Speak the Language of a Victor Echo Tango Echo Romeo Alpha November

“I can’t hear you. Can you speak slower and louder?” There are frequent situations when poor reception or noises in the background result in the need to use a phonetic alphabet. NASA devised the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, IRSA; the quickest and perfected form of communication used by the United States Military and 18.8 million veterans. In any large organization, there are terms, acronyms, phrases and countless slang terms to ensure clear understanding in quick time. Despite the PG version of selected examples, the following list might be an eyeopener, helpful or adopted into your work environment, team or family!

“Military Time”

Rather than presenting time in two 12-hour periods, the military and international countries use a 24-hour clock numbered 00 to 2300. From 1:00 to noon, the time is 100 hours to 1200 hours. Keep adding. By 6:00pm, the hour is 1800 until midnight, or zero-hundred hours. Quarter hours register as zero-15.

“Zero Dark Thirty”

A literal interpretation refers to the time of zero-thirty; however, a second definition implies a time of wakefulness well before sunrise.

“Check Your Six”

In the Air Force, the expression “check your six” is a discrete or vital means to say, “watch out behind you,” especially at the six o’clock position.

“Standby to Standby” or “Hurry Up and Wait!”

As a sometimes-non-efficient unit, the order requires the troop to be alert and standby. Leaving may happen at an undefined time; therefore, expect to wait for long periods.

“Stay in Your Lane!”

An expression to encourage a team to do their job as commanded and trust that additional information is outside of their “boundaries.”


Defined simply as wearing clothes of a civilian.

“Secret Squirrel” 

The youngest in the family would love to be a secret squirrel and report for duty! The squirrel is given a classified op or task to learn “secret” information and return without detection!

“Mandatory Fun”

Office parties or gatherings are not always optional. You are expected to be there on time and have a good time – that’s an order!


Yes, sometimes, the order isn’t optional. It is in your best interest to perform a task.

“Grunt by Association”

Every branch in the military has a term of endearment. Grunts are slang terms for infantrymen in both the Marines and Army. There are other terms such as jarhead (Marines), ground pounders (Army), wingnuts (Airforce) and squibs (Navy). It is wise for a civilian not to refer to a member of the military or veteran as a slang term. As you have not shared the same experience, it is offensive.

A grunt, however, is a lowly ranking individual, who is tired, sweaty, footsore and first in line to perform any less-than-desirable job. While a compliment, the grunt worked tirelessly and daily alongside the infantry.


Dating back to World War II era, the PG acronym represents, “Situation Normal, All Fouled-Up.” A “snafu” is any mistake or problem.

“It’s Looking Like a Soup Sandwich”

A bad situation occurred. Everyone will have to take a bite and suffer the consequences.

“If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It!”

This expression has multiple interpretations. Regardless of how much a piece of equipment or routine works, its functionality depends upon the user. Why fix something if it’s still working?

“If It Ain’t Raining, We Ain’t Training!” 

If training occurs in the best conditions, how will everyone perform in rain, sleet, hail or freezing temperatures? The expression translates into a miserable climate will prepare a group for the real world.

“There is No Such Thing as an Atheist in a Foxhole”

During a moment of fear, this expression conveys the need for religion. A request for a miracle from a higher power.”

“If You Have Time to Lean, You Have Time to Clean!” 

Rank certainly has its privileges. Senior troops do not like to see juniors appearing bored; therefore, if caught, then chances are a new task will involve cleaning.

Every day of the year and especially, on November 11th, think well of the men and women, who took the call, lived standby-to-standby and awaited their “days and a wake-up” to become a private citizen. Happy Veteran’s Day to all who served! Thank you!


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