Category: Military Jargon

A Civilian’s Guide to Military Jargon

Understand Your Soldier’s Lingo


When you send your soldier-in-training to basic combat training, you’ll likely hear them say some strange phrases the next time they talk to you in person or send you a letter. If you have no idea what they’re talking about, you’re in luck! At My Hero Crate, your military care package specialist, we’ve assembled a list of military slang for your reference.

Note that this list includes slang from multiple branches of the military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. And yes, there really are that many terms that mean “push-ups”!


Military Slang Terms

Ate-up: Description for a service member overly concerned with following regulations to the letter, without looking at the context of the situation.

Battle rattle: Combat gear, named for the sound all the equipment makes when the soldier moves.

Beat your face: Do push-ups.

Big Voice: Loudspeakers that broadcast urgent messages on a military base.

Bird: A military helicopter.

Blue-head: a new recruit in the first weeks of boot camp, for the blue shade their scalp looks after shaving off their hair.

Bubblehead: Anyone serving on a submarine.

Bug company: In Navy boot camp, a group of recruits incapable of performing tasks correctly.

Bunk: Bed.

Cherry: A new recruit, still in basic combat training, or a new service member on their first-ever duty assignment.

Chow: Food.

CO: Commanding officer.

Cover: Military headgear of any type.

Forward-leaning rest position or Front-leaning rest: Push-up position.

Gear adrift is a gift: If you left something behind and unattended, someone can “tactically acquire” it (which is still considered larceny). Generally speaking, if you were irresponsible enough to leave something behind, it’s your fault if it comes up missing.

Geedunk: In the Navy, snack foods, or the store where snacks are sold.

Get smoked: A tough, but fast work-out used as a punishment, in the Army. Marines say they “get thrashed.”

Hit the head: Go to the restroom.

Hooah: A spirited cry in celebration of something positive, or to express Army pride.

Joe: General term for a soldier.

Mess: Meal.

MRE: Meal, ready-to-eat.

Muster: Roll call.

On your face: Do push-ups.

PT: Physical training.

PX: Post Exchange, the base’s retail store. Called Base Exchange in the Air Force.

Quarter-decking: Performing physical training in the recruit barracks as a punishment in boot camp.

Rack Out: Go to sleep.

Rainbow Flight: A brand-new group of U.S. Air Force trainees in basic training, because of the “rainbow” of civilian clothes they wear before being issued uniforms.

Sat: Satisfactory.

Soup sandwich: A way to describe anything messy, like an unkempt uniform, for example.

Unsat: Unsatisfactory.

Woobie: Poncho liner, used as a blanket.

Zero dark thirty: Literally, a half an hour past midnight. Also used in reference to an unknown time very early in the morning. Usually pronounced oh dark thirty.


More Than a Letter or a Phone Call

Now that you know some military slang and jargon, you’re ready to talk to your soldier-in-training or enlisted soldier! It’s so much easier to carry on a conversation with someone when you understand these military-specific phrases.

Of course, when a phone conversation or even a letter aren’t enough, there’s My Hero Crate, military care packages you can send to your favorite hero, whether at home or deployed. Each My Hero Crate features popular, assorted American snacks and is designed to show your gratitude for your special someone’s military service. You can even sign your loved one up for a subscription, and they’ll receive a new My Hero Crate each month — you can cancel at any time.

Choose from three pre-built care packages:

Order a thoughtful care package for your loved one.