8 Military Terms Civilians Always Get Wrong



We know it’s hard to keep track of military lingo and technical terms, that’s why we’ve published so many guides (Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Navy). But there are some terms that the media — especially Hollywood — just can’t stop getting wrong when referring to the military.

1. Bazooka


Photo: US Army Signal Corps

Bazooka refers specifically to a series of anti-tank rocket launchers used from World War II through the Vietnam War. American troops today do not fire bazookas. There are modern rocket launchers that do the job the bazooka was once used for, but they have their own names, like the “AT-4” and the “SMAW.”

2. Missile/Rocket/bomb


Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Lisa Aman

Bombs are explosive devices that are not propelled. They can be placed somewhere, they can be launched, or they can be dropped, but they are not propelled along their route. They may be guided. Rockets are like bombs, except they are propelled along their route without any type of guidance. The fins don’t move and the projectile can’t turn. Missiles are like rockets except they can turn, either under the instructions of an operator or according to an automated targeting system. One of the most common errors is referring to the Hellfire Missile as a Hellfire Bomb.

3. Soldier


Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Marines are not soldiers, though they have been referred to as “soldiers of the sea” in past recruiting posters. In the U.S., people not in the Army are not soldiers, especially so for Marines — who will strongly protest being painted with that brush. “Troops” or “service members” are the umbrella terms that refer to all the members of the military.

4. Humvee/Hummer


Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Angela Stafford

The military doesn’t have Hummers. They have High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles with the acronym HMMWV, commonly pronounced “Humvee.” Hummer is a civilian, luxury knockoff of the HMMWV. Anyone who has seen the inside of a HMMWV knows that it is not a “luxury vehicle.”

5. Commander


Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rosa Larson

Not everyone in charge of troops is a commander. For instance, the highest-ranking officer in each branch, the branch chief of staff, doesn’t actually command anything and is not a “commander.” Neither is their superior, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The only people who are “commanders” have the word “command” in either their rank or job title.

6. UFO


Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Niegel

It’s not strictly a military term, but much is made of Air Force reports of UFOs by conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts. Without getting into an argument about whether or not aliens are real, UFOs are just unidentified flying objects. The Air Force recording 12,618 of them from 1947 to 1969 does not mean that alien spacecraft have flown 12,618 or more sorties over American soil. It means that there have been 12,618 recorded sightings or sensor contacts of objects in the air. A balloon in an unexpected spot can be recorded as an unidentified flying object.

“UFO” and “alien spaceship” are not synonyms, even though they’re used that way.

7. Collateral Damage

Specifically, this is not shorthand for civilian deaths or a “euphemism.” It is an official term that refers to damage done to any unintended target in any way during an attack. When American bombs were dropped on German trains that were later found to be carrying American prisoners of war, that’s collateral damage to friendly elements. When missiles launched against a bomb maker’s home also damage a nearby mosque, that’s collateral damage.

Of course the most tragic instances of collateral damage are when people, including civilians, are accidentally killed. But those aren’t the only instances of collateral damage.

8. Gun


Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Robert R. McRill

Machine guns and sidearms are guns. Most soldiers and Marines are carrying rifles. While it would be nice if the news media would use the more exact term “rifle” when referring to rifles, they can get a pass because the civilian definition of gun does include rifles. Entertainment media needs to learn this lesson though, since troops in movies and T.V. would never call their “rifle” a “gun.” It’s drilled into service members with the same ferocity as the meaning of “attention” or the proper way to salute.


classedit2 David Nye – Staff Writer at We Are The Mighty

David is a former Fort Bragg paratrooper who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.


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  • Rivrat1971

    Technically, rifles have rifling. Guns are smooth bore. Rifle vs Shotgun. A ship’s main battery(ies) typically is a rifle and mounted to a deck and usually referred to as a gun mount or “mount.” A main battery riding on a circular rail (battleship types) is a turret and can be lifted out (or fall out if ship capsizes). The new shipboard rail gun is smooth bore.

    Pistols and machine guns are rifles although commonly (officially) termed guns.

    The A1 tank’s main battery is a smoothbore and truly is a gun.

    There is the ditty: “this is my rifle and this is my gun, one is for fighting and …….”
    If a person doesn’t know the rest, then they missed out on “basic.” Well at least the older “basic.”

    • Muttling

      Not entirely correct. While M1s use a smooth bore, the majority of tanks use a rifled barrel on their main gun and it is certainly a gun.

      • Pat

        The German Leopard II uses the same gun as the M-1 with probably some variation.

    • Joshua

      Machine guns and hand guns both have rifling but are not rifles and can be and are called guns. Main guns on a battleship have rifled barrels but are not rifles, again they are guns. And if I recall correctly all artillery pieces aside from mortars have rifled barrels to spin stabilize the rounds and I have heard them indirectly referred to a guns. As my Drill Sergeants taught our company any weapon that has “gun” in its name can be called a gun. Were as an M-16/M-4 is to be referred to as a weapon, rifle, or M-16/M-4. Even snipers will refer to their weapons as a gun as in “being on the gun” or “behind the gun”.

      • Rivrat1971

        There is often a difference between popular vs correct terminology.

        You mention the M-16. Yes it’s a rifle but also fits the category of the Thompson “sub”machine gun.
        In this case if a weapon fires a projectile and has rifling, it is a rifle.

        The M1903 Springfield, the M-1, M-16, M-14 and the Barrett are all rifles and used by snipers. A son of a friend is a Seal Sniper. The Barrett is NOT a gun. And while his mother did not give birth on the gun deck, he certainly is a “Son of a Gun.”

        The USS MISSOURI’s main batteries are rifles but usually referred to as guns.

        Now with modern scifi, we hear about laser rifles. .?? They aren’t “guns” either?? How about “firearm”….no burning gas producing material But they are weapons.

        We find other fun things. A fighter aircraft can fire missiles, rockets, cannons and guns. The A-10 fires a 30MM Gatling Gun aka as a Cannon, and the barrels are rifled.

        Astronauts ride “rockets” into space. Never heard the Atlas and other astronaut “lifters” referred to as a “missile” but they are guided after all.

        So yes, popular usage (ease of use) vs correct nomenclature.

      • fuzznose

        I’ve also heard from Marines that a “gun” is a crew-served weapon…..to differentiate it from a rifle or a sidearm.

      • Matt

        Sorry, but the military does not own the word “gun”, as the Chinese invented guns thousands of years ago. I therefore take umbridge when people refer to the military’s somewhat inconsistent, illogical, and frankly bastardized definitions of common terms like “gun”, “rifle”, “weapon”, etc as “correct” usages. The main problem with military misuses of these words is one of mutual exclusivity. Many weapons in the military arsenal are definitely both guns and rifles.

    • Mike McBride

      As an old Marine the saying goes “this is my rifle this is my gun”. Marines know the difference.

    • Dennis

      Or they haven’t seen the wildly popular movie “Full Metal Jacket”!

  • Guest

    One other constant incorrect use of a term. I learned as a young second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps from my Boss, a 22 year LDO Captain. An individual service member does not work for, or report to his “superior”. The correct term is Senior. Whether it is an Officer, or Senior Master Sergeant, etc.. Rank does not confer that one is “superior” in any way but usually defines “Seniority” of an individual.

    • USAFBen

      I never once considered myself inferior to those with higher rank.

      • Guest

        Exactly, and neither should anyone. That is why you reported to a Senior person, NOT a superior.

  • Carl

    And Navy SEAL’s are not Soldiers as is so often reported in the media. Only U.S. Army personnel are Soldiers.

    • Chris

      An honest question: I don’t understand why Marines aren’t soldiers. Generally speaking, a soldier refers to someone with military skill which would describe all military personnel by definition. Of course, Officers don’t like being called soldiers either even though they are. Obviously the jobs of the different branches are different – no question – but why the fervor over the term? Is there a technical reason behind it or is it just because Marines abhor being lumped into a more generic category of fighter?

      • Rivrat1971

        Good question. For one thing they are part of the Dept. of the Navy not Army. Their mission is very different. There are the military service and the sea service. The Marines are not a derivative of the Army. What’s also interesting, Marine commissioned officers and the enlisted are all proudly called “Marines.” The sea services differentiate personnel…..officers and sailors (enlisted) although all are sailors. All service members are technically G.I.s….Government Issue. I suppose the USAF is an air service and all are airmen…not sure the latest since the emphasis upon gender specificity.

      • Dan

        No. In the AF only enlisted are referred to as airman (regardless of their flying status)

      • Stephen

        It’s because, “Marine,” is the TITLE we earned. One wouldn’t call someone who earned a PHD, simply a “college graduate,” they’d call them, “Doctor.” We’re proud of our title, and rightly so in my opinion. But that’s my opinion, FWIW…

      • gunnartheviking

        Marine = the Navy’s Army—

      • Cecil Fry

        Marines are just “pretty” soldiers. That’s it. They know how to spit shine boots and polish brass. If you want to learn to “fight” there are only two options; seals and Rangers. As an ex Viet Nam Army Ranger, being 71 years old, I’ll take on half the present Marines anywhere, anytime. Compared to Rangers, Marines are woosies!!!

      • gunnartheviking

        Follow me!!!

  • Wndjmr03

    Apologies to the other services, but the Commandant of the Coast Guard does, in fact, command his service. The other Service Chiefs merely advise the President/SECDEF.

    • USAFBen

      You forgot something extremely important. The Commandant of the Coast Guard also serves his personnel AND the American people.

    • guest

      The Coast Guard is not a military organization, it is part of the Department of Transportation., it is a paramilitary law enforcement agency.

      • Marcelino

        Look up USC (US Code) Title 14, Section 1.

      • jeff

        That is incorrect in almost every way, but I suppose that was probably the intention

    • Alex Burrows

      you also forgot the Commandant of the Marine Corps

    • grenadier

      Baloney! Apples to oranges! I was SF and Ranger qual, 23 yrs in, and while we were were better at what we did (our mission) than Marines, they were better at their mission than we were. It is stupid to claim that one Service is “better” than another unless they both have exactly the same mission, at the same time and place, vs the same enemy, and one succeeds and the other fails. That has never happened, to the best of my historical memory. As an Army officer I have the utmost respect for the Marines and have often wished the Army were more similar to the Marines in some ways: traditions, uniforms, resistance to modern socio-political fads etc, and if I had to choose one battalion, right now, to leave immediately and go fight in a crucial battle, I would choose a random Marine battalion over a random Army battalion. But only under those circumstances!

  • JJMurray

    I had to laugh that in the first one you say that today we don’t have bazookas but rocket launchers like the AT-4. Then in the second one you say a rocket is not guided….oops. Then I guess you shouldn’t be calling the device used to fire an AT-4 a rocket launcher but instead call it by its proper name – a missile launcher.
    Guess civilians aren’t the only ones using military terms improperly.

    • Guest

      The AT4 is neither a rocket launcher or a missile launcher. It is a recoilless smoothbore weapon. The projectile is a fin-stabilized round without propulsion or guidance. All the propellant is spent at launch, just as with a rifle or a cannon. the only difference is that a majority of the gasses are directed aft to offset the recoil.( It is called a rocket launcher by the US military because the handling and safety procedures are similar to that class of weapons. See us army field manual 3-23.25 chapter 2)

      • Pat

        I disagree. Just like the SMAW, RPG, and any other similar type of shoulder-fired AT weapon, the rounds are technically rockets for practical purposes. All propellant is burned within some type of combustion chamber. I believe that they all have nozzles of some configuration. Its a matter of semantics how you want to classify things.

      • Guest

        The SMAW* and RPG family fire projectiles that carry propellant inside them that is burned during flight. That is, rockets motors. The AT4 has a projectile without any form of propulsion. The projectile is in front of propellant that combusts and send it out front. Like a cannon or rifle. After it has left the barrel it does not have any propulsion, it flies ballistically. The weapon has a nozzle, the projectile has not. (Sometimes people mistake the tracer-element for a rocket flame.)

      • dude, if you’re going to cite the book, then do so to support your point. You dont say the it’s not something then cite an official book saying that it is. You’re only making it apparent that you don’t really care what you’re saying, only that everyone comes to understand that you think you’re smarter than a basic field manual. Here’s one for you: According to US Army FM 3-23.25 chapter 9, you’re a friggin box of rocks. Look it up

      • ….saying that it is not**

    • Tony

      The AT-4 is a rocket launcher. It fires a rocket, not a guided missile. The rocket is not guided. It is fire and forget.

    • Lance

      I’m sorry but you are wrong. The AT-4 and SMAW both fire unguided projectiles propelled by a rocket motor, A very fast, almost instantaneous burning one, but nevertheless a rocket motor. They are in fact Rockets. You aim them and fire, and they go where the trajectory takes them. Once they leave the tube they are no longer propelled, as another pointed out. But they are clearly not guided. Hence the TOW missile etc.

  • lorothian

    Another term that has numerous times been misused by civilians and the media is TANK. They have called Self-Propelled Artillery pieces, Armed Personnel Carrier, and Infantry Fighting Vehicles – Tanks.

  • alsharptonjr

    “The only people who are “commanders” have the word “command” in either their rank or job title.”

    Not necessarily so. Command Master Sergeants do not command – they are senior enlisted advisers to the command. same with Navy Command Master Chief, etc.

    • Dan

      “The ONLY people” and “All people” who have the word “command” are not the same thing.

    • Dee Ono

      Going through this, this is the only thing that really disturbed me that people think/do not understand the meaning of command… it is much like the work Lead.. Leadership, etc. They are Leaders and Staffed as a Senior Adviser, which is why they have the verbiage Command in their titles, when they leave that position they end up removing that verbiage (i.e., Command Master Chief > Master Chief) which is for their designation only. Commander is a broadly used in the military civilians lingual as the Captain, but can be very confusing for Air Force, Army and Guards… as they do not recognize a Commander as they would a Colonel. But the statement above working as an Admin in all 6 divisions of government are untrue, these men are definitively commanding a larger group than you would even understand. They are sharp and they are dignified statues int he military, just do so as a shadow behind a bigger name. You will never know this until you have served with and worked along side these men and women in these ever so unseen positions as great leaders.

      Navy Command Master Chief (Navy) commands his Chiefs and is the Majority Liaison for the entire Enlisted Staff, including their families. He is in command of much more than even the Commander, and at times is leaned on by the Captain for guidance.
      The Command Sergeant Major (Army) is generally the key enlisted member of staff elements at levels than higher than battalion. The sergeant major’s experience and ability are equal to that of the command sergeant major, but the sphere of influence regarding leadership is generally limited to those directly under his charge.
      Command Chief Master Sergeant (AF) Command Chiefs advise the commander on all enlisted matters, such as all of the command’s operations and missions, readiness of any unit for their assignments, training of technical and military abilities, and the quality of life of all enlisted members of the Air Force.

  • Aristotle

    While Marines may not want to be called Soldiers, the term “soldiers” (not capitalized) has been used to collectively refer to any member of the US military, any service, any branch since WW I. As in soldiers earn our respect and gratitude vice: Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, Coast Guardardsman, and Marines, (all regardless of gender) earn our respect and gratitude.

    • grenadier

      Never in history, back as far as ancient Greece, have sailors been called “soldiers”. Soldiers fight on land ; some sailors fight at sea (others are merchant sailors).

  • Dave

    Even as the military decides that certain terms don’t apply to certain items, the civilian world may still go on using the dictionary definition of a word. Gun for example: “weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells, or other missiles are propelled by explosive force, typically making a characteristic loud, sharp noise.” This would include everything from handguns to deck guns ect.
    “Rocket” refers to the type of motor used on what the military refers to as rockets and on the items they refer to as missiles. If you want to see where it really gets confusing look up the APKWS. Soldier commonly refers to all fighting men, as army often refers to an entire military or to a military’s ground forces. In this general sense, all of our forces, or at least everyone who engages in ground combat is a soldier. We get it confused because we names one of our sets of ground soldiers with the name ARMY.
    And JJmurry- AT-4 rockets are not guided.

    • lookidat

      Don’t forget that classic of classics, the Potato Gun!!!

  • GHM

    This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
    My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
    My rifle, without me, is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will…
    My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit…
    My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will…
    Before God, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.
    So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy, but peace!

    • will

      as an airborne 11 bang bang one word comes to mind….beautiful

  • Rickey B Scharnberg

    Another word that Civilians get wrong is a Tank. They thing any armoured vehicle is a Tank. I remember when a local police department got a M113 and the headline read ” City Seat Team Received Tank From Government “.

  • Mike Dewar

    In the USMC we did NOT use bazookas in Vietnam Nam they were called 3.5 inch Rocket launcher whic was replaced by the LAW.

  • Yellow Devil

    I remember doing basic at Fort Knox in 2004, and anytime an APC or Bradley Fighting vehicle rolled by and a Soldier commented with the word “tank”, the DS’ would jump on that Soldier’s fourth point of contact.

  • Kasey Warner

    Just for clarity, the term “Commander” is also a naval rank, and one with the rank of “Commander” may well not be in command of anything.

    • Beth

      Or they may actually be in command of a ship and therefore have the honorary title of Captain as a ship’s captain but may not actually have the rank (0-6).

    • Dan

      As well as a Coast Guard rank.

    • QM2 Bob

      Correct, in the Navy there are the ranks of Lieutenant Commander (O-4) and Commander (O-5) which in the other branches of service are called Major and Lieutenant Colonel respectively

  • guest

    In my Army days, not so long ago, any weapon you carried on your person was called just that-a weapon. However, in Basic Training, if you really wanted to do extra push-ups, you could always call it a gun:)

  • Robert Alaska

    When I went through Navy Boot Came in 1962, we carried a Piece. Not a rifle or a gun. The term “PIECE” was drilled in to our heads. By the way, it was a 1903 Springfield that was “De-Milled’, which means not capable of being fired.

    • Robert C Leet

      I remember it well being called a “PIECE” in 1961 when I went trough boot camp at Great Lakes. I also remember lugging around the 1903 Springfield all through camp. it felt like it weighed 50 lbs. at times. Those were the days…………

  • NEVERSam

    Civilians, especially the news media who should know better, like to call anything with armor and tracks a TANK. I wish I had a buck for every BMP that’s been referred to as a tank in a news report!

  • Guest

    If civilians always “get things wrong,” perhaps the military should do a better job of communicating with those outside their little world.

    • Navy YN

      Or, perhaps, we in the military should hope that the “big world” (as I assume you’d term it) would actually care and not use wrong terms out of convenience, agenda or some other incorrect reason.

      But I guess that’s just too much to ask for, huh?

      • Guest

        It’s a little bit much to ask the big world to learn all the model numbers and acronyms which change constantly… so now a ‘bazooka’ is generically a (shoulder mounted) rocket launcher (assault weapon)… the RPG is the more modern generic that is bandied about. And the media is not going to want to explain each acronym either. Perhaps the military should adopt a smaller chart of nomenclature for the public/media to use (names not acronyms)… rather than demand accurate acronyms…. AT-4, SMAW, “Follow On to SMAW”, SMAW II, etc. Everything can be a weapon… finger, digit, phalanx, pencil, pen, quill, glass, cup, vessel, bazooka, rpg, smaw. Bazooka became somewhat generic to the public, rocket launcher is generic with many forms. I’m sure there are lots of professions whose terms are misused by the public. Yes some effort by the media could be made to distinguish when a dropped bomb, propelled rocket, guided missile is used… more than that, join up. Jargon is not superior for general consumption.
        I’d think someone seeing a tracked armored vehicle without a turret/cannon and calling it a tank would be foolishly out of step with even the generic perception of a tank… but then we’re not all equally ejicated either.

      • JCN

        I didn’t read anywhere in this article that the military is “demanding” anything. It just explaining that civilians got some terms/items/names wrong. There is no need to have a specific nomenclatures for civilians – it won’t do any good, as civilians will still be referring to many of our terminology in a wrong way.
        You are right that our “little world” change things constantly but that is the nature of the development of new technology according to new threats – and not because we want to nake the “big world” confuse.

      • JCN

        “make” – sorry, typing with one hand only.

    • Mark

      Blaming others for your ignorance does not resolve the problem. I live in Brazil, therefore I learned Portuguese. I did not blame them for not teaching me their language nor did I require that the entire country of Brazil speak English.

    • Rivrat1971

      Actually this really belongs as a direct reply to guest:
      Interesting way to insult those who serve. “their little world.” Their world, I would guess, has a much wider view than yours.

  • Rivrat1971

    Interesting way to insult those who serve. “their little world.” Their world, I would guess, has a much wider view than yours.

  • gjcorby

    The term gun refers to a crew served weapon,usually a gunner and an ammo carrier/loader/spotter. Sidearms are pistols or revolvers.

  • J

    Split hairs and say what you want but you are all soldiers!!!!!!!

    • Rivrat1971


    • JCN

      I had a commander that did referred to us as soldiers (US Air Force) – and in a sense he was right because we all are/were serving our country as military members. As you said, splitting hairs but still the best course of action as is no reason to disrespect a Marine, a Sailor, an Airmen, if he/she prefers to be address as such.

  • J

    Split hairs and say what you want but you are all soldiers

  • Joe_in_N_Calif

    Hmmm…..shall we get into guns v. howitzers v. mortars?

  • 9th ID RiverRat 69

    What I was informed in Basic.
    This is my weapon , this is for killing
    This is my gun, this is for fun.
    If your military or ex-military you know what this means.

    • Fred

      Exactly. This is my rifle, this is my gun. My rifle’s for shooting, my gun is for fun.

  • michelle Brewer
  • Rich

    Also, not everyone in the Army, and no one in the Marine Corps are “troops,” which is a term referring to those in the Calvary.

    • Rob

      Troopers, not troops. 2 completely different meanings. Troopers=cavalry. (BTW, not Calvary…that is the place Jesus was crucified). Troops=a collective.

    • Kevin

      In the Marines (early 70s), we had troop handlers. Since we were being “handled”, I guess that made use troops.

  • Bob W

    OK, so now that all that is straight someone try to explain navy rank. An impossible task. A Captain is a Captain unless he’s not and anyone of any rank can be a Captain if they are in charge of a ship. What?

    • Michael Reagan

      The Commander of any Ship is called a Captain. Even if he is a more Junior officer or in some instances an Enlisted man. It does not mean they hold the Rank of Captain. The Rank of Captain is 0-6.

      • SSG Young

        Unless you are in the Marine Corps or Army, then a ‘Captain’ is an O-3.

      • Rob

        Or Air Force.

  • BobP

    We hear this often even from Navy members

    Sub-marine-r (Submarine sailor) not sub-mariner (less than a mariner)

  • Carma Carmon

    Mr David Nye, ex-paratrooper, thank you so much for a great article..good info and I knew a few terms. I will do my best to use the correct terms in the future…

  • Jose A. Oliveros

    Why does the Navy have ranks like lieutenant (junior grade) and lieutenant (senior grade), while the other branches have second lieutenant and first lieutenant? Lieutenant senior grade (Lt[sg]) is the equivalent of captain in the other branches but one with the rank of captain in the Navy is equivalent to the one with the rank of Colonel in the other services. A major is higher in rank than a lieutenant but a lieutenant general is higher in rank than a major general. Confusing, indeed. To further add to the confusion, the Russians and the Germans before have such officers as Colonel General.

    • grenadier

      These ranks are all based on tradition, usually British or French, dating back considerably before the founding of the United States. The original marines in our connection, were units of the British Army assigned to naval vessels, which were later designated Marines and became permanent part of the Navy. This is why Marines have Army ranks.
      What has always puzzled me is how to address an enlisted sailor? Does one say “good morning petty officer? Or just “sailor”? Or what? This is easy with the Army and Marines and also with Navy Chuef Petty Officers, but I have no idea about the others. Help!

    • Kevin

      More confusion: on a naval ship, there is often a First Lieutenant which is a position (billet) that can be held by an officer in rank from ensign (very small ships) to commander (very large ships).

      I knew a Staff Sergeant with the last name of Major. He always had fun with identifying himself as Staff Sergeant Major and the ensuing “there’s no such rank” discussion.

      fyi: there is no such thing as a Lieutenant senior grade. It is just Lieutenant.

  • Rivrat1971

    That’s great question and when the background/history is understood there is a deeper appreciation for the ranks and how each major service component came to use them.

    Check Wiki for each of the ranks….has a pretty good description now.

    Other questions linked to yours might be why such a difference between sea service ranks and military/Marines. Enlisted leadership (Navy) are petty officers and the other folks are predominantly various sergeants. Media are known to refer to a petty officer as a Navy officer but don’t confuse sergeants ….they are all sergeants.

    A Navy Ensign comes from being responsible to carry the banner/pennant. Cross the ship’s quarterdeck which is anywhere the CO wants it, and military salute the U.S. Flag (the Ensign) and then if the officer is an Ensign, salute the Ensign and request permission to come aboard. If an enlisted is manning the QD, officers observe the same protocol…the Officer of the Deck represents the CO. When the CO departs or returns, he or she is announced as “name of ship” (without USS) departing/arriving and some other things.

    The best promotion was in VN when I was promoted from LT Junior Grade to the full 2silver bars (railroad tracks) as a Lieutenant. Most river commands were held by Lieutenants and the Army and Marines with their Captains.

    Really confuses folks when a Navy Lieutenant has command then has the title the Commanding Officer and referred to by subordinates as “Captain.”

    One very large ship class usually had as a CO a very senior Navy Captain as the the embarked staff and others were led by senior officers. A friend got command as a Commander, all the Navy ships crew Captains reported to him and referred to him as Captain. Fortunately, he had his head on straight…great guy. Being the CO of a ship is an awesome and often awful job and is unlike any only other command, especially when at sea.

  • Sonji

    Ok let’s set this the record 100% straight here. A “GUN” is a civilian firearm that is used by civilians for civilians. If you are military and im pretty sure one or two of the ppl here are, then we all know that ” EVERYTHING has a name and is to be referred to by that name, do I make myself clear on that maggot?” well I don’t know about the rest of you but my pistol is a pistol my rifle a rifle and that’s when im talking to a fellow service member that ain’t in charge. Otherwise it’s my m-16 and my 45cal or my 9mm. So let’s drop the minor impurities and get on to a more important topic…. LEAVE!!!!

  • Worldwide, people did not understand some of the military terms. Like word platoon is not well not by other people who did not study military science. Practical learning is very importance in the process of knowing the mentioned military terms.

  • COL Retired

    Another term (phrase) that civilians get wrong is “over and out.” This was even the title of a Twilight Zone episode (“Probe 7 – Over and Out”). The communications proword “over” means “I have completed my transmission for now and it is your turn to speak”, while the proword “out” means, “I have completed my transmission and no reply is needed or expected from you.” So if you put “over and out” together, you are literally saying, “Reply back to me–don’t reply back to me.”

  • desertrat

    In the army it’s our ‘weapon.’

  • Bill

    I am surprised that no one has yet mentioned the news media frequent use of the term “battleship” when referring to navy vessels. Apparently if it has a gun or weapon of any size, and is expected to go into combat it is a battleship.

  • Bill

    Lot’s of civilians think that because a 2nd, lst Lt and Captain outrank a Chief Master Sergeant (E-9)
    that they provide guidance and training to Chief’s. Nothing is further from the truth. It’s the other
    way around. Chiefs provide guidance and training to these officers It’s part of their duties.
    If you don’t believe me – look up Chief Master Sergeant on the internet and it’s there in black and white.
    Retired Chief.

  • Bill

    In the Navy gins are generally afixed to a ship. A commander is a naval rank and may or may not include a command. The “commanding Office” in the Navy is called Captain, even if only a junior officer.

    but most of the is a tempest in a teapot, so to speak. A teapot is still a teapot, even if filed with coffee.