Can You Guess These Easy Navy Acronyms?


By: Ian Fortey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Stocktrek/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Sometimes it seems like if there's a military term with more than two letters involved, they made up an acronym for it to speed up how you say it and how it gets written down in what must be a lot of memos, guides and rules of engagement. You've got your OPNAV and your RADCON and even a SOFA in there, but it's not one to get comfortable on. Every aspect of life in the Navy has a specialized set of acronyms and abbreviations linked to it ostensibly to make things easier and smoother if you know what they all mean.  Some are relevant across the armed forces and some are very Navy-specific. And a few even find their way into everyday civilian life.  

Anyone who watches enough movies and TV and reads enough books can get a sense for these acronyms. They get peppered into everyday pop culture to add authenticity to stories about the military, but those are by no means exhaustive. To master them is another matter altogether that will require you to dig deep into your base of knowledge!

Do you think you know more than your fair share of Navy lingo? Do you know your XO from your WO? There's one way to find out.  Take the quiz and test yourself!

You need to go talk to the LT. Who is that?

A lieutenant is a junior officer in the Navy. The next rank up is lieutenant commander and then after that you hit the senior officers with commander and then captain.


A SAM is not a toy. What is it?

Surface-to-air missiles are weapons designed to be launched from the ground or from a vessel at sea that can take out a plane or even another missile. These are a big part of weapons defense systems.


The full acronym is MCPO but a lot of people will just refer to the MC part. What does it mean?

Master chief petty officer is the highest enlisted rank in the US Navy. The game HALO made the name "Master Chief" a part of the everyday lexicon.


You know Navy SEALs are tough, but what is a SEAL?

SEALs are some of the most renowned special forces teams in the military. SEAL Team 6 was famously responsibly for catching Osama bin Laden.


You need to be trained to use SONAR. What is it?

SONAR is very similar to the way bats locate prey in nature. It uses sound waves to locate an object, like a submarine under the water. The sound will bounce off the surface of whatever it hits and the signal that bounces back indicates the presence of an object.


You need to understand the UCMJ because it applies to everyone. What is it?

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is essentially the entire legal foundation of how the military works. These are the rules and laws that apply to every single member of the military.


No work today because you're SIQ. What does that mean?

Sick in quarters is what happens when you aren't so incapacitated that you need to stay in the hospital, but the doctor has also determined you shouldn't be back at active duty yet, either.


The SECNAV is kind of a big deal. What is it?

The Secretary of the Navy is the head of the Navy and is appointed by the president. They have to have been a civilian for at least 5 years to get the job.


Uh uh, you need to talk to someone from the JAG corps. What is that?

The JAG Corps is home to the judge advocates, a group of military lawyers who deal with issues of military law and justice. If you get into any legal problems in the Navy, you'll be dealing with a JAG lawyer.


You have some money so it's time to pick up something at the NEX. What is it?

The Navy Exchange is a retail store owned by the Navy. The store is open for anyone in the military and their dependents as well as those retired and honorably discharged and it basically offers everything you could find at a Walmart and then some.


A lot of work gets done at NNSY. What is it?

The Norfolk Navy Shipyard or Norfolk Navy Yard is located In Portsmouth, Virginia. This is where they built the USS Enterprise, which couldn't go into space but was still the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.


ASW is some seriously explosive business. What is it?

This is pretty much what it sounds like. Aircraft, warships or even other submarines have to deal with enemy submarines during wartime and that means engaging in anti-submarine warfare.


You make need to take your submarine to PD. What is it?

This one's pretty obvious - it's the depth at which a submarine is submerged but the periscope can still be used to look around. So not very deep, but still under water.


You don't want to mess with the ADM. What is it?

There's only one rank above admiral in the Navy and that's fleet admiral. Unfortunately, that rank is almost never used so the highest rank you're likely to ever see in the Navy is, in fact, admiral.


The USS Enterprise was an aircraft carrier. What does USS mean?

This is one of those ones that's pretty obvious when you think about it. United States Ship is what you call any ship that's in the United States Navy.


If someone works at the DoN, where do they work?

The Department of the Navy is part of the Department of Defense and is the governmental, organizational structure that oversees all of the Navy.


They call this office BUPERS. What does that mean?

The Bureau of Navy Personnel is very much like the human resources wing of the Navy. They're concerned with administration, policy and recruitment.


It's important to have WTDs on ships. What are they?

Water tight doors are a necessity on any ship at sea. They seal off sections of the ship and prevent water from traveling from one section to the next in the event you start taking on water.


When you get called to head to your station, they'll call you to GQ. What does that mean?

When the call to general quarters goes out, you're supposed to drop what you're doing and head to your assigned station. The call to general quarters is usually a high-pitched whistle over the intercom.


If you're on an LCS, where are you?

Littoral means an area near the shore, and these relatively small vessels were designed to be stealthy combat vessels in those areas.


Navy pilots need to watch out for FOD. What is it?

Foreign object damage refers to any outside thing that might cause damage to your aircraft. Things like hail and birds are kinds of FOD you don't want to run into.


What is an XO?

The XO is the executive officer, the second-in-command who reports to the commanding officer.


What is a CO?

Your commanding officer is the officer in charge, of course. This is whoever has the command of whatever unit or team you're a part of and you better listen to them.


The LSO is important for pilots. What is it?

The landing support officer is a skilled pilot who remains on deck and communicates with other pilots as they land on the aircraft carrier, providing guidance and information to make the landing smooth and problem-free as well as critiquing their performance.


If you need something repaired, talk to the MM. Who is it?

It's the job of the machinist's mate to maintain and repair pretty much all the mechanical systems on a ship. If something goes wrong, this person knows how to fix it.


If you're an SR, what are you?

A seaman recruit is the lowest enlisted rank in the Navy. When you sign up, this is where you start. Maybe you'll make admiral one day!


The CIC is an important place. What is it?

The Combat Information Center is another name for the Operations Room. This is the tactical center of something like a warship where all the relevant information is processed so command knows what's going on.


The acronym for Guided Missile Destroyer ships is not GMD like you'd think. What is it?

DDG is the designation used for guided missile destroyers. Back in the day, destroyers were designed DL for destroyer leader. Later they became guided missile cruisers which were reclassified as CG/CGN. Now we have DDG. Go figure.


Z5O stands for Zulu 5 Oscar and it means someone is trying to do what to your boat?

Why this is called a Z5O is not 100% clear but it refers to a security drill in which someone who does not have the proper authority will try to sneak on board. They may bring official-looking letters, lie and use intimidation to try to do it but it's all a trick and they should be stopped immediately.


Who is the COB?

The Chief of the Boat is what you call the senior enlisted sailor on a boat. They're in charge of all the other enlisted men and things like rack assignments, watch station assignments and a lot of the rest of a boat. Not much gets done without them.


If a fire breaks out, you may need to use AFFF. What is it?

Aqueous Film Forming Foam is a chemical meant to combat fires that is actually rather toxic and is being phased out of use.


The CEC builds and maintains Navy projects. Who are they?

The Civil Engineer Corps is made up of engineers and architects and other professionals whose job it is to design, build and operate naval facilities around the world.


The last thing you want to see is TFOA. What is it?

TFOAs can be anything from flaps to fuel tanks to the 30-pound aluminum door that fell off a helicopter and nearly hit a bunch of people swimming back in 1986.


What would you do on a VBSS team?

VBSS teams are vital to law enforcement efforts at sea. VBSS stands for visit, board, search and seizure, and their duties include boarding suspected criminal or terrorist vessels to conduct customs and safety inspections as well as combat smuggling and piracy.


You may get deployed to the MIZ. What is it?

The Marginal Ice Zone is that place where the open sea and the frozen ice covering it meet. If you're doing anything on a boat way up north, there's a chance you're going to end up in the MIZ.


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