You can understand the Army.
“Family First” is an unofficial term that the Army uses to lure unsuspecting families into its grasp. That’s not completely true, the Army has been a godsend to us on so many levels. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”…. And that pretty much sums it up. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but the term “family first” isn’t always true in the world of the army. However, the term “army first” isn’t always true either. It’s a give and take type of situation. Just like a marriage, it’s one of those relationships that takes balance and work and sometimes leaves one of the sides feeling a little beat up.
I’ve learned a few things over the last few years that I want to share. I figured that if I had a difficult time navigating these acronyms, policies, regulations, unwritten rules, Tricare and the bane of my entire existence… the DEERS office, then maybe other military spouses would like some of this info too.
First things first, my family is with the Army National Guard. This is VERY different than active duty Army. The Guard is the branch of the Army that’s state led. The Guard is NOT a federally led institution. It is led by each state’s Governor. Basically, the president can’t come into a state and say “National Guard, go do X work for me.” Without the governor’s permission!
First, let’s conquer some acronyms and definitions.
BCT/BT: Basic Training. Boot camp. Usually, a 9-10 week process where they get the foundation of their knowledge to be successful in the army.
AIT: Also know as Advanced Individual Training. Also known as “school”. This is where you learn the skill, for the job, that you’ll be doing in the army. It can range from a few weeks to a few months.
MOSQ: This acronym can be a verb also! “When I get MOSQ’d”… MOSQ stands for Military Occupational Specialty Qualification. This is the same as AIT, just at a different time in one’s career.
Reclassing: I know this isn’t an acronym but it’s important. When a soldier goes into the army as
11Bravo for example (11B=Infantry) and he either wants a different “job/specialty” he has to reclass. That requires him to go to MOSQ to get that education to do his new specialty.
AR670-1: This is the sacred book of uniforms. It has a billion pages for every possible scenario and option to where one’s uniform with all the “bling-bling” on it. Bling-Bling meaning pins, medals, the ribbon rack etc. It’s super difficult to find out exactly what option or scenario fits what you need, BUT not impossible. As a spouse, it’s difficult to know how to dress when you’re not the one in the military. If you can, ask a few other spouses to see what they’re wearing. I always go for a little overdressed than a little underdressed.
JFRC: Joint Forces Readiness Center. Basically a headquarters for a joint operation between the Army and Air Guard. This place will have the Tricare office, DEERS office, VA Office, and all the admin offices for a joint installation.
JFHQ- Joint Forces Head Quarters. This runs, manages and directs the entire National Guard for that state. Upper-level management type stuff.
AT: Annual Training. The ‘catch phrase’ if you will for the guard is “one weekend a month, two weeks a year.” For the longest time, I figured that the two weeks a year was made up of those one weekends a month. Turns out I was wrong… WAY WRONG. It’s a 2-3 week training block that your soldier will be away from home. Usually in the backwoods somewhere unreachable.
ACU: Army Combat Uniform: The normal every day where camo “outfit” that soldiers wear.
PC: Patrol Cap. This goes with the ACU. Soldiers have to wear “cover” (hats/caps/berets) when outside.
ASU: Army Service Uniform: Also known as Dress Blues. These are the fancy schmancy uniforms that make girls weak in the knees 😉
Tricare: The insurance that comes with the military. It’s a great insurance company, to be honest. It’s complicated, but every single customer rep that I’ve talked too is SUPER nice and explains things very well. If you’re a spouse I would put Tricare on speed dial. I am calling them once a week at least to ask questions. Chances are your soldier doesn’t know any more about this insurance company than the next random person. As a spouse, it’s better to get familiar with how things work. Tricare pays 100% for a breast pump for example, with a prescription from your OB. However you have to pay out of pocket for it, send in the receipt, prescription, letter from the pharmacy describing WHY they gave you that breast pump AND form DD2642 and send it all in. THEN call them in two weeks just to verify you did everything correctly. Ok, that last part is my own, but it never hurts to follow up. What you need to know about the Tricare folks is that they WANT to help you. Their website is informative, but I always call the customer service people to make sure that I have everything done correctly the first time. Better safe than sorry.
DEERS: Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System. AKA, the bane of my existence. This is the army department where you have to go get ID cards, as a spouse, when you first enter into the
Army Family. This is also where you take any social security cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates etc if you have a baby, get married, get divorced, or your child turns 10 and needs their own ID card. The thing about DEERS is that it’s the hinge on everything Tricare-related. If DEERS is messed up then Tricare can’t cover you. Sometimes it takes a while for the DEERS system to get
updated. This can be incredibly frustrating as that time period basically means you’re uninsured.
Here are a few acronyms that are most commonly used in my world. Enjoy!
Civis- Civilian clothing.
Bohica- “Bend Over Here It Comes”… This usually is related to idiotic decisions from higher ranking soldiers. Note the intense sarcasm here.
DFAC- Dining facility, also known as Mess Hall.
ETS- Expiration Term of Service… aka, getting out of the military.
PLF- parachute landing fall, commonly used by Airborne.
The fourth point of contact-As in “get his head out of his fourth point of contact”. This term goes back to the PLF. Balls of feet, calves, thighs, butt, Traps/shoulder blades… I’m sure you can put two and two together and figure out what the fourth point of contact slang term is referring too here.
Hooah- the term the army uses in excitement or to say “understood”. However, from what I’ve seen it’s never said in this way. It’s more used as a sarcastic term. It seems to be a little too ‘army formal’ for most of the joes I’ve seen… however, most of the joes I have contact with are airborne… perhaps that says something. I’ve been told this is what POG’s say to feel more awesome.
Opsec-Operations Security. Check out this blog post for more info on OPSEC and PERSEC:
Persec- Personal Security
POG-this is a term coined from grunts (infantry) to any other MOS than infantry. Basically, any support positions would be called POG’s. Not a super nice thing to say… but at least you’ll know who they’re talking about. It stands for Personnel Other than Grunt.
Nut to Butt- single file line… let your imagination do the rest there.
VBIED- Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device
IED- Improvised explosive device.
DFAS- Defense Finance and Accounting Service
BAH-Basic Allowance for Housing
CAC-Common Access Card. The military ID that the enlisted personnel person gets.
CONUS- Continental United States
OCONUS- Outside Continental United States
IFAK- Individual First Aid Kit
JAG- Judge Advocate General- all things legal
APFT- Army Physical Fitness Test
PT-Physical Training (working out).
Mustard Stain- A bronze star on a pair of jump wings. Meaning this person did a combat jump behind enemy lines. Basically a ninja.
ERB- Enlisted Record Brief. “Soldier at a glance” is what I call it. It’s a resume in the form of a spreadsheet with a DA (Department of the Army) Photo.
LES-Leave and Earning Statement. Essentially a paystub.
FRG- Family Readiness Group. This is a welcome committee of sorts that helps the families of the soldiers assimilate and helps the soldiers with meals, coffee, care packages etc.
TDY-Temporary Duty. This usually means that they’re out of town.
PCS- Permanent change of station
AGR-Active Guard and Reserve
OCP- The new pattern of ACU’s. Operational Camouflage Pattern.
Ever wonder what in the world your soldier is talking about when they use terms like Squad, Platoon, Company etc? Here’s a simple breakdown of how the elements work.
Fire Team- 4 man squad. Roughly the smallest element in the military.
Squad- Made up of 2-3 fire teams plus a squad leader.
Platoon- Made up of 3-5 squads plus a platoon leader.
Company- Made up of 2-4 Platoons. Companies are roughly 120 joes.
Battalion- Made up of 2-7 companies depending on the type of companies.
Brigade- Made up of 2-4 battalions.
Division- Made up of around 3 brigades.
Corps- Made up of 2-5 Divisions.
Army- Made up of 2+ Corps.
Unit- Whoever you’re assigned too.
I know this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the military acronyms known to man. That’s on the google and the Army actually has a book of acronyms. My point here is to show the ones that you’ll use on a daily basis and know what your spouse is talking about, even if you don’t understand the acronym is priceless. Communication is key to every aspect of life;, especially with one’s spouse. The last thing your marriage needs is Army vernacular getting in the way of communication with your loved one.
Another reason I wanted to share this information with others is because being a military spouse is hard. It’s amazing, but it’s challenging. Each day brings us closer together and it can also leave me more confused with how the processes work. I also want to encourage other military wives in the fact that they’re not alone. This is one of the loneliest jobs with the least amount of recognition. When your soldier gets deployed you have to run the house. You have the responsibilities of the kids, the bank account, the bills, the laundry, the cleaning, and the everything else! I don’t think I had a clear understanding how much I would be depended on. The military calls the spouse the dependent, but realistically I think it’s the other way around. I don’t say that to be arrogant, cocky or rude but when my husband is deployed he CAN’T do the things that are a man’s role in the household. He DEPENDS on me to take up the slack and do it to the best of my ability. Does that mean my toilets are always shiny? Absolutely not. I was up until 2300 last night cleaning them actually. Does that mean I always get the kids to wherever on time? Nope. Does that mean I always get dressed and rock June Clever pearls every day? Hahaha, I couldn’t even say that with a straight face. Regardless of if I’ve brushed my hair that day or got out of my ‘active wear’, my husband needs to be able to trust that I can handle it. He needs to know that I can hold down the fort while he’s away. Do you really understand the level of implicit trust that has to take place for that relationship to work?
I interviewed some military wives and asked them what they wished they would have known before jumping into military life; their answers are bolded below.
“I think the one thing that comes to mind is how much I have had to sacrifice for his job.” –Active Army Wife.
This is spot on! There are many sacrifices that we have to make as wives and as families in the military. Not on the moving aspect and the deployment aspect, but in our day to day life of how to act, say, how to view the civilian world. We don’t really belong in either world! Being a military spouse is a full-time job as it is.
“I think I wish I’d known that we had so many options within the military. I the beginning, we just didn’t know we had options. [My Husband] went from the reserves to active duty. And we could have timed that transition better. But we just didn’t know that we were doing. Recruiters should be able to help you figure out what your options are, but if you don’t ask, they will push forward with whatever’s easiest for them.” –Active Army Wife.
Oh, recruiters… gotta love ‘em. O_o
“I wish I knew more about life after deployments. Not home life and adjusting, the fact that he still has to go out for days/weeks at a time. … I was under the impression that it was a 0500-1700 type of thing. Didn’t even think about his duty days when he spends the night on the ship. None of this would have kept him from marrying him or anything. It just would’ve been nice to know…Side note, I also really dislike it when people say “well you knew what you were getting into.” Ok yes, that’s true, but it doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating.”- Active Navy Wife.
Folks! Just because we KNEW what military life was like and did it willingly doesn’t mean we no longer have a right to complain a little bit about our spouses being gone.
“I wish I would have been better prepared to spend a lot of time by myself, that it would be easier to find “support groups” of other military spouses. And sidebar, I wish I would have been prepared to go through most of my pregnancy 3 hours away from my family while he was on the road.” –Army Guard Wife.
Seeing our spouses sometimes seems like a Steve Irwin show. “Crickey! And here we see the elusive soldier! Don’t move too fast or you will scare him away! We can observe him in his natural habitat where he must camouflage himself with uniforms that are too starchy, lest the enemy find him! If you listen closely you can observe this wondrous creature talking to its mates in the language of the soldier species! We don’t know what he’s saying because it’s all acronyms! CRICKY!”
“I wish I’d known more about how lonely it would be as a military wife that doesn’t live on post. That most people will never understand the negatives or positives. That we love being the support for our husbands, but it’s the loneliest and most misunderstood job in the universe. I wish I’d known that handling EVERYTHING was my job and I wish I was better at it. I wish that the FRG was more outgoing or that there were classes for spouses to get us up to speed on what everything is.” -Army Guard Wife.
I hope you’ve walked away with something positive here. At the very least to know that you’re not alone if you feel like you’re drowning in a bowl of alphabet soup.