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, we 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 clarify the meaning behind the most common acronyms in this field.
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
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-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
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