Iraq's battlefield slang
A list of soldiers' lingo, including 'embrace the suck' and 'Rummy's
By Austin Bay
January 28, 2007
PRIESTS, PROSTITUTES, psychologists, cops, jazz musicians, poker players.
Every trade has its jargon and "insider lingo."
Soldier slang, however, has a peculiar appeal. That's understandable. Waging
war is a risky, all-encompassing endeavor - physically, emotionally and
psychologically. War reveals humankind at its best and its worst, and
war-fighter slang, reflects the bitter, terrifying, sometimes inspiring hell
Every war adds something new - and often obscene - to the soldiers'
vocabulary. World War II-era Hollywood dialogue glamorized (and often
scrubbed) combat slang, but the warrior's rhetorical swagger, irony and
biting humor predate film by several millenniums.
Often, new idioms and phrases describe old, difficult truths. Prussian
strategist Carl von Clausewitz said that war is the realm of "friction."
World War II veterans invoked Murphy's Law: "If something can go wrong, it
will." As you'll see in the brief lexicon I've pulled together below, the
New Greatest Generation (the generation fighting the war on terror) dubs it
"Embrace the suck" isn't merely a wisecrack; it's an encyclopedic experience
rendered as an epigram, gritty shorthand for "Face it, soldier. I've been
there. War ain't easy. Now deal with the difficulty and let's get on with
That's sound advice for a nation at war.
Air jockey: Fighter pilot or a fixed-wing pilot. On rare occasions, might
refer to a helicopter pilot.
Ali Baba: Slang for enemy forces. Originated in the Persian Gulf War.
Battle rattle: Slang for combat gear. "Full battle rattle" means wearing and
carrying everything (helmet, body armor, weapons).
Beltway clerk: A derisive term for a Washington political operative or
Bilat: A bilateral conference between coalition military units and local
people. ("We're going on a bilat to discuss the security situation with
Blackwater: Specifically, a private security firm operating in Iraq. Used as
slang, can mean any private security firm. "Gone to Blackwater" indicates
that a soldier quit the armed services and went to work for a private
Blue canoe: Slang for a portable toilet.
Bohica: Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. Pronounced "bo-HEE-ka." Means "we're
about to get screwed, as usual." This term was in use in the Army in the
Bombaconda: Slang for Logistics Support Area Anaconda, a major supply base
near Balad, Iraq. Balad is also called "Mortaritaville."
Camp Ass: Refers to Camp As Sayliyah in Coha, Qatar.
Casper: Slang for someone who always disappears when there's work to be
Christians in Action: Slang for Central Intelligence Agency.
DFAC: Dining facility. Pronounced "Dee-FAC."
Dome of obedience: Slang for a military helmet. Also called a "brain bucket"
or "skid lid."
Dynamic truth: Basically means "this is the plan when my supervisor gave it
to me, but change is already in the works."
Echelons above reality: Higher headquarters where no one has an idea about
what is really happening.
Embrace the suck: Phrase heard in OIF1 (the original Operation Iraqi Freedom
force). Translation: The situation is bad, but deal with it.
Flash-blasted: Being screamed at or chewed out by the unit's senior
Fobbits: Derogatory term for soldiers who never leave an FOB (Forward
Geardo: Derogatory term for the guy who has to have all the latest and
greatest gear on his uniform, even though he does not know how to use it.
General order No. 1: General order that does not permit drinking or
fraternizing in Iraq and Kuwait.
Ghetto grip: A detachable, pistol-type grip that can make a carbine easier
Groundhog Day: Every day of your tour in Iraq.
Haji: Slang for an Iraqi, but may mean any Middle Easterner who hails from a
predominantly Muslim country.
Idiot stick: Slang for an M16 (or any weapon).
Jersey barrier: Slang for a small concrete barrier.
Johnny Jihad: Slang for a Muslim or Muslim combatant.
Lifer juice: Coffee.
Marsalama: GI Arabic. Corruption of Arabic for "Go in peace." In
conversation, it means "See you later."
Mookie: Nickname for Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr.
O dark 30: Pronounced "oh dark thirty." A word play on military time. Means
a very early hour during the night. ("We had to get up at oh-dark-thirty.")
OPSEC: Operational security. "Loose lips sink ships" of World War II fame is
an OPSEC warning.
Oscar Mike: On the move (Marine lingo).
Oz: Australia. Hence "Ozzies" - Australians.
POG: People Other than Grunts. Pronounced like "rogue." Used by grunts as a
derogatory word for everyone else.
Pubic plate: Also pube armor or pubic pad. Kevlar pad that flops over the
crotch. Other terms: Nad Pad or Nut Guard.
PUC: Person Under Custody. ("We got two PUCs on that last raid.")
Red Zone: The area outside the Green Zone. "Haifa Street" is a main drag in
the Red Zone.
RUMINT: Rumor level intelligence. A variant is BOGINT - bogus intelligence.
Rummy's Dummies: A derogatory name for the U.S. military under the
leadership of former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Semper I: Pejorative Marine lingo for being overly concerned with one's own
Single-digit midget: A member of the armed services who has nine days or
less remaining on his tour of duty.
Speed bumps: A tanker's derogatory term for infantry soldiers. Operation
Desert Storm-era slang still occasionally used.
Terps: Slang for interpreters
Tread head: A soldier serving in an armor (tank) or armored cavalry (armored
Turkey peek: To glance around or over an object or surface, such as a corner
Waxed: To get hit hard or get killed.
Weekend warrior: U.S. reservist or National Guard soldier.
Yalla: GI adaptation of Arabic word for hurry up or run.
AUSTIN BAY is an Army Reserve veteran of the Iraq war who blogs at
http://www.austinbay.net . He is the editor of "Embrace the Suck: A Pocket
Guide to Milspeak," published by the New Pamphleteer (www.pamphletguys.com),
from which these definitions are excerpted.
RESTORE THE REPUBLIC!
R.W. "D1ck" Gaines
GnySgt USMC (Ret.)
1952- (Plt #437PISC)-'72
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