uses esoteric terms to convey vital information (or casual soldier-speak) in a hurry. In this tongue-twisting quiz, do you really think you know the U.S. military’s obscure terms?

Do you really know the meanings of “battlespace” and “acceptable loss”? And if you were in command, would you opt for a “scorched earth” policy – or find a more humane way to track down your HVTs and soft targets?

You can coordinate a “scoot and shoot,” or finagle the finer points of pitched battle. Either way, you’re going to need plenty of JDAMs and M-16s to make it through this war-blasted quiz! A background of war movies and plenty of M*A*S*H reruns might help you a little bit, but some off these are going to make you scratch your head. Just be sure to take off your helmet first or you'll end up in the clinic.

Are you an armchair general or are you a leatherneck through and through? Do a tour of duty in this obscure military terms quiz now!

What does it mean if you "hump" something?

If your CO tells you to hump it over that big hill, you're in a for a long day. It means you'll be carrying a heavy pack for hours.


What's the purpose of PMCS?

When it comes to PMCS, the military can never have enough. It stands for "preventive maintenance checks and services," and it's the basic elbow grease that keeps machines working.


What do you do with "cammies"?

"Cammies" are camouflage uniforms meant for battle. Throw on your cammies, the Commies are coming!


What's an ambush area in which troops try to destroy an enemy unit?

A kill zone (or killing zone) is an ambush area purposely designed to maximize fields of fire from multiple directions. If you wander into an enemy's kill zone, say your prayers.


If you're "down range," where are you?

It's where the bullets and bombs fly. If you're down range, you're in a war zone.


What's a "squid"?

Men and women in the other branches of the service sometimes use "squid" when referring to Navy sailors. "Swabbie" and "swab jockey" are two variants.


If you yell, "Lima Charlie," what do you mean?

"Lima Charlie" is military code for "loud and clear." It means you heard exactly what someone said.


What's a phrase that means "go to bed"?

"I'm so tired of basic training and all I want to do is sleep. It's time to rack out. But at 3 a.m., I'm going AWOL!"


If ammunition accidentally explodes due to high heat, it is _____

War zones are infamous for fires and accidents. When ammo gets too hot, it "cooks off," and the results can be lethal for anyone in the vicinity.


If a soldier yells "Oscar Mike," what does he mean?

"Oscar Mike" is part of the military alphabet. Oscar Mike means "on the move," in that the mission is now underway.


If you're under enemy fire for the first time, you've been baptized by ______.

"Baptized by fire" means you've been shot at by the enemy during a firefight. It might also meant you've been wounded.


What does it mean if you "take point"?

If your CO tells you to take point, you're the first man in the advancing formation. The point man is always at high risk of being targeted by the enemy.


What's a "top"?

A "top" is a supervisor or CO. If the top gives you orders, you'd better follow them, or else.


What do you do with a "good cookie"?

A "good cookie" is good conduct medal (for Marines and Navy sailors) who manage to go a long time without any sort of disciplinary black marks. As you can imagine, some men and women seem incapable of earning good cookies.


What do "chow hounds" do?

Chow hounds are the guys who somehow always wind up at the front of the chow line. They don't care what's on the menu, they just want to eat.


If a soldier yells, "Make a hole!” what does he want?

It's the military way of saying, "get outta my way!" Make a hole means you need to get through a bunch of gawkers.


What's a phrase that means doing push-ups?

Because it's sort of what it looks like when you're doing push-ups. Go "beat your face" and get those muscles moving.


What's an "HVT"?

An HVT is a high-value target. Commanding officers take more risks than usual when they're trying to catch or kill an HVT.


What does it mean if you do a "drug deal" in the military?

In the military, a "drug deal" (probably) has nothing to do with drugs. It means you're using roundabout, unofficial ways to get whatever it is you're after.


If you yell, "kill" in the military, you mean _____.

"Kill" means "got it," or variations on the theme. It's also sometimes used as a greeting. This is, after all, the military.


What do you do at a BOGSAT?

BOGSAT is "Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around Talking," and it refers to many pointless military meetings. At a BOGSAT, hardly anything worthwhile takes place, except for maybe doughnuts and coffee.


What's a term for a soldier who has gone missing?

Because no one really knows what happened to The King. If you've "gone Elvis," you're missing.


What is the "fourth point of contact"?

When you're scrambling around, you need at least three points of contact in order to safely keep your balance. If you use your buttocks (on purpose or inadvertently), you're using your fourth point of contact.


After a major training exercise, an organization gathers to perform which evaluation?

A "hogwash" is the evaluation that takes place after a major training operation or mission. Hogwash might find some units receiving congratulations … or blame.


What's another term for "marching fire"?

Marching fire and walking fire are the same thing. It's when troops push forward while firing their weapons without stopping to take careful aim.


If someone "gundecks" something, what did they do?

You seem incompetent. How did you ever qualify for this assignment? Did you gundeck (falsify) your records?


What's an older term for a stretcher bearer?

Stretcher bearers bear the burden of hauling the wounded from a battlefield. In older times, they were called "body snatchers."


What are the "five fingers of death"?

In some MRE (meals ready eat) soldiers are dismayed to find five franks strewn amongst beans. All of it is borderline inedible, thus the "five fingers of death" nickname.


BGB stands for what?

Sailors call it the "BGB," or "Big Gray Boat." BGBs are large Navy ships like battleships and aircraft carriers.


What's a term used for unlucky soldiers chosen to take part in a high-risk mission?

The "forlorn hope" is the group of men at the tip of the spear, charging into dangerous situations on the front line. Often, casualty rates are high in the forlorn hope.


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