Adjutant Advice #2: Ask What the Acronyms Mean

This is the second in a series of posts aimed at answering some of the most frequent questions or issues new officers would have when I was a battalion S1/adjutant.

Today’s “Adjutant Advice” is less advice from an adjutant and more advice as an adjutant. AG soldiers rarely find themselves assigned to an AG or HR (human resources) unit, so very often we are permanent party visitors to a different branch within the Army, each with its own individual identity, doctrine, and set of acronyms.

This scenario is also true of many branches besides AG, including intelligence, logistics, signal, medical, and ministry soldiers, among others. And the further you advance in your career, the greater chance you stand of being assigned to a unit as the sole member of your own branch. To be an effective member of the team, you have to put the effort into learning your operating environment.

Also, if we’re being totally honest, you didn’t learn everything you needed to learn from your basic course to excel in your job. There is an excellent chance that you will arrive to your first unit and discover that folks sling acronyms around like they’re normal parts of the English language. (Plus, your basic course likely taught you mostly branch-specific stuff, but not as much general Army “stuff.” For instance, did you learn how to work USR?)

Let’s be honest, it takes a career to understand this crap. (via Wikimedia Commons)

Depending on your situation (and a little on your personality), you can approach this one of two ways. The first is to shamelessly raise your hand and say, “I have no idea what you just said. Can you please explain those acronyms?” (Add “sir” or “ma’am” as needed.)

If you don’t like being that forthright (or if you’re in a situation where everyone would look at you sideways and tell you to “shut up and color”), bust out your handy-dandy green book and write everything down that you need to define. You can follow up with a google search or, better yet, ask someone who knows.

Comedian Michael Colyar brings cheer to USD-C Soldiers deployed to Iraq
Hey, if you PMCS your HMMWV while carrying your TA-50 right before going on TDY, what’s a T-R-double-E? Hu-hyuck, hyuck, hyuck. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Tanya Green via DVIDS)

Bottom line: don’t be “that guy” who nods and says “roger” to everything without seeking clarification. Asking what acronyms mean is pretty basic, and we are in borderline “duh” territory here where this advice may seem pretty shitty. Except there are those who don’t follow this advice, for any number of reasons. As the adage goes, sometimes common sense ain’t so common.

For those folks—and for those of you just getting into the game—ask what the acronyms mean.

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