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.

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  1. One thing that I quickly learned with the military is that the lingo for one branch of the military is not the same as the lingo for another branch.

    Example: in the Marine Corps it’s DI (drill instructor), TAD (temporary active duty), MCX (Marine Corps Exchange), PFT (physical fitness test)…

    Some of the terms that crack me up are: pogeybait (non-issued snacks), scuttlebutt (gossip/rumors)

  2. Looking at that list, you can see the changes that have been made. Like BDUs are now ACUs. Great post!!!

  3. What a great resource! I’ve been married to my Air Force man for 14 years now and STILL get some of these confused!

    Thanks for posting and God’s blessings on your day!


  4. Yes, Marines and Navy have TAD while the other services have TDY (temporary duty), which is the same thing. This is one acronym that hasn’t crossed service lines very well, so you may find yourself explaining your terminology, even to an AD NCOIC!

    Suggestion for a future post: information about rank insignia. I studied all the Navy stuff before we got our first set of orders…and the Good Lord sent us to an Air Force base. I was completely confused.

    • TheHappyHousewife says:

      Oh yes, TAD… forgot to add the Navy and Marine version!
      As for rank insignia, I would have to learn that myself if I were to do a post on it! It still confuses me. 🙂

  5. This is a very comprehensive list!

    And yes, the rank insignia is very confusing to me. I’m still learning the Army’s and I think the entire ranking is different for Air Force and Navy.

  6. This is really helpful. We’ve been in the Army for almost four years and sometimes it is confusing to listen to my husband talk in acronymns. lol.

    Oh, and BX is Base Exchange and PX is Post Exchange.

  7. When I was growing up my dad was in the Navy, so I was familiar with the Navy terms. After dh and I got married, he joined the Army and I learned that many of the terms are different. Very confusing. Especially when an acronym has multiple meanings or is one thing to one branch and something totally different to another.
    As to rank, good golly! A captain in the Army is an O3, but a captain in the Navy is an 06. That is a significant difference in pay grade and how they are treated. A SSG in the AF is an E5, but in the Army a SSG is an E6. Same thing with SGM, in the AF it’s E7, Army E8. The Navy is the only one that has ranks that stand alone (though the way they write them out is nuts). My dad is HMCM (SW) USN RET. WHAT? I know what it means, but only because of exposure.
    Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), dh cannot talk about his job, and what little he can tell me is all acronyms, so he might as well be speaking Greek. Ah, the things we live with.

  8. Great list! I had NO idea there were that many acronyms for the military. WOW! LOL!

  9. I can add a couple.
    MCCS (Marine Corps Community Service) – its the same as the MWR, but on a Marine Corp Base, and we are a Navy family.
    ASYMCA (Armed Services YMCA) sometimes on a military base and sometimes off base. Caters to military families through extra curricular activities, after-school care, field trips, and Mommy & Me groups.

  10. I think the new uniforms are called ABUs now. The names and acronyms are always changing. My dad retired in 2000, but sometimes my husband uses acronyms he doesn’t even know about!

  11. Then there are all the acronyms for the commendations, badges, etc. My oldest son got his EFMB….Expert Field Medical Badge & it took me almost as long to learn it as it took him to train, test and get it!

  12. Nancy p says:

    Add usaa the banking and insurance agency that you can only enroll in if a family member has served. Check it out even if it was your dad in the service.


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