Military Terms Glossary

A Resource for Schools, Scouting Troops, and Faith-Based Organizations

Military terms can be confusing if you are not used to them. We wanted to allow you to feel comfortable when these terms are used so we produced this military terms glossary. When someone takes the time to learn terms unique to their culture, a greater communication can be had.

Most military service members do not want to burden a civilian with their terms. However, a service member and their child is so used to speaking with these terms they forget that those not familiar with the terms seem like they are in a foreign land. Here is a simple list for your reference of what a child’s parent may share in a conversation.

This military terms glossary should help you learn the most important terms that you may need to know. Many of these terms are used, a few of the terms are used in specific military branches, be it Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Using these words in a conversation with a military child and/or the child’s parent will help you bridge a better communication. The military parent/ guardian will feel you understand and will open up, knowing you took the time and effort, and desire to support their efforts.

Educators near a military base hear these terms and a military child will use these terms often- Deploy, PCS, and will reference themselves a Dependent. Military Childrens Collaborative Group believes if more children’s organizations and faith based groups used these terms they would gain greater participation from military service members, their family and children.

You can ask “How long is your parent’s PCS assignment? This will give you an idea when the family is planning to move, and if or when the child needs support.

Asking a military child questions such as “Does your parent have orders to deploy?” can enable a child to share their concerns if their parent is to deploy. Or, perhaps the parent has just returned from a deployment, and the child is trying to adjust.

You can review these military terms below, or click the download button to download a pdf copy of our military terms glossary.

  • Active Duty: Continuous duty on a daily basis. Civilian term full time employment
  • BAH: Basic Allowance for Housing
  • Battalion: a unit of 300-1,000 soldiers
  • Brigade: a unit of 3,000-5,000 soldiers
  • Care Package: a package sent from homes containing food and or personal items
  • Chain of Command: the succession of commanding officers from a superior to a subordinate thorough commands are executed
  • CO: Commanding Officer
  • Company: a unit of 62-190 soldiers led by a captain
  • Corps: the Marine Corps also a unit of 20,000-40,000 soldiers
  • DoDDS: Department Defense Dependent Schools
    Dependent: a family member from who service member is legally and financially responsible
  • Deploy: to systematically station military persons or forces over an area. The service member is temporarily assigned away from their home base.
  • Division: a unit of 10,000- 15,000 soldiers
  • Inactive Reserve Duty: affiliation with the military in a non-training, nonpaying status after completing the minimum obligation of active duty
  • IED: Improvised Explosive Devise
  • Lifer: career military personnel
  • MEPS: Military Entrance Processing Station. Military bases throughout the US.
  • MIA: Missing In Action
  • MOS: Military Occupational Specialty
  • NCO: Non-Commissioned Officer; an enlisted person
  • Obligation: the period of time an individual agrees to serve active duty, Reserves or a combination of both
  • OCS: Officer Candidate School. A program for college graduates with no prior military training that wishes to become an officer
  • Quarters: Living accommodations or housing
  • Rank: Grade or official standing of commissioned and warrant officers
  • Reserves: the military forces compromised of individuals who are full time duty, but may not be active duty
  • R&R: Rest and Relaxation
  • Sea Duty: an assignment to any ship
  • Service or Services: A branch or multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces. There are five in all: the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps (or Marines) and the Navy.
  • Stand Down: a 3 day rest period for units coming out of the field
  • Station: A place of assigned duty
  • Tour of Duty: a specified period of service obligation
  • VA: Veterans Administration
  • Warrant Officer: A member of the Army, Navy, or Marines who is a technical specialist or pilot. These members are generally appointed from the enlisted, non-commissioned officer ranks

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