Websites all over the internet that promise transitioning veterans advice about finding work in the private sector often target language first.  While just about every social niche develops its own unique take on contemporary vocabulary, the military may be the worst.  With acronyms and gibberish sounding titles littering our every sentence, and curse words filling in most of the rest, being in the military is almost like learning an all new language – one the internet is quick to remind you that most hiring managers won’t be fluent in.

First of all, that might be true in some cases, but if you think a civilian can’t wrap his or her head around a common phrase like “good to go,” you’re insulting the veteran you’re advising and around three hundred million civilians that you may be surprised to learn have experiences that reach beyond their cubicles.  Your average American has seen plenty of war movies, and while they may not know that I had to spend the better part of seven years of my life calling stairways “ladder wells,” they can almost certainly survive a stray “roger that” being tossed their way from time to time.

Demanding that veterans cleanse their vocabulary of the language they spent their adult lives learning isn’t good advice – it’s adding to the giant pile of anxiety service members have about transitioning back into the “real world.”  Most veterans don’t have any trouble communicating with non-veterans of our same species and nationality – so while you should probably tone down the “oorahs” and the cursing in your new workplace, you shouldn’t walk into an interview sweating about whether or not you’ll accidentally yell “Kill!” in the affirmative when asked your sex.  Just pay attention to what they’re asking you, respond thoughtfully, and you’ll be fine.

Of course, some of the terms we use in the military can come off as confusing or nonsensical to the uninitiated, and as such, those words or phrases will need to be either purged from common conversation or carefully explained to those who are interested – but some of the stuff we say in the military fills voids in the American nomenclature, expresses feelings or thoughts in a more efficient way, or simply rolls off the tongue better than non-military wording would.  These terms remain in my vocabulary to this day; not because I’m that crazy veteran yelling about “the war” from a four-way intersection (yet) – but because language is an ever evolving means of communication, and I don’t change my dialect just to fit in with folks that likely won’t care if I do think my new laptop is pretty “high speed.”

So without further ado (or needless explanation), here are four words or phrases I learned during my time in Uncle Sam’s Gun Club that continue to serve in everyday conversations years after I hung up my boots.

Roger that.  It’s simple, it’s easy, and it explains only as much as I need it to.  If I’m given a task I’m not especially psyched about doing, I can respond with “roger that” without expressing any of those misgivings.  If I’m excited about something but don’t necessarily want to show my hand – again – “roger that” says that I received your message without describing how I feel about it.  It’s simple and conclusive: you relayed information to me, I received it, now we can move on with our day.  If I want to elaborate about my feelings, or you’re interested in learning more about them, we can choose to go on from there.

Use in a conversation:

Manager: I need you to work this weekend.