Iraq's Battlefield Slang

Lane laneonline at
Mon Jan 29 18:50:48 UTC 2007

Iraq's battlefield slang

A list of soldiers' lingo, including 'embrace the
suck' and 'Rummy's dummies.'

Los Angeles Times
By Austin Bay,0,4315039.story?coll=la-opinion-center

January 28, 2007

PRIESTS, PROSTITUTES, psychologists, cops, jazz
musicians, poker players. Every trade has its jargon
and "insider lingo." 

Soldier slang, however, has a peculiar appeal. That's
understandable. Waging war is a risky,
all-encompassing endeavor — physically, emotionally
and psychologically. War reveals humankind at its best
and its worst, and war-fighter slang, reflects the
bitter, terrifying, sometimes inspiring hell of it.

Every war adds something new — and often obscene — to
the soldiers' vocabulary. World War II-era Hollywood
dialogue glamorized (and often scrubbed) combat slang,
but the warrior's rhetorical swagger, irony and biting
humor predate film by several millenniums. 

Often, new idioms and phrases describe old, difficult
truths. Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz said
that war is the realm of "friction." World War II
veterans invoked Murphy's Law: "If something can go
wrong, it will." As you'll see in the brief lexicon
I've pulled together below, the New Greatest
Generation (the generation fighting the war on terror)
dubs it "the suck." 

"Embrace the suck" isn't merely a wisecrack; it's an
encyclopedic experience rendered as an epigram, gritty
shorthand for "Face it, soldier. I've been there. War
ain't easy. Now deal with the difficulty and let's get
on with the mission."

That's sound advice for a nation at war.

Air jockey: Fighter pilot or a fixed-wing pilot. On
rare occasions, might refer to a helicopter pilot. 

Ali Baba: Slang for enemy forces. Originated in the
Persian Gulf War. 

Battle rattle: Slang for combat gear. "Full battle
rattle" means wearing and carrying everything (helmet,
body armor, weapons). 

Beltway clerk: A derisive term for a Washington
political operative or civilian politician. 

Bilat: A bilateral conference between coalition
military units and local people. ("We're going on a
bilat to discuss the security situation with Haji.")

Blackwater: Specifically, a private security firm
operating in Iraq. Used as slang, can mean any private
security firm. "Gone to Blackwater" indicates that a
soldier quit the armed services and went to work for a
private security firm. 

Blue canoe: Slang for a portable toilet. 

Bohica: Bend Over, Here It Comes Again. Pronounced
"bo-HEE-ka." Means "we're about to get screwed, as
usual." This term was in use in the Army in the 1960s.

Bombaconda: Slang for Logistics Support Area Anaconda,
a major supply base near Balad, Iraq. Balad is also
called "Mortaritaville." 

Camp Ass: Refers to Camp As Sayliyah in Coha, Qatar.

Casper: Slang for someone who always disappears when
there's work to be done. 

Christians in Action: Slang for Central Intelligence

DFAC: Dining facility. Pronounced "Dee-FAC." 

Dome of obedience: Slang for a military helmet. Also
called a "brain bucket" or "skid lid." 

Dynamic truth: Basically means "this is the plan when
my supervisor gave it to me, but change is already in
the works."

Echelons above reality: Higher headquarters where no
one has an idea about what is really happening.

Embrace the suck: Phrase heard in OIF1 (the original
Operation Iraqi Freedom force). Translation: The
situation is bad, but deal with it. 

Flash-blasted: Being screamed at or chewed out by the
unit's senior noncommissioned officer. 

Fobbits: Derogatory term for soldiers who never leave
an FOB (Forward Operations Base). 

Geardo: Derogatory term for the guy who has to have
all the latest and greatest gear on his uniform, even
though he does not know how to use it. 

General order No. 1: General order that does not
permit drinking or fraternizing in Iraq and Kuwait. 

Ghetto grip: A detachable, pistol-type grip that can
make a carbine easier to use. 

Groundhog Day: Every day of your tour in Iraq.

Grunt-proof: Idiot-proof.

Haji: Slang for an Iraqi, but may mean any Middle
Easterner who hails from a predominantly Muslim

Idiot stick: Slang for an M16 (or any weapon). 

Jersey barrier: Slang for a small concrete barrier. 

Johnny Jihad: Slang for a Muslim or Muslim combatant. 

Lifer juice: Coffee.

Marsalama: GI Arabic. Corruption of Arabic for "Go in
peace." In conversation, it means "See you later."

Mookie: Nickname for Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr.

O dark 30: Pronounced "oh dark thirty." A word play on
military time. Means a very early hour during the
night. ("We had to get up at oh-dark-thirty.")

OPSEC: Operational security. "Loose lips sink ships"
of World War II fame is an OPSEC warning. 

Oscar Mike: On the move (Marine lingo).

Oz: Australia. Hence "Ozzies" — Australians.

POG: People Other than Grunts. Pronounced like
"rogue." Used by grunts as a derogatory word for
everyone else. 

Pubic plate: Also pube armor or pubic pad. Kevlar pad
that flops over the crotch. Other terms: Nad Pad or
Nut Guard.

PUC: Person Under Custody. ("We got two PUCs on that
last raid.")

Red Zone: The area outside the Green Zone. "Haifa
Street" is a main drag in the Red Zone.

RUMINT: Rumor level intelligence. A variant is BOGINT
— bogus intelligence.

Rummy's Dummies: A derogatory name for the U.S.
military under the leadership of former Secretary of
Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Semper I: Pejorative Marine lingo for being overly
concerned with one's own personal interests. 

Single-digit midget: A member of the armed services
who has nine days or less remaining on his tour of

Speed bumps: A tanker's derogatory term for infantry
soldiers. Operation Desert Storm-era slang still
occasionally used. 

Terps: Slang for interpreters

Tread head: A soldier serving in an armor (tank) or
armored cavalry (armored recon) unit. 

Turkey peek: To glance around or over an object or
surface, such as a corner or wall. 

Waxed: To get hit hard or get killed.

Weekend warrior: U.S. reservist or National Guard

Yalla: GI adaptation of Arabic word for hurry up or

AUSTIN BAY is an Army Reserve veteran of the Iraq war
who blogs at . He is the
editor of "Embrace the Suck: A Pocket Guide to
Milspeak," published by the New Pamphleteer
(, from which these definitions
are excerpted.

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