Common Military Acronyms – Making it in the Military

Common Military Acronyms - Because learning what all those letters stand for makes military life much easier - Making it in the Military
Yes, the military does speak a different language. In fact, when I was researching this post, I found out that there are over 12,000 military specific terms and acronyms. No wonder family members get confused!

Learning what all those letters stand for makes military life much easier. Below is a list of common military acronyms. If I left any out feel free to add yours in the comments, as long as they are “G” rated. 🙂


  • AAFES – Army and Air Force Exchange Service (This is the tax-free department store for military members, retirees, and their dependents.)
  • ACUArmy Combat Uniform
  • ADActive Duty
  • AFPFTAir Force Physical Fitness Test
  • APFTArmy Physical Fitness Test
  • APOArmy Post Office (Address used for overseas duty locations. Mailing to an APO costs the same as mailing to a US address.)
  • ASVAB – Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (Test recruits take that helps determine what their job will be in the service.)
  • AWOLAbsent Without Leave
  • BAH – Basic Allowance For Housing (paid to a service member based on location and dependents.)
  • BASBasic Allowance for Substinence (The money a service member receives for food.)


  • CDOCommand Duty Officer
  • CINCCommander In Chief
  • COCommanding Officer (The one in charge.)
  • COLACost of Living Allowance (Extra pay given to service members in high cost areas, based on area and number of dependents.)
  • CONUSContinental United States
  • DEERS – Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (You must be enrolled in this to be eligible for benefits.)
  • DITYDo-It-Yourself move
  • DODDepartment of Defense
  • DSDrill Sargeant


  • EFMPExceptional Family Member Program (Program for military dependents who need have special physical and or mental needs.)
  • FPO Fleet Post Office
  • IGInspector General
  • JAGJudge Advocate General (Military Lawyers)
  • LESLeave and Earning Statment (This form, which is available online is your pay stub.)
  • TDYTemporary Duty (Military member is temporarily assigned to a different duty station, may or may not involve travel.)
  • MAC Military Airlift Command
  • MCCSMarine Corps Community Service
  • MEPSMilitary Entrance Processing Center (Entrance point for your military career.)
  • MPMilitary Police
  • MWR – Morale, Welfare, and Recreation. (Comprehensive network of support and leisure services designed to enhance the lives of soldiers, their families, civilian employees, military retirees, and other eligible participants.)


  • NCONon Commissioned Officer
  • NCIOCNon-commissioned Officer In Charge
  • NEXNavy Exchange (Same thing as AAFES, but for the Navy)
  • OCONUSOutside Continental United States (Used to describe duty station location)
  • OCSOfficer Candidate School (Boot camp for officers)
  • OPROfficer Performance Report
  • PCSPermanent Change of Station (time to call the movers!)
  • PFTPhysical Fitness Test
  • POAPower of Attorney (Every military family must have one of these!)
  • POVPersonally Owned Vehicle (Your car, truck, van, bus, etc)
  • PRT – Physical Readiness Test (Navy)
  • TADTemporary Additional Duty (Marines & Navy)
  • TAP –  Transition Assistance Program  (Program to help separating service members during their period of transition into civilian life by offering job-search assistance and related services)


  • USAUnited States Army
  • USAFUnited States Air Force
  • USCG United States Coast Guard
  • USMCUnited States Marine Corps
  • USN United States Navy
  • WOWarrant Officer
  • XOExecutive Officer (Second in Command)

Didn’t see what you are looking for? Check out this site for a comprehensive listing of military acronyms.

More Making it in the Military

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Making it in the Military ~ Military Pay

Making it in the Military ~ Military Pay at The Happy Housewife

2010 Military pay charts have been released! Service members will receive a 3.4% pay raise in 2010.

While basic pay is taxable, most allowances are not taxable. To find out your tax advantage view the Regular Military Compensation Calculator .

The most junior military members earn around $17,000 a year in basic pay, while the most senior officer makes over $220,000. How is that for incentive to stay for the long haul? Military pay is much more complex than basic pay. There are a host of special pays and allowances paid to service members as well. Listed below are the basics of military pay and allowances.

2010 Enlisted Pay

2010 Officer Pay

Basic Pay: Your military salary. Based on rank and time in service. You can find a 2009 pay chart here.

Basic Allowance for Substance: Money paid to the service member for food. Enlisted members receive$323.87 and Officers receive $223.04 per month.

Basic Allowance for Housing: Money paid to the service member for housing. This pay is based on zip code, rank, and dependents. Contrary to popular belief military members are not paid more if they have more children. There are only two categories for BAH, with dependents or without dependents. the 2010 BAH rates will be released in December. You can a view the current BAH rates here.

Cost of Living Allowance (COLA): COLA is a cash allowance intended to compensate for high cost of living areas. COLA is not assigned to areas where the cost of living is less than of meets the average of that in the United Sates. A service member must be permanently assigned to the area to receive COLA. Based on rank, time in service and number of dependents. Click to view Stateside COLA and Overseas COLA rates.

Clothing Allowance: Officers receive this allowance once, Enlisted members receive the initial allowance, plus an allowance each year. You can find rates here.

There are numerous of other special pays available for service members. To view a comprehensive listing of special pays click here.

Members serving in a combat zone do not pay taxes on their basic pay. I found this interesting article regarding how to make the most of your combat-pay exclusion. You can read a summary of your combat zone benefits here.

It is important check your LES (Leave and Earning Statement) each month to ensure you are receiving the correct pay. The military does make mistakes.  You can log on to My Pay, to view a current LES.

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Your Military Benefits: The Commissary and Exchange

Your Military Benefits: The Commissary and Exchange at The Happy Housewife

One of the biggest benefits to military families is the privilege of shopping at the Commissary and Exchange.

The commissary is a military grocery store. It looks just like a normal grocery store, and sells similar items, the difference is only active duty, retirees, reservists and their dependents may shop there. It is my opinion that the commissary is cheaper on the majority of items. This does not mean that you will not do better with triple coupon, catalinas, or ECB’s, but you cannot buy all your groceries that way. I believe that military families should scan circulars for loss leaders at the local stores. But over the past several years, using the commissary has kept my family of nine’s grocery bill at around $600 a month, and we eat well.

Commissary Facts and Tips

The Dreaded Surcharge: The commissary adds a 5% surcharge to your total bill.  Depending on where you live, this may cut into your savings. Certain states charge a sales tax on their food, so if you live in one of those states the surcharge probably doesn’t make a difference. I live in Maryland, which does not charge sales tax on food. The 5% charge may make a difference for someone who is driving an hour each way to the commissary and has to factor in the cost of fuel.

Tipping: I know there are many people who do not like having to tip the baggers, but don’t take it out on them, they are just doing their job. I always tip the baggers, but I do think it is hard to determine a fair amount. There are several factors to consider; weather, number of bags, distance to the vehicle. The more bags I have the higher the tip, but I have never tipped more than $5.

Is the commissary really cheaper: I would have to say yes, item for item, pound for pound the commissary is cheaper. I only shop at other grocery stores when I am getting things for free, or close to free. There will be times when using double coupons and bogos, you will be able to beat the commissary’s price, but unless all your shopping, including meat and produce, is done that way you will save money overall at the commissary.

Getting the best deals at the commissary

Do not shop on a payday weekend. These are the busiest shopping days at the commissary. It is almost impossible to walk down the aisles, not to mention figure out coupons if you shop during this time.

Take advantage of the tear off coupons. These are the coupons that are attached to the shelves. Many times these coupons match up with items that are already on sale. Combining sales and coupons this way can almost get you items for free. For example, last month there were many rip off coupons in the taco aisle, and all the Old El Paso items were on sale. I bought 3 jars of salsa, 4 boxes of shells, 4 cans of refried beans and 2 seasoning canisters for $6.

Plan your menus around commissary sales. The commissary rotates its sale items every two weeks, starting on Thursdays. This means the price of almost everything in the commissary changes every two weeks. If you see something on sale, stock up! It might be twice as much the next time you go to the store. I post the commissary sales every two weeks with coupon match-ups. Each store does run manager’s specials that vary from store to store. You can look up your individual commissary here.

If you live far from a commissary, try making one bulk trip every 4 to 6 weeks. At one point we lived about an hour a way from the Commissary. I went every 4 weeks to purchase in bulk; milk, yogurt, formula, diapers, bread, cereal and meat. I would also pick up the groceries I needed for the week. As far as I know, stateside commissaries do not ration items so you can really stock up on things that are a great price.

The commissary will save you more money if you live in a high cost of living area. I live in the D.C. metro area. There is no other store that can compete with the commissary’s prices. I also found this to be the case when I lived in the Virginia Beach area. If you aren’t sure about your commissary savings try making a price book. This will help you to determine whether or not making an hour or so drive to the commissary is worth your time and money.

The Exchange (PX/ NEX)

The Exchange is a department store. They sell everything from clothes to toys to jewelry and make-up. The big benefit of the Exchange is that all your purchases are tax free. This can be a huge savings on big ticket items. Their prices are competitive, but you I recommend shopping around before purchasing larger items. The Exchange does price match, and you can find their policy here.

Using your Commissary and Exchange benefits can help stretch your family’s budget. What is your best commissary or exchange shopping tip?

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On Base Housing ~ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

On Base Housing ~ The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Base housing, you either love it or hate it. When orders arrive one of the first things we do as military spouses is check out the housing website. Is it new, old, on base, off base, what is the BAH, and will they let me bring my doberman? Housing all over the United States is being privatized and remodeled at a furious pace. On some bases the quality of military housing far exceeds the housing available in the local economy, while other housing should be bulldozed.

The Good

Priced at your BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing). When you sign a lease to move into a military home you agree to pay your entire housing allowance to the housing office. This price pays your rent, utilities, and in some cases your yard maintenance. There are very few financial surprises when you live on base.

Safety of living on base. Many housing areas are located on the military installation, which means you have 24/7 security.

Amenities. Many of the bases have pools, playgrounds, and gyms that are available for you to use for free as a perk for living on base.

Larger Housing. Some of the new housing is quite large and many junior enlisted families are getting much more out of their BAH than they would if they lived off base.

Pets Allowed. Most bases allow pets in housing without a pet deposit. Certain breeds of dogs are forbidden on many bases.

Community Feel. When you live on base you are surrounded by people who are in the your exact same situation. Many families are dealing with deployments, shift work, and watches. I have found that people are quick to befriend their neighbors because everyone has moved many times before.

Close proximity to work. If you are living on base, chances are pretty good you are living close to work as well. This could eliminate the need for a second car if the active duty member is able to bike or walk to work.

Close proximity to Commissary. Many times the commissary will be within walking distance from housing. With the cost of gas fluctuating it is nice to be within a mile of two of a inexpensive grocery store.

Housing is based on rank and number of children. If you are a lower rank but you have a lot of kids, you will get a larger home, regardless of your BAH. This means an E-3 with 4 kids will be living in a 4 or 5 bedroom home, even though they could probably only afford a 2 bedroom apartment on the economy.

The Bad

Utility Billing in some areas. Many bases that have been privatized are now monitoring and charging for utilities if you exceed the average use of like homes. So, if you are a utility hog you will be paying out of pocket for your utilities. But if you conserve, you will be refunded the difference each month.

False Sense of Security. Yes, the fact that you are living within the confines of the gate does keep certain people off base. But, there are many creeps and thieves that live in your neighborhoods. There is crime on military bases and people should use the same caution they would use out in town.

Small/ Old Outdated Housing. Even though many bases have privatized their housing, there are still many bases with substandard units. It takes time to remodel houses, so it is possible you could get stuck in a small, old house.

Housing Office. Usually there is only one housing office, so if you are having trouble, you don’t have many other options.

Same old, same old. Base housing usually isn’t very pretty. The materials used are usually cheaper and everyone’s house looks exactly the same, at least on the outside.

Lack of storage. This is hit or miss, I have lived in houses with a tremendous amount of storage and others were we were getting rid of things left and right in order to fit into the house. Many older homes do not have basements, attics, or garages.

Difficult for nonmilitary friends to visit. I always felt bad that our friends had to get out of their vehicles and were subjected to searches, in order to visit us. It made our house a less than ideal place for events and parties.

The Ugly

Sometimes base housing is ugly, really ugly.

In the end living on base is a personal decision that depends heavily on your personal circumstances. With the recent down turn in the economy it is sometimes a better deal to live off base. We were able to find a house significantly bigger than our base house for less than our BAH. In other places, the cost of living is extremely high and living on base allows people to stay within their budget.

I do recommend that junior enlisted families live on base if  the housing is adequate. Income is limited and living on base helps control fluctuating expenses such as utilities, that can bust a budget in a colder than normal winter.

What has been your base housing experience, good, bad or just plain ugly?

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