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AMERICA'S ARMY AND THE LANGUAGE OF GRUNTSUNDERSTANDING THE ARMY LINGO LEGACY
By E. Kelly Taylor
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 E. Kelly Taylor
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePhase Alpha
A (Alpha) popular phonetic character because it's first in line and used so often: A company, A Team, phase alpha, reference point alpha, checkpoint alpha.
A1 nearly obsolete idiom akin to top notch from early U.S. War Office classification of A1 for men fit for general military service overseas. The association with the fitness classification evolved into common usage as A1 for anything good to go. The phrase "A Okay" probably evolved from A1.
A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog) Air Force aircraft specifically designed for close-in combat air support to ground forces and, along with helicopter gunships, a critical lifeline for grunts who need the firepower to destroy enemy forces and suppress enemy fire.
A2C2S (Army Airborne Command and Control System) complex, expensive, and preeminently effective system for airborne tactical command and control using a variety of equipment including the Joint Combat Information Terminal (JCIT). Combat command and control communications systems such as A2C2S get mostly satisfactory ratings in combat operations with two notable exceptions. First, thesheer number and types of systems is overwhelming, and second, interface and interoperability capability are problematic.
AA (Double A) All-American 82nd Airborne Division, aka, by irreverent duds, and most likely not to an 82nd trooper's face, the Almost Airborne, All A**holes, and Alcoholics Anonymous. AA also represents antiaircraft, short for antiaircraft artillery or triple A. In joint operations, AA is assured access to the battle space in all dimensions. Down home "all dimensions" means you can walk, drive, swim, boat, or fly in. The most popular use for Double A in today's Army is describing the 82nd Airborne and double A batteries.
AA3 U.S. Army video game designed to tell the Army story and support recruiting. AA3 emphasizes teamwork, values, and responsibility to achieve goals and is a preeminently entertaining and award-winning introduction to our Army (link to the game at www.goarmy.com).
AAA (Triple A) Antiaircraft Artillery today, antiaircraft rockets or missiles is more appropriate. Triple A guns, while effective, are quickly becoming obsolete against sophisticated air power because they are easily detected and eliminated. Still, weapons like the ZSU-23-2 have an effective range of 2,500 meters and can knock out lightly armored vehicles and troops. Taliban forces in the mountains of Afghanistan use the old weapons, and in conjunction with shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), have been successful against vehicles and troops, and downing vulnerable aircraft.
AAA-O (Anything, Anywhere, Anytime, Bar Nothing) adopted by military outfits over the world including the famous "Hardcore" 4th of the 39th Infantry Battalion in Vietnam. The name evidently originated in the armies of other countries during World War II.
AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) aka the Post Exchange and PX the exchange is a retail department store for soldiers and their families. PX outlets carry brand-name merchandise at good prices with no sales taxes. There are stores in every garrison in the United States and wherever troops go, including some hot spots. The profits are used to support Army morale, welfare, and recreation services.
AAR (After-Action Report) aka After Action Review (Operational Reports and Lessons Learned) historical written details of tactical combat operations, incidents, events, or special subject matters like Gulf War Illness, or Agent Orange, and other topics like logistics, counterinsurgency (COIN) methods, tactics, mines, booby traps, or convoy operations. The purpose is to cull lessons learned that improve efficiency, prevent waste, and save lives. The problem: limited use and distribution of the information. Reports are filed away without ever being seen except by the person who wrote them or approved them. Since a report may never be read again, the same issues come up over and over and over. The primary reason First Sergeants are always mumbling, "No s***, Sherlock!"
A-Bag (duffel) bag packed with basic combat essential equipment and supplies, aka an Alert Bag. The A-Bag is packed and ready to go in case the unit is called out or goes on alert, ready to deploy to a trouble spot. An A-bag and B-bag are typically maintained; the A-bag contains the essential combat gear, the B-bag contains nonessential backup supplies and perhaps civilian clothes (though civilian clothes could be the primary uniform in an operation). For the combat soldier, the A-Bag is an indispensable friend, always around and ready to go with you.
Abatis obstacles such as trees cut down to obstruct a trail and impede movement, reinforced with mines, or booby traps, and covered with direct and indirect fire. From the French for a pile of things thrown down, described by Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary as, "Rubbish in front of a fort, to prevent the rubbish outside from molesting the rubbish inside." Obstacles that slow the enemy are useful but can hinder friendly operations as well. Choke points are natural obstacles or the result of strategically placed obstacles that cause enemy elements to stop or slow in a limited space, such as traffic circles, overpasses, and road tunnels: ideal for booby traps and ambush. Taliban and Iraqi insurgents use them very effectively.
ABN (Airborne) (AB) Germany devised the first combat parachute assault at Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in World War II, which motivated the United States and Britain to form Paratrooper elements. In 1940, the Army stood up the Army Parachute Test Platoon at Fort Benning, Georgia, filled with unmarried men because of the danger. When Private Aubrey Eberhardt jumped with the platoon, he yelled, "Geronimo!" so loudly that people on the ground heard it. He claimed he shouted to prove he was not dumb-struck with terror when he jumped. "Geronimo!" has been a cherished battle cry for Airborne Paratroopers ever since.
About Face turning the body around to the right 180 degrees, rotating on the heels. The phrase comes from the early marching drill command "face to the right about." In daily conversation, about face can mean change to an opposite view or opinion, try a different method, or change thinking on an issue.
Abrams (General Creighton Abrams)* American military hero of immense prestige, General Abrams developed a comprehensive strategy for the Vietnam War. Considering his philosophy on fighting guerillas (insurgents), there is a discipline of military experts who believe his tactics would have carried the conflict in favor of the United States had politics not interfered at the precise moment they did, and had a dissenting Congress and the American public not lost all tolerance given the fiascos to that point.
America's patience with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom is being tested. American confidence in leadership in any war will fluctuate or wane as the conflict drags on and the casualties mount. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, very serious difficulties remain, just like Vietnam. The war on terrorism requires serious commitment over an extended period of time and will likely take us to other remote and isolated locations.
Unlike late in the Vietnam era, American soldiers today are generally popular with the American public. Or at least the young American soldiers who are doing the bleeding and dying have public support. The Army leadership and the conduct of war, on the other hand, are and will always be about sitting in the hot seat. The pressure and scrutiny rightly goes with the territory.
While much is different in today's Army, they remain the same when it comes to American sensitivity about her troops. The slippery slope lies not in the commitment to soldiers, but in the tenacity of American willingness to wage war against deadly religious fanatics who want to destroy our way of life.
General Abrams knew that he had to have the commitment of the American people and knew when he had run out of time. But he never compromised his values and always tried to do his best for his soldiers and the South Vietnamese.
When Abrams took over in Vietnam in 1969, he knew this was "a war of privates and second lieutenants." And he had to deal with the resistance to activate the Reserves and National Guard (today, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction). That policy was partly to blame for the deterioration of public support and a dangerous erosion of stress relief and skill support at the operational level. Disillusioned career Commissioned and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) found duty more pleasant and safer in rear trains and base camp areas and avoided the field except via chopper at high altitude, effectively out of range of enemy fire. There were many exceptions to this of course, especially in combat units, but it was unusual for the most part to see anyone above the rank of Captain actually on the ground during any action (select combat Battalion Commanders being the noted exceptions). When things went very wrong or very right, the brass came out and local senior commanders made appearances to levy credit, cover their a**, or deliver an a ** chewing. An insidious leadership credibility problem hung on like a bad flu and plagued the Army through the late sixties, really until Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm. Several dynamic generals including Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf reestablished trust in leadership both inside and outside the Army. They did it with their boots on the ground, no-nonsense styles.
In Vietnam especially, the sordid "shiny boot, stand-off, Simonized chopper" theoretical-style leadership caused credibility problems, with terrible results. The frontline grunts rarely understood (a) what was happening except within a few hundred meters of their own position, if they understood that much, and (b) the concept and purpose of what they were supposed to accomplish. Other than trying to stay alive, the strategy was real blurry. The enlisted ranks and young officers became numb to the sparse and weak, enlightened inspiration they did receive from the few leaders who did care. No wonder "don't mean nothing" was a paramount motto. This was a major failure of senior leadership to recognize what Dwight D. Eisenhower said in World War II: "The most terrible job in warfare is to be a second lieutenant leading a platoon when you are on the battlefield." GIs liken this kind leadership failure to cowardly conduct.
Abrams was a dynamic leader, the General Powell and the General Petraeus of his day. According to some military experts, he was well on the way to total success in Vietnam when he simply ran out of time and we abandoned the cause. General Abrams was noted for his leadership and a variety of sayings, perhaps the most popular being: "Soldiering is an affair of the heart," and "People [Soldiers] are not in the Army, People [Soldiers] are the Army," and of course the popular Pig Rule: "Never wrestle with pigs; you get dirty and they enjoy it," speaking to integrity of leadership. General Abrams had a sense of humor and once said, "They've got us surrounded again, the poor bastards." General Abrams died of cancer on 4 September 1974, just seven months prior to the fall of Saigon in April 1975.
AC (Aircraft Commander) commander of an aircraft, an important role because when it comes down to critical decisions it is the aircraft commander who is the ultimate authority even though there may be someone with considerable rank among the passengers (aka pax). For Paratroopers the order to jump comes when the aircraft commander turns on the green light. AC is also Active Component, as in Active Duty component, as opposed to RC (Reserve Component).
ACADA (Automatic Chemical Agent Detection Alarm) portable system capable of detecting blister and nerve agents, operated in monitoring, survey, and alert warning modes. The devices are assigned down to platoon level and hopefully will never have to prove their value.
ACAV (Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle) formidable armored vehicle (though RPGs are trouble); it is fast, maneuverable, and reliable. They carry any number of configurations for weapons systems and troop assets. The M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) was the primary mechanized Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle until the introduction of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Stryker. The basic problems with all vehicles are obvious. First, they need huge amounts of fuel, which means support convoys and convoy security. Second, they need technical support. Third, there is a limit to where they can go. Fourth, they are expensive. The HUMVEE armor up mode is designed to improve protection against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Accompanied Tour duty assignment where family members are authorized to accompany and live with the soldier or are eligible for a change of station move. Conversely, an unaccompanied tour is an assignment where family members are not authorized to move. Many soldiers pay out of their pocket to move their loved ones, and many non-combatants are found in areas where they should not be, such as Korea. The problem is not totally ignored, though, and the Army recognizes a certain responsibility to provide even unauthorized non-combatants some support in Status of Forces issues, passport and visa requirements, non-combatant evacuation assistance, and access to other services. Otherwise, we would have family members left in the streets when hostilities break out.
ACE (Armored Combat Earthmover) highly mobile armored vehicle capable of doing the heavy lifting required on a battlefield. The Army ACE, the South African Meerkat, and the Buffalo (mine- and improvised explosive device-clearing vehicles) are seeing very heavy duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ace also means a top aviator or a good shooter, and the nickname "Top Gun" is popular as well. Today, ACE is a proword for suicide prevention (ask if anything is wrong, care about what is going on, and escort the person to help).
Ack Ack used in World War II to describe enemy antiaircraft fire. The phrase is fading away quickly as our heroic WWII Veterans fade away. The rate of internment in the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery is stunning with new headstones appearing by the dozens every day except Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Our older Veterans are leaving us at an astonishing rate, and our continuing conflicts are steadily increasing combat Veterans.
Excerpted from AMERICA'S ARMY AND THE LANGUAGE OF GRUNTS by E. Kelly Taylor Copyright © 2009 by E. Kelly Taylor. Excerpted by permission.
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