A Grunt’s Glossary

In amongst my dad’s things was a copy of The Air Cavalry Division, Volume 1, Number 2, July 1968, and in it there was an article entitled: A Grunt’s Glossary, a slang dictionary of the most commonly used words and phrases while in-country.

AK: An AK-47, the Russian designed automatic rifle used by enemy troops. Said phonetically (“Alpha Kilo”) the same letters indicate An Khe, the Cavalry’s base camp for two years.

Backhaul: To carry by helicopter from a company’s position to the battalions trains area. Thus water is brought to the company in five-gallon metal cans; the cans are then backhauled. Also, used as a noun, it is anything a company wants to send back to the trains (“Send all the backhaul up to the LZ”).

Bird: Helicopter. A helicopter is also a chopper, never a copter, whirlybird, eggbeater.

Blue: A body of water, because that is its color on a map. As in, “have you crossed that blue yet?” Also, the rifle platoons of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry.

Charlie Alpha: Phonetic alphabet for combat assault, that is, an assault by helicopter. Charlie alpha is also a verb, as in, “Tomorrow we’ll charlie alpha six klicks west of here.”

CP: Command post. In a company, the cluster of radiomen and others who remain with the company commander at all times. It often includes the first sergeant or the executive office (sometimes both) a medic, and a man who supervises log for the company. A platoon also has a CP.

Doc: The medic. Medics are known as “Doc Smith” and so on. Band aid and Ben Casey are other names for a medic.

Fire in the Hole: A warning: someone in the company is about to detonate a grenade, or other explosive.

FOB: Forward Operations Base, the place where the company spends the night.

Frag: An explosive “fragmentation” hand grenade.

Frag it: Blow it up with a hand grenade (said, for example, of a bunker).

Grunt: Combat infantryman.

H and I: Harrassment and interdiction fire. Usually refers to artillery fired at suspected enemy trails, supply areas, etc. Some companies refer to H and I’ing with frags and/or mortars from a night perimeter.

Hootch pole: A hootch is erected by cutting a minimum of three long hootch poles, pieces of bamboo or another strong stright wood. Two are pounded into the ground and a cross-pole is tied to both, some 3-4 feet off the ground. Two ponchos, snapped together are draped across the cross-pole and loops of string passed through the corner eyelets of the ponchos are pegged to the ground. Sometimes a fourth hootch-pole, perpendicular to the cross-pole, is connected to the poncho-hoods to keep the sides of the hootch from falling in.

Horn: A PRC-25 radio. Also Romeo.

Hots: A hot meal.

Hump: Move, walk. A heavy load of gear and many hills are implied.

Klick: Kilometer.

Lifer: One who has more time in Vietnam remaining than you do; also, one who is making the Army a career.

Log: Short for logistics, means resupply. A company is said to “get logged” twice a day. If one breaks, say, an air mattress, one is advised to “put it on log,” i.e., request that a new one be sent with the day’s resupply.

Logbird: The helicopter that brings log.

Mike-mike: Millimeter, as in “81 mike-mike mortar.”

NVA: North Vietnamese Army. Also, a soldier in that Army, as in “I saw one NVA.”

Push: Radio frequency.

P-38: Small metal can-opener included in C-ration boxes. P-39: beer opener (also Churchkey).

Pop smoke: Detonate a smoke grenade, to mark a company’s position for an incoming helicopter, for instance.

Rear: To the grunt, any place except the boonies. To the men in the trains area, Camp Evans. To those at Evans, Phu Bai or Da Nang. Rear job: A job that takes the grunt out of the field.

Redleg: Artillery and anything connected with it. In a company, “the Redlegs” indicates the artillery FO party.

Sham: Fake, or slack. The World War II word was “goldbrick,” although sham implies much more. Thus someone who was wounded slightly and spent a week in the hospital might say, “I got a seven-day sham.” A rear job is also called a sham job.

Sixty: An M-60 machine gun (never a 60mm mortar).

Sling: To carry in a sling underneath a helicopter or to prepare to be carried in such a manner as in “We’re going to sling our packs today.”

Strap: One who works in the rear. Under some definitions, a strap is one who works in the battalion trains area, a super strap is one who has never seen the trains area, for instance someone who drives a bus at Cam Ranh Bay.

Sugar Reports: Mail. Also sugar notes, Pony, Pony Express.

Sundries: Cartons, distributed to a company from time to time, containing candy, cigarettes, pipe tobacco, shaving gear, writing paper, ball-point pens, etc. Also PX rations, SP’s. A package from home with similar contents is a Care Package.

Tango-Charlie: Time-check, i.e. “What time is it?”

Trains: A battalion’s supplies, equipment, clerical staff.

The World: The USA, as in “15 more days and I’m back in the world.”

I never heard any of these terms used by my dad except for: AK, chopper, Fire in the Hole, Grunt, Hump, and Klick.

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