navy life

How to Talk Navy: a glossary of terms

Do you know someone in the military? Do they seem to be speaking another language? Probably. Here is a general glossary of terms that may make communication just a smidge easier.

This will be a work in progress as I come upon new things that need explaining, or as folks ask me questions that I may need to answer more broadly. That being said, there is a lot of jargon in my everyday life that most people don’t understand or that I have stopped thinking of in terms of jargon. I’m going to share some of that here so that you, too, can translate some of the things coming out of your military friend’s mouth.

In No Particular Order:

  • Active Duty Service Member: 
    This is a full time military service member. The military is their “day job” if you will.
  • Reservist:
    This is a military service member who trains on a monthly basis but has a different “day job” the rest of the time. They can be activated and deployed as needed.
  • Orders:
    This refers specifically to the documents that spell out what the military member’s next assignment is. You may here them refer to “orders in hand” which means they literally have the physical copy of the assignment in their possession. Orders can change at any time. In my house we say they are written in Jello.
  • Billet:
    A specific position that an individual service member can be assigned to fill. So you get orders to fill a billet, if that makes sense.
  • PRD:
    Stands for “Projected Rotation Date” and is the day that the current orders expire and the military member is scheduled to go to the next duty station.
  • PCS:
    Stands for “Permanent Change of Station” and it means start taking inventory because guess what, honey, we’re moving. Again.
  • TDA/TDY:
    Stands for “Temporary Duty Assignment” and “Temporary Duty” and for our sake we can assume they are mostly interchangeable. If you want to get technical (which I’m sure some of you do) TDY is more typically used in the Army and Air Force.
  • IA:
    Stands for “Individual Augmentee” and is what you call the individual service member that is sent on TDA/TDY.
  • CONUS:
    The continental United States. This does not include Alaska and Hawaii.
  • OCONUS:
    Not the continental United States. This does include Alaska and Hawaii as well as any other international bases/ports/whathaveyou.
  • DFAS:
    Defense Finance and Accounting Service. It’s who pays the military bills, including pay to service members.
  • LES:
    Stands for Leave and Earnings Statement. It’s the monthly breakdown of a service member’s income, etc, including base pay, allowances (for housing, etc), taxes and other deductions, and any leave earned or used.
  • BAH: Basic Allowance for Housing. This is based on where the service member is assigned, how long they’ve been in service, and whether or not they have dependents.
  • Leave:
    Time off. Most active duty service members accrue 2.5 days of leave per month, which equates to 30 days a year.
  • Commissary:
    The military grocery store. They don’t charge tax there and often have items at reduced prices, though depending on where you are the selection may or may not be great. Bigger bases = bigger commissaries. (From personal experience, I used this way more OCONUS than CONUS.)
  • BX/PX/MCX/NEX:
    The Exchange, in different branches. (So, Base Exchange, Post Exchange, Marine Corps Exchange, Navy Exchange respectively.) Similar to the commissary but for non-food items. Think of Sears and Target and your local outlet mall kind of mushed together under one roof. You can buy cat food and Coach bags in the same store. I know.
  • Deployment:
    This one may seem obvious, but it changes depending on the branch of service your military friend is in, as well as the particular orders/duty station. It can be short (a few weeks) or long (over a year) but on average for the Navy it’s 6 to 9 months.
  • Sea Duty and Shore Duty:
    Okay, so this one is Navy-specific, but it’s exactly what it sounds like: Sea Duty means orders to a command that goes to sea (i.e. deployments) while Shore Duty means orders to a command that is always on shore (i.e. shipyards, instructor billets, etc).

By No Means Comprehensive

So, do you feel like you’ve got a handle on this? Let’s say your military friend comes to you and says: “I just got orders OCONUS and need to set up my PCS.” Can you translate? If you guessed: “I’ve been reassigned overseas somewhere and now they’re going to send movers to pack up all of my stuff” then you win!

Know that this isn’t by any means comprehensive, plus there are all kinds of terms that get thrown around that are slang, and I’m not going to try and suss those out here. If you really want to get into the nitty gritty you can check out this Glossary of Military Terms and Slang from Military.com, but know that the old adage about “swearing like a sailor” applies in triplicate to military members and their slang. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

conservation, probably a tree hugger thing, zoo stuff

Wildlife Wednesday: burrowing owls!

Living Coast, burrowing owl

Ever since I read Hoot by Carl Hiaasen, I’ve been kind of fascinated by these little birds of prey. This burrowing owl is from the Living Coast Discovery Center and is part of a colony they have on exhibit there. They eat insects and small mammals, or small reptiles and amphibians they find. One interesting thing I learned about them is that they actually nest in burrows made by other animals, such as ground squirrels, which are very common here. They hunt by running along the ground (which I would SO love to see, with those little legs scooting along) or by swooping and grabbing things (like insects) from the air.

Burrowing owls are locally (in Orange and San Diego Counties) almost extinct, other than a tiny population on a Navy base. The Orange County base recently started bolstering protection for the owls, which are the only nesting owls in this part of the state that anyone has found, and they are very close to another endangered species (least terns) right on the base. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, as the terns are naturally snack food for burrowing owls.

There are over twenty subspecies of burrowing owls, including the Floridian one made famous by Hoot. They used to be common all over the US but since their territory is also prime land for development (wide open areas with sparse vegetation), they are running out of places to breed in localized areas. You can read more about them at the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network site.

Personally I think they are ridiculously cute, with their fluffy bodies and long, skinny legs and I’d love to see one in the wild. I’ll add it to by California bucket list. ^_^

holidays, updates

Holiday party… in March?

holiday party j and j

Last weekend we had our very belated holiday party with J’s command. It’s a holiday party because, y’know, they missed ALL of the holidays while on deployment. Plus it was a homecoming party.

holiday party girls

It was nice, and a bunch of people who are becoming our friends came, and we had a good time. Mostly it was fun to dress up (and I finally got to wear my dress from the wedding I didn’t make) and J wore a new outfit and we enjoyed talking to people and meeting new people and all of those things you do at command functions, except it was better because the command is SMALL and only about a quarter of the people came (I think… maybe half?) so it didn’t feel too crowded and overwhelming.

???????????????????????????????

I don’t have much to say, because really going to these command dinner parties is a lot like going to a wedding where you only know the bride and groom and none of the guests. There’s even a buffet line and bad dancing, with most of the dance floor occupied by the younger (i.e. the below-ten-years-old) set.

???????????????????????????????

Still, I thought I’d share some photos. So there you go. ^_^

navy life

Re-enlistment photos

Here’s the link to J’s  re-enlistment photos. They were taken by a friend of mine so I wouldn’t have to worry about it during the ceremony. I’ve got a bunch from the rest of the day that I’ll add later when I have time to upload them.

SONY DSC

I have to say, it’s a little weird to realize this enlistment takes him almost to retirement– 17 years. Then it’ll just be one more 3 year contract somewhere. Just plain weird.

See the flag he’s holding? That was raised over his ship that morning. We then left it at the USS Missouri (that’s the ship we’re on for the ceremony) and they raised it over the ship. J and I picked it up and took it to the USS Arizona Memorial where they let us take the ferry ride out to the memorial and the park ranger there helped us raise the flag on that mast, too. So that flag has flown over three Navy ships. Very cool.

That night I surprised him with dinner at one of his favorite new places– two couples and their kids met us there. It was a fun night and a great way to end the day.

[update]
I added the other photos, so now the ones from the Arizona Memorial and dinner are online, too.

navy life, photography

Takin’ care of business: Week 9 of 2012 in photos

This week has been one in which I accomplished a lot and worked very hard on several projects. My photos are mostly of things related to them, with a handful of other randomness.

Monday I cleaned the bedroom and started getting things together to make a deployment shadowbox and scrapbook for J. He collected some patches, so I had them spread out on the bed… and Caspian decided they were his.

Continue reading “Takin’ care of business: Week 9 of 2012 in photos”