Those who have served in the military know that it represents a world and culture all it own.  It even has its own languages that service members speak in the different branches. Those languages also differ beween the services.  For example, in the Navy, a bathroom is called a “Head.” While in the Army it’s called a “Latrine.”  These language rules are strictly enforced and even extend to the names given to gear and equipment used in the different services. Oftentimes, the official names given to gear can be long and tedious to recite. Thankfully, our armed forces are creative and funny enough to come up with better nicknames for stuff. Here are some of them:


Fart Sack

No, it is not a bag that you can exclusively fart on. The Marines and Army as well use this term to refer to their heavily-insulated sleeping bags. Probably because they rarely wash them? We can only guess.

U.S. Army soldiers from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, wrap up in sleeping bags inside of a compound at Shele Kalay, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Jan. 16, 2012. The soldiers were trying to keep warm between guard shifts.


Hook-and-Loop Tape

This is popularly known as Velcro. The problem was the name “Velcro” was trademarked, so they had to come up with something else. Velcro works by pushing two pieces of cloth together. One side is made of small loops of thread, while the other is of tiny plastic hooks. These tiny plastics get hooked in the loop, so what’s the best name to call it— definitely hook-and-loop.



Absolutely not related to fart sacks, pajamas refer to the flight suits worn by the pilot and crew of the military because they look similar to onesie pajamas. In the Navy, they are also referred to a “Pickle Suits.”

Maj. Ashley Rolfe’s swearing-in ceremony at Barnes Air National Guard Base on July 26, 2016.  Rolfe is the first female fighter pilot for the Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing. Rolfe is an Air Force Academy graduate and combat veteran who has served in the Air Force for eleven years. Rolfe became an Air Force pilot after growing up as an Air Force “Brat” dependent, following her dad and grandad’s footsteps carrying on the family legacy.  (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey)


Tootsie Roll

Nope, not the taffy-like, chocolate-flavored candies, but they could be close. Tootsie Roll in the army world refers to artillery or mortar round. They are transported in black cardboard tubes that look like giant tootsie rolls.


Bird, or Helo

An aircraft or Helicopter. But never, ever refer to a helicopter as a “Chopper.”  That’s a Hollywood move term that will get you laughed at it you dare utter it.

Auto-Dog or just Dog

Military installations and ships at sea often feature a soft-serve ice cream machine.  The term Auto-Dog refers to the appearance of the ice cream resembling dog-poop as it comes out.  The term is used as in, “What’s in the Auto-Dog today?” Answered by, ” It’s Chocolate Dog.”



An acronym for Meal Ready to Eat. As the name suggests, these are ready-to-eat meals for soldiers packed in brown waterproof bags. The troops refer to MREs as, “Three Lies In One” and, “Meals Rejected by the Enemy.”

A pair of MREs. ©Ashley Pomeroy / Wikimedia Commons


Dry run for WWIII: US Army to deploy 20,000 troops to Europe

Read Next: Dry run for WWIII: US Army to deploy 20,000 troops to Europe

30 mike-mike

“Mike” is part of the phonetic alphabet in common use in the military.  Its purpose is to reduce confusion in the way letters are pronounced differently by English speakers from different parts of the U.S.  The words chosen to represent the letters leave no room for doubt as to the letter being referred to as no words rhyming with “Mike” begin with another letter. So you know that “Mike” means “M” as “Romeo” refers to “R.”

” Mike” also extends to weapons specifications like the 30mm grenade launcher, which has been called the “Thirty Mike.”  The word “Mike” is also a stand-in for saying minutes, miles or meters as in, “I’m thirty mikes out” which could be minutes or miles.

Builder 3rd Class Katherine Gardour, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74, Bravo Company, fires 40 mm. rounds from an MK-19 automatic grenade launcher at the Sierra del Retin, Spain weapons range. NMCB 74 recently completed a three-day live-fire exercise using M-2HB, and M-240B machine guns, and MK-19 automatic grenade launchers at the Sierra del Retin weapons range near Barbate, Spain. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan G. Wilber/Released)

Birth Control Glasses

Let’s be honest, the glasses given out in basic training do not make you look attractive. The frames are thick are not stylish at all. Thankfully, they were updated with slimmer 5A frames in 2012.

In the wake of the DoD’s announcement of new standard-issue military glasses, a new study found that one out of five Marines is distraught over the loss of Birth Control Glasses. ©Mark Fayloga / Wikimedia Commons


Refer to the ubiquitous camouflage uniform that the soldiers wear.



Sounds like some advanced electronic tool, right? However, an e-tool is simply a shovel. The official term was “entrenching tool,” thus, the nickname.


Green Ivan

These are the green pop-up targets shaped like a soldier silhouette used to test marksmanship. Who is Ivan? Well, he’s Russian of course since this pop-up targeting system was adopted during the Cold War.


Cigarette Roll

Pertains to parachutes that malfunctioned and were not inflated with air.  This is very bad news for anyone wearing that parachute of course.



On the other hand, a canopy refers to an open parachute. This is a very good thing, which is probably why it doesn’t get a funny or ironic nickname.

A member of the Wings of Blue parachuting with an American flag during the Opening Ceremony at Aviation Nation 2017. ©Noah Wulf / Wikimedia Commons


Water Buffalo

The term is most commonly used for large water containers on trailers pulled behind military trucks. Why call it container when you can call it buffalo, right?  In the Marine Corps, the Military Occupational Specialty(MOS1171) that includes operation and maintenance of these waters systems will get you labeled as a “Water Dog.”


Willy Pete

The nickname is far cuter than what it’s really used for. It refers to white phosphorous, which can either be used as a smokescreen or a weapon to destroy enemy equipment and even kill mass troops. White phosphorous is highly flammable, so when dropped in the target area followed by explosives, it can cause massive destruction. This tactic is called “Willy Pete plus H.E.” We can offer no explanation as to why High Explosive(HE) doesn’t get its own nickname.

Three 81mm white phosphorus mortar rounds fill the air with smoke and dirt on impact after being fired by Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, during a mortar live-fire exercise outside Forward Operating Base Warrior. (Photo By: Spc. Barbara Ospina, 1st BCT Public Affairs.)

If you have any favorites, mention them in the comments below

You might also enjoy this throwback from 2013 by Editor In Chief Sean Spoonts, as he delicately tries to explain what a “Pucker Factor” is in military aviation.