Fun Military Terminology

One Sunday night after I watched the specials on Air Force One (the presidential jumbo jet) and Marine (the presidential helicopter fleet), I ended up watching a special on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

While the other two specials were somewhat serious programs on what goes into protecting and transporting the president, I was struck at how humorous much of the carrier jargon was. The list of terms I remember were

  • Ouija board – a replica of the decks with all the planes on the decks. They are moved on the board as planes land, takeoff or go into maintenance.
  • Grape – a member of the aviation fuel crew who are designated with purple jerseys
  • Knee-Knocker – It’s the part of the plating between the floor and the lower part of the hatchway. If you don’t pay attention, you will knock your knees over the hatchway

We normally military jargon with arcane acronyms (e.g. “CJCS” aka Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff) and terms like “campaign, friendly fire, tactical air support” which abstract away from the fact that the goal and result of combat is usually destruction.

But terms like these show the other side of the military as a bunch of people just trying to make it through the day and aware of the irony of the military lifestyle. Other terms I have heard in my day include the immortal FUBAR (“…beyond all recognition”), BUF (the B-52 bomber called the “Big Ugly Fella” or something else) and GIB (the weapons system officer on a combat plane or “guy in back”).

Behind every warrior who has been glorified or feared lies a very large support and cleanup crew.

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