Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - How Well Do You Know Military Slang?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

The U.S military is a slang-strewn organization, one laden with all sorts of esoteric acronyms and informal terms used by both enlisted men and high-ranking officers. Whether you’re a green recruit or a hardened veteran of the Gulf War, you’re expected to communicate in slang … or be ridiculed as an outcast. Do you think you really know all of the military lingo in this armor-plated quiz?

A lot of terms are associated with a short era in military history. For example, you don’t call soldiers “GIs” anymore — that was a shortened term for “general infantry,” particularly during the World War II period. Do you know the term or terms used for modern soldiers, both those in the infantry and those who serve in the special forces?

In some cases, you can deduce the meaning of a slang term pretty easily. If you get “blowed up,” you know you’ve been struck by an “IED.” And you can probably guess that a “bang-bang” is a type of firearm. But hardly anyone outside the military would know that “Bone” refers to the B-1 bomber. And how many people really know that “dope on a rope” would be a rather insensitive term for an air assault soldier? Do you think you can rattle off the other major slang terms from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines?

Take a stroll out of the DMZ and try the FAB on for size in our hardened military slang quiz! We’ll find out soon enough if you’re the kind of guy or gal who can put together a real “fruit salad” or if you’ll be a “slick sleeved” amateur until the end of time.

What do you do with "go juice"?

“Go juice" is the fuel that helps a military vehicle get moving. Diesel and gasoline and jet fuel are "go juice."


In military lingo, what’s a "bird"?

"Birds" are helicopters. If you’re in the military, you know that "chopper" is more common in Hollywood than in the service.


What does "IED" stand for?

IEDs have gained infamy in the past decade. They are improvised explosive devices, and they often surprise U.S. troops serving in the Middle East.


If a soldier has "slick sleeves," what does it mean?

Soldiers lacking combat deployment badges have blank or "slick" sleeves on their uniforms. Some soldiers serve honorably for years and still wind up with slick sleeves.


In the Navy, what does "aye, aye" mean?

“Aye, aye" is an affirmative response. It means that a sailor understood the command he just received.


What’s a "Joe"?

They used to be called "G.I.s" in the days of WWII. Now, soldiers are "Joes," men and women who are just trying to survive an armed conflict.


Where would you hear the "voice in the sky"?

The "voice in the sky" is the voice that booms from a base’s public address system. The voice in the sky might share routine information — or it may signal an emergency or combat situation.


If a soldier is getting the "dustoff," what’s happening?

A "dustoff" is a medical evacuation via helicopter. Helicopters are one of the fastest ways to get wounded soldiers to safety.


What’s a slang term for a .50-caliber machine gun?

For decades, the .50-caliber machine gun has been a fearsome weapon in the military. The "fitty" can blast both men and machines to pieces.


If soldiers are heading to the "sandbox," where are they going?

The "sandbox" is the Middle East, and in recent years the term has often referred to Iraq. The sandbox is not nearly as fun as the ones from childhood experiences.


“Gun" typically refers to what?

In the military, "guns" are mostly just artillery guns. You don’t use "gun" to refer to your rifle.


What are "9-mils"?

For decades, the 9mm, or "9-mil," has been the standard service sidearm for the U.S. military.


What’s a short term for the document that outlines a soldier’s day?

The "POD," is the plan of the day. It’s the official document that outlines a service member’s activities for the day.


What’s an "NCO"?

An "NCO" is a non-commissioned officer. These men and women typically emerge from the enlisted ranks and haven’t yet earned a commission.


What’s a slang term for white phosphorous?

White phosphorous is often blasted into the skies via artillery, and it provides light for men on the ground below. "Willy Pete" is a vital tool for some types of low-light operations.


"LGB" stands for what?

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the world saw video of LGBs (laser-guided bombs) in action. These bombs are far more accurate —and far deadlier — than dumb bombs of yesteryear.


In the Navy, what are "bubbleheads"?

"Bubbleheads" are submariners. They’re the sailors who are crazy enough to slip hundreds of feet below the waves in big pressurized cylinders.


What does it mean if a situation is "kinetic"?

A "kinetic" situation is violent. Frontline combat is obviously kinetic, and you hope to be the ones delivering the bulk of the kinetic energy in these circumstances.


What do "squirters" do?

“Squirters" are the people who flee military engagements as fast as they can. The attacking troops often assume that squirters are enemy troops trying to escape.


What does one do with a "hangar queen"?

A "hangar queen" is a grounded plane that is stripped of parts so that they can be used for other aircraft.


A "CHU" refers to what aspect of military life?

A CHU is a containerized housing unit, a big rectangular box converted for living space, particularly in far-flung areas and combat zones. CHUs are not known as luxurious.


Where would you find "Puddle Pirates"?

"Puddle Pirates" is slang for members of the Coast Guard, and it’s a term that reinforces a misconception — that the Coast Guard only works in areas of shallow water near the coast. It’s simply not true.


What’s a "grunt"?

A "grunt" is an Army infantryman. Grunts often get stuck doing the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs of a war.


What’s a common slang term for the Taliban?

Soldiers who fight against Taliban forces in the Middle East sometimes call their adversaries, "T-Man." The T-Man has a huge advantage in understanding the regional terrain and local dialect.


What do you do with a "go by"?

A "go by" is a concise set of instructions for a specific task. It gives you something to "go by" as you attempt something that you aren’t really all that familiar with.


What’s a "big chicken dinner"?

A "big chicken dinner" is a bad conduct discharge. You have to do something pretty outrageous to get kicked out of today’s military, so earning a big chicken dinner is quite the feat.


What’a "FOB"?

A "FOB" is a forward operating base. It’s the base just behind the front lines, where teams prepare troops, vehicles and munitions for tactical operations.


A _____ is a member (or former member) of the Green Berets.

Snake Eaters are the people who are or were Green Berets. You do not mess with Snake Eaters, and hopefully we don’t have to explain why.


If you earn a Purple Heart, you might say you got a ______.

In most cases, wounded soldiers just call their Purple Heart medals by name. But once in a while, they’ll say their injuries earned them a "Band Aid."


If you’re "black" on something, what does it mean?

You don’t ever want to be "black" on fuel or ammo. It means you’re out of that particular resource.


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