In the line of work you do, there is a lot of information to dissimilate. When it comes to the most commonly used tactical terms, it is always a good idea to make note of the most important ones. To help you learn the lingo so to speak, we have compiled a glossary of some of the most often heard tactical terms to help you stay in the game. These tactical terms are a great foundation you need to effectively communicate in the line of duty. While some of these choices below include definitions, which tell you more about the term, others are here to tell you the terms behind the most common acronyms in this career.


Tape: standard issue Army green duct tape. It gets its names because it can withstand speeds of up to 100 mph when applied to holes as a patch.

cal: M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun. Alternately known as 50 cal, 50, M2 or Ma Deuce.

Cord/Parachute Cord: nylon cord used to connect to a chute harness that can also be used for other applications.

mil: M9 Berretta pistol

ACU: Army Combat Uniform

ALS: Automatic Locking System

A-TACS: a type of camouflage

AOR: Area of Responsibility. The assigned area of any given unit.

Artillery: any engine used for the discharge of large projectiles

Artillery battery: a group of artillery pieces

Ambush: carrying out a surprise attack on an enemy without warning

ASK kit: Armor Survivability Kit. A kit designed in response to the high number of casualties produced by IEDs striking unarmored vehicles.

Battery: an artillery position

BDU: Battle Dress Uniform

Blast wall: a protective barrier from high explosive blasts

Blockade: a ring of naval vessels surrounding a port or even an entire nation to create a barrier

BOLO: Be on the Look Out. This is a list of vehicles or individuals to be on the look out for in relation to a crime.

Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids: slang to refer to essential supply items such as food, ammunition, and medical supplies.

Below: any deck beneath the one you are currently on

Bird: Any type of plane

Blue Canoe: a portable toilet

Bow: front of a ship

Brad or Bradley: an M2 Bradley Armored Personnel Carrier which is the primary mode of transportation for mechanized infantry units

Breach: a gap in fortified lines in battle

Breakout: exploiting a breach in enemy lines to allow a large force to pass through

Bunker: a heavily fortified facility typically underground used as a defensive location

Camo: abbreviation for camouflage

Camelback: water bladder product carried on the back capable of holding around 3 liters

Carry on: an order given to continue work or duties per the usual

Casemate: a vaulted chamber for protected storage for artillery

CCP: Casualty Collection Point, which is an area where casualties are triaged

CCW: Concealed Carry Weapon

CF: Carbon Fiber

CHU: Containerized Housing Unit. An alternative housing solution to tents, these are aluminum boxes similar in size to commercial shipping containers which provide housing for soldiers.

CP: Check Point

Crypto: the use of encryption keys for a communication device. For instance, a computer code that scrambles the signal to prevent unauthorized outside listening.

CSH: Combat Support Hospital. A hospital designated to handle injuries.

CT: Composite Toe

Cuff: abbreviation for handcuffs

DAP: Deltoid Auxiliary Protection. Armor protection designed to protect the shoulders of gunners.

DFAC: Dining Facility. Also called a mess hall.

Debellatio: to end a war by total destruction of a hostile state.

Detail: group of service members sent to do a job

Down Range: the area of targets on shooting ranges. It usually refers to any location where there’s shooting.

Dragon's teeth: triangular ground obstacles acting as roadblocks for armored vehicles

Dustoff: medical evacuation of wounded from combat zones by air to receive a higher level of medical treatment

Dutch Water Line: a sequence of water-based defensive actions intended to flood large areas in case of attack

Echelon Formation: a military formation where soldiers are arranged diagonally

E&E: Escape and Evasion

EDC: Every Day Carry

EMS: Emergency Medical Services

Enfilade: a position is "enfiladed" when adversary fire can be directed along the long axis of the position. For example, a trench is enfiladed if the adversary can fire down the length of the trench and thereby pin in the unit.

Extraction point: the location chosen for reassembly of troops and their following transport out of the combat zone.

Fathom: unit of measurement used to denote depth from sea level to sea floor

Fighting Withdrawal: pulling back military forces while still engaging contact with the adversary

File: a single column of soldiers

Flanking Maneuver: attacking an enemy unit from the side instead of head on

FOB: Forward Operating Base. A hub where troops stay.

Forlorn Hope: a band of combatants chosen to take the leading role in a high stakes military operation where the risk of casualties is almost certain

Frankenstein: a monster truck with side armor used in combat transportation

Frontal Assault or Attack: an attack aimed at the front of an enemy force

Glass House: a replica of the layout of a target house used to practice attacks before a mission

Goat Trail: unpaved or dirt road

Gorge: an opening at the rear of an outwork for entree by defending troops from the chief defensive position

Grunt: infantryman

Guerilla Tactics: attacking the adversary and the following, breaking off of contact, and then retreating. Also called a hit and run tactic.

Gun Truck: a turtle-back Humvee vehicle with a weapon system for firing on top

Hardball: a paved road

Hardened Building: a sturdy building with sandbags and a roof, ideally made of concrete

Hesco: large bins filled with dirt and used to absorb impacts from explosions

IED: improvised explosive device. It can vary in size and intensity since it is homemade.

INTSUM: Intelligence Summary. A briefing of the events which occurred.

Incendiary: incendiary weaponry which causes damage through release of heat such as Napalm, Greek fire, or flamethrowers.

Indirect: indirect fire, usually referring to fire not taken head on in a combat zone.

Inside the Wire: used to describe personnel working inside an enemy combatant facility or location

Interdiction: to attack with the intention of disrupting enemy supply lines

IWB: Inside Waist Band. A firearm holster placed inside the waistband of the pants.

Jettison: to dispose of something over the side of the ship, to get rid of something quickly

LE: Law Enforcement. Also, LEO commonly used for Law Enforcement Officer.

Leave: vacation time away from duty unless an emergency recall occurs

LED: Light Emitting Diode

Level 1 Retention: a firearm holster where the main retention method is friction

Level 2 Retention: a firearm holster where the retention method is friction and a push-button release

Level 3 Retention: a firearm holster where the method of retention is friction, a push-button release, and a spring-loaded cap that snaps in place over the rear of the slide

Lima Charlie: code for loud and clear

Lodgment: an enclave made by increasing the size of a bridgehead

Mag: common abbreviation for firearm magazines

M1: main battle tank

M203: 40 mm grenade launcher, mounted under the barrel of an M16/M4

M240: type of machine gun which can be either mounted to a tank or dismounted

M249/SAW: Squad Automatic Weapon which is the main automatic rifle of a squad

M4/M16: standard rifle distinguished from the M16 by a retractable stock and shorter barrel

MRE: Meal Ready to Eat

MSR: Main Supply Route, which is usually a highway with a name designation following it

MWR or MWR Tent: Morale, Welfare, and Recreation area on the FOB set up for the troops to relax

Mark 19: automatic 40mm grenade launcher

Midnight Rats/Mid Rats: Late night meals for troops that can’t make the DFAC during regular dining hours

Mike Mike: a millimeter used mainly when referring to the metric caliber of ammunition

Munitions: weapons that inflict damage through impact

NCO: Non-Commissioned Officer or another word for sergeant

NGO: Non-Governmental Organizations such as Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, etc.

Net: a radio network

No Man's Land: land that is not occupied or land that is under dispute between countries that will not occupy it because of fear or uncertainty, or for tactical or strategical considerations.

No Quarter Given: all adversary troops are to be killed regardless of if they surrender

NTOA: National Tactical Officers Association

O’ Dark Thirty: slang for being too early in the morning

OPORD: Operations Order. This is a five-paragraph report for combat orders which contains the situation, mission, execution, service and support, and command and signal.

OPSEC: Operational Security. The prevention of plans, troop numbers, and strategy from getting to the enemy.

OTV: (Outer Tactical Vest)/IBA (Individual Body Armor)/Vest: body armor for protection. It typically comprises of a Kevlar vest and ceramic plates.

Overwatch: when a smaller unit provides support for another unit

Parapet: a wall at the edge of the rampart to guard the defenders

PCC/PCI: Pre-Combat Check/inspection to check for relevant equipment and knowledge of mission prior to the operation

PDU: Patrol Dress Uniform

POO Site: Point of Origin Site

PRT: Provincial Reconstruction Team. These are military and government departments, along with civilian aid organizations, that come to a town to help rebuild by way of construction projects and humanitarian assistance.

PSD: Personal Security Detail

Pop Smoke: slang for leaving an area quickly

Port Side: left hand side of the ship

QLS: Quick Locking System allows for fast weapon locking into a body vest or other armor

QRF: Quick Reaction Force is a collection of troops on standby to react to any situation as needed.

Quarters: the morning assembly of all hands for assembly and accountability

Rampart: the foremost defensive wall of any fortification

Red on Red: term for enemy-on-enemy fire

Retreat: withdrawal of troops from a combat situation

ROE: Rules of Engagement which are standards of when to engage targets

RPG: Rocket Propelled Grenade

RLS: Rapid Light System is a focused beam of light on a weapon

Rout: disorderly withdrawal of troops from a combat zone following a defeat

S-Shops: battalion-level organizations that handle administrative responsibilities. Typically there are only 4, but can be more, reliant on the level of command.

S-1: Personnel.

S-2: Intelligence.

S-3: Operations.

S-4: Logistics and supply.

SAPI: Small Arms Protective Inserts or ceramic plates inserted into the front and back of the IBA/OTV

Safe-guard: individual soldiers or squads placed to prevent resources, such as crops or livestock, from being looted or plundered

Sandbox: any desert area of operations

Scorched Earth: intentional destruction of resources, in order to deny their use to the enemy

SERPA: A form of Blackhawk holster, termed after its inventor Michael Serpa

Shoot and Scoot: a form of fire-and-movement tactic used by artillery to evade counter-battery fire

Shore Leave or Liberty: authorization to leave the ship/base to enjoy non-work activities

Siege: a military blockade of a city with the resolve of conquering by force, often accompanied by an assault in the later phase

Slighting: the intentional demolition of an abandoned fortification without opposition from its previous occupants or defenders

Snivel Gear: any piece of apparel used to stop troops from sniveling when the conditions get too wet or cold. This class includes Gore-Tex parkas, gloves, balaclavas, or anything else designed to keep them dry and warm.

Soft-Skin: unarmored vehicle

Spoon: someone who serves food as their job in the services

ST: Steel Toe

Starboard: the right-hand side of a ship

Stern: the rear of a ship

Taps: slang for lights out

TDU: Tactical Dress Uniform

TOC: Tactical Operations Center is the location where command elements are chiefly located

Terp: slang for an interpreter

Tête-De-Pont: a provisional defensive effort protecting a bridge at the end closest to the enemy

Turtleback: a term for swimming on your back while observing the direction you came from and usually a compass board

Turtleback Humvee: a Humvee that does not have an open back and looks like a turtle

U-1/2/3: Codes specified for the level of troop protection on the FOB, varies from day to day reliant on information or intel

U-1: No body armor or helmet obligatory, but must have weapon and magazine of ammo

U-2: Body armor, helmet, weapon, and magazine required whenever outside a hardened building

U-3: Same as above, but without any specific time it will be downgraded

USAF: United States Air Force

USMC: United States Marine Corps

USN: United States Navy

UXO: Unexploded Ordnance is anything that has the possibility to blow up, but hasn’t yet

VBIED: a vehicle-borne IED or car bomb

Washington’s Driver: Someone who’s been in the service for so long they could be Washington’s driver

WP: Waterproof

Wileys/Wiley-X’s: protective eyewear supplied to all armed forces in theater

Working Aloft: working above the highest deck, usually carrying out maintenance on the ship's mast or antennas

XO: Executive Officer which is one step below Commanding Officer

Zulu Time: Greenwich Mean Time

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