joanna irl

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.
    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.)
    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, 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 ftw

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. ^_^

joanna irl

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. ^_^

joanna irl

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”

joanna irl

Mystery Tour: Pearl Harbor Holiday Lights

So, this afternoon I fell asleep as my Tar Heels clobbered another basketball team. I think I passed out a little after three, but I’m not entirely certain… At any rate, I woke up at five when my friend called me. We had an entire conversation where she invited me to go somewhere. I agreed– I love going places! I asked what to wear (was told to bring a jacket and wear shoes that wouldn’t slip) and found out I’d be picked up in 45 minutes.

I got up and started changing clothes.. and then realized that, being only half awake when the phone rang, I had no idea where we were going.

I’m not kidding.

But I decided to go along with the plan anyway. I wore layers (just in case) and a lightweight cardigan and a pair of hiking shoes (again, just in case) and sure enough, I got picked up at 5:45.

In the car on the way to where-we-were-going, I admitted that I didn’t know what was happening. After a good laugh, we decided I could be surprised. We went onto the Navy base, parked, and then got in a really long line. As the sun set, the line got longer… and all the ships’ party lights were lit. Then a couple of the Pearl Harbor boats (the ones that take you to the memorial) pulled up pier side and I discovered we were going on a boat tour of the harbor lights!

It was a nice surprise. ^_^

decorated submarine

joanna irl

Year 29

Well, my 29th birthday has come and gone.

Bird of Paradise

It’s been a lovely weekend (week, really) of celebrating with friends and enjoying time together.

On Wednesday, I was treated to barbeque and macaroni and cornbread (at my request!) for dinner, followed by cupcakes. Friday I had dinner with a couple of friends, then we headed to the north shore and stayed at Turtle Bay Resort for the night. We had a beautiful ocean-view room and I had the bed by the balcony; we fell asleep listening to the ocean crashing against the rocks and sand. Saturday morning I woke up early (as has become my custom) and rolled over… and saw this:

Turtle Bay sunrise

I blearily reached for my camera and stumbled out onto the balcony and my camera and I watched the sun rise. It was gorgeous.

Turtle Bay pedi

After that, we had a brunch (including a spinach, crab, and brie omelet!) and then another friend joined us and we hung out by the pool for a couple of hours. We got pedicures at the spa there, spent more time at the pool, and then drove down to Haleiwa for a late lunch and some window shopping. I went into the art gallery I like up there and discovered the Heather Brown piece I love is completely sold out (they only do 100 per run) so I picked a new one to daydream about putting in my living room. Maybe before we leave the island I’ll really get one.

Saturday night I went to a 50th birthday party and had a good time relaxing and chatting with some new people. Tonight (Sunday), I had dinner with a bunch of my friends and it was nice to have so many people come out to spend the evening with me. I’ve got a great group of friends in my life right now. One is leaving tomorrow to go to their next duty station and it was sad to say goodbye tonight… but not as sad as other goodbyes have been. I’m at the point where I just say, “See you soon!” and I really mean it; goodbye isn’t forever, especially in the military community.

Turtle Bay surfer

October is looking like it will be a good month. ^_^

joanna irl

…worth 1000 words

About a month ago a bunch of the spouses from the ship got together and made posters that I mailed to the ship to hang in the messdecks. We plan on making this a monthly thing, which is a good way for us to stay connected. Anyway, I got this photo  in return:

J with poster

It made me so happy to get a photo and to see J smiling, but a couple of things stand out.

The deployment ‘stache. Every time the ship leaves, he grows one. He’d grow a full beard if the Navy would let him, but all they allow is a mustache, so there it is. Beyond what the Navy lets him do, that’s one thing that’s not allowed to come home. It stays with the ship.

The giant bowl of chocolate ice cream. Clearly they had a social that day. He claims he’s been eating healthy… heh heh. It’s okay, a little ice cream now and again never hurt anyone.

The Camelbak he’s wearing. I’m so glad to know he’s keeping hydrated. Random, but it really does make me worry less.

Also I’m pretty sure he’s lost weight, but that’s normal for deployments, too.

So anyway, nothing too profound tonight but I did want to share this photo. ^_^