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The ABCs of speaking 'military-ese'

By Michael Holmes
CNN

Holmes
Reporters must decipher acronyms that sometimes U.S. military officials don't even understand, said Holmes.

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Behind the Scenes
Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Come to Iraq, and it's handy to know a second language.

Arabic? Oh no, dear readers. The language of "Acronym." As in:

"There's been a SitRep of SIGACT near the LZ. You may need CAS or an ASR. Go with the IA or a PSD because the AIF are everywhere. Check with the LMCC first, and don't use LECs. Don't forget your LRCT and PMR, and touch base with RSO when you get there."

Huh? (For the understandably confused, each acronym above is explained at the bottom of this page.)

OK, that particular conversation never took place. But it could have.

Reporters dealing with the U.S. military in Iraq must become familiar with the lingo used by troops, generals and officials alike. "Take cover!" is always a handy, oft-used phrase to recognize. But it's the acronyms that you really need to know if you plan on reading reports or not looking like a newbie at the PX (aka, the Post Exchange -- the place on a military base where you can buy everything from boots to baseballs).

When I was a kid in Australia, "CAC" referred to a certain bodily function and always drew a giggle in the schoolyard. Here, it's your Common Access Card -- the standard ID for military personnel.

A colleague remembers a briefing where a general used a particularly long acronym. A reporter took the risk of looking just plain silly and asked what it stood for.

"Um," came the reply. Pause. "I'm not sure exactly." An aide whispered in his ear.

"Well, that's a silly acronym," said the general, who had just used it.

Military folk in Iraq will often use acronyms when the actual, er, words would be easier to say. How about an LRCT? That stands for Long Range Cordless Telephone. But, hey, why not say cell phone? It's quicker, and avoids needless befuddlement.

For a long time, one of the most popular military acronyms in Iraq was AMZ -- for terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq prior to his death.

Yet other acronyms live on. Tomorrow, I'm headed out with the military on a Black Hawk helicopter. I'll grab my CPIC ID (Central Press Information Center Identification) and drive to the IZ (International Zone), which the media call the GZ (Green Zone).

Our PSD (Personal Security Detail) will BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for DBSs (Drive By Shootings) IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) or -- heaven forbid -- EFPs (Explosively Formed Projectiles) en route, which would prompt a CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation).

That would be a BD (Bad Day).

Translation of terms

Here's a rundown of the acronyms mentioned earlier in this story:

  • SitRep (Situation Report)
  • SIGACT (Significant Action)
  • LZ (Landing Zone)
  • CAS (Close Air Support)
  • ASR (Alternate Supply Route)
  • IA (Iraqi Army)
  • PSD (Personal Security Detail)
  • AIF (Anti Iraqi Forces)
  • LMCC (Logistical Movement Coordination Center)
  • LEC (Locally Employed Contractor)
  • LRCT (Long Range Cordless Telephone)
  • PMR (Personal Mobile Radio)
  • RSO (Regional Security Office)
  • There are many, many, many others that I could reveal, but they're OOB. Sorry: Out Of Bounds.

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