A male Air Force captain listens to a radio during an outdoor training exercise.
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Common Military Acronyms

Sometimes it feels like the military has a language all its own made entirely of acronyms and abbreviations. And while your service member is probably fluent in this strange tongue, you may need a little help to keep up.

Military acronyms: The basics for new recruits

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AAFES: Army and Air Force Exchange Service. The retailer that operates post exchanges on Army and Air Force installations.

AIT or “A School”: Advanced Individual Training. The hands-on career training and field instruction each service member receives before being qualified to do a specific military job. This specialized schooling varies by military branch.

ASVAB: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. A multiple-choice test a prospective recruit takes before enlisting to see if they are qualified to join and which military jobs they are qualified.

DoD: Department of Defense. The department of the U.S. government responsible for military operations.

MEPS: Military Entrance Processing Station. Where service members take the ASVAB, get a physical, choose their military job and swear in.

MOS: Military Occupational Specialty. This is a service member’s specific job in the military, from artillery and aviation to engineering and intelligence.

OPSEC: Operational Security. The process of identifying and protecting information about military operations.

PT: Physical Training. Key to military readiness, service members will be expected to meet fitness standards throughout their enlistment.

PX: Post Exchange. A store at a military installation that sells merchandise and services to military personnel and authorized civilians.

Military acronyms: Chain of command

CO: Commanding Officer. The officer in charge of a military unit, such as captain for a company (Army) and squadron commander for a squadron of aircraft (Air Force).

JSC: Joint Chiefs of Staff. A group of senior military leaders who advise the president, the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council and the National Security Council on military matters.

NCO: Non-Commissioned Officer. A military officer who has not received a commission, such as sergeant (Army) and warrant officer (Navy).

XO: Executive Officer. The second-in-command to a commanding officer.

Military acronyms: MilLife paperwork

BRS: Blended Retirement System. The military’s new retirement system, which extends benefits to about 85 percent of service members, even if they don’t serve a full 20 years. This system uses the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, described below.

DEERS: Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. A database of military families and others entitled to receive TRICARE and other benefits.

LES: Leave and Earning Statement. This bimonthly statement reports what you've earned, how much has been withheld for taxes, your leave balance and what allotments you have. Service members in the Air Force or Army may choose to receive their pay monthly, in which case the LES would be reported only once a month instead of twice.

POC: Point of Contact. The person you contact about a specific program or assignment.

TRICARE: Military health care program. TRICARE provides health benefits to service members, retirees and their families.

TSP: Thrift Savings Plan. Similar to a 401(k), the TSP is a government-sponsored retirement savings and investment plan. The TSP is a fundamental part of the military’s new Blended Retirement System, or BRS, described above.

Military acronyms: Finance and housing

BAH: Basic Housing Allowance. Compensation service members receive to cover the cost of housing when government quarters are not provided.

COLA: Cost of Living Allowance. Compensation service members receive to offset the cost of living in more expensive areas of the U.S.

OHA: Overseas Housing Allowance. Compensation service members receive for housing outside the U.S. when government quarters aren’t available.

POC: Privately Owned Conveyance. A service member’s personal vehicle that is not owned by the government.

Military acronyms: Locations

CONUS/OCONUS: The Continental U.S., or CONUS, is the 48 connected states and District of Columbia. OCONUS is Outside the Continental U.S.

DITY: Do-It-Yourself, or a personally procured move, which can save a service member a lot of money moving. This is often associated with moving during a permanent change of station.

FOB: Forward Operating Base. A temporary, secured operational position that supports strategic goals and tactical objectives.

PCS: Permanent Change of Station. The relocation of an active-duty service member to a different duty location. Service members may PCS every few years.

PPM: Personally Procured Move. A move a service member plans and conducts on their own, instead of having the military do it. PPM expenses may be reimbursed by the military.

TDY: Temporary Duty Station. A temporary assignment at a location other than a service member’s permanent duty station.

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