The military had tons and tons of military operations throughout the years. A few famous ones that we often hear about were Operation Overlord for the Battle of Normandy, Operation Red Dawn for Saddam Hussein’s capture, and Operation Barbarossa, which was the invasion of the Soviet Union. So it was essential to codify these operations, so they don’t compromise them.

Could you imagine if they called Operation Red Dawn something like “Operation Kill Saddam Hussein”? Have you ever wondered how the names of these operations were chosen?

Code Policy

In the US, military commands are assigned alphabet blocks from which they can choose two-word names. For instance, AA to AD, so they could choose Agile Dragon. The Navy, for example, had a set of rules on how the code words, nicknames, and exercise term system could be selected. One of them was:

Nicknames and exercise terms may not contain words that are in the following categories:

  1.  Close in spelling or pronunciation to a code word.
  2.  Any two-word combination voice call sign found in either JANAP 119 or Allied Communications Pub (ACP) 119.
  3.  Exotic words, expressions, or well-known commercial trademarks.
  4.  Express a degree of aggression inconsistent with traditional American ideals or current foreign policy.
  5.  Convey anything offensive to good taste or derogatory to a particular group, sect, or creed.
  6.  Convey anything offensive to US Allies or other free-world nations.
  7.  The words “project, ” “exercise, ” or “operation, ” in combination or alone.
  8.  Words that can be used as one or two words, such as “moonlight.”

With that, here are some totally rule-compliant but otherwise weird-sounding military operations from different troops that we may or may not have heard of in the past:

Operation Mermaid Dawn

Libyan rebel checkpoint in Tripoli, Aug. 26, 2011. (VOA Photo: J. Weeks, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Operation Mermaid Dawn was the codename for the Battle of Tripoli that was named by the rebel forces against the longtime leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi. The loyalists of Gaddafi fought against the National Transitional Council, attempting to overthrow the longtime leader and take control of the capital.

The fighting lasted more than a week, beginning Aug. 19, 2011, until Aug. 28, with the rebels successfully capturing Tripoli and Gaddafi’s government crumbling down. As for the operation’s name, Tripoli was also called “The Mermaid” with a literal Arabic translation, “bride of the sea.”

Operation Flea Flicker

The name sure sounded a bit itchy.

Operation Flea Flicker was undertaken by the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and the Iraqi Public Order Brigade soldiers on Sept. 14, 2005. Their combined forces were tasked to conduct cordon and search operations in the city of Zafaraniyeh, on the outskirts of Tehran, Iran. Their goal was to secure the area in preparation for the anticipated anti-Iraqi activity aimed to disrupt the referendum on the constitution on Oct. 15. There, they discovered several minor weapons and a 60mm mortar round.

Sgt. Shaun Mance, A Btry., 1-9 FA, hands out T-shirts to Zafarania children during Operation Flea Flicker on Sept. 14. (DVIDS)

Operation Flea Flicker was part of the long series of military operations of the Iraq War.

On the other hand, the term “flea flicker” was also used in American football, which was often called a “trick play” designed to fool the opposing defensive team into thinking that the play was not a pass and was instead a run. The purpose was to draw the defense into defending against a run and away from the defending pass, leaving the quarterback free from pass rush while the receivers could be open to catch a pass.

Operation Cajun Mousetrap III

On the evening of Aug. 13, 2004, directly outside of Samarra, Iraq, SPC Stockbridge, right, and PFC Logsdon, both of 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry Regiment (2-108th), scan for suspicious activity during Operation Cajun Mousetrap, an exercise in Samarra, Iraq, geared towards routing all of the anti-coalition insurgents out of the city, to kick off. The 2-108th out of NY is in Iraq, supporting the 1st Infantry Division.
(US Army Photo by Pfc. Elizabeth Erste)(Released)

Nowadays, the cajun is often associated with the spice mix that’s usually used in a seafood mix (yum!), and mousetrap, as we all know, was this little thing used to capture pesky mice in our homes. Combine the two words, and you get the 2nd Dagger Brigade and the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry’s operation conducted on Aug. 13, 2004, in Iraq that was aimed to assess the capabilities of the Anti-Iraqi Forces in and around Samarra.

Capt. William Rockefeller, commander of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said Operation Cajun Mousetrap III was a “limited attack mission.” The troops utilized targeted raids against the enemy forces trying to destabilize the city.

It was reported that around 45 insurgents were killed, and none of the Cajun Mousetrap soldiers were hurt or killed.