Saturday, March 6, 2010

What we have here! Is a failure to Communicate...

USA military and civilians share a common language. But we rarely use the same words to describe an incident. For example, your understanding of the term FIRE FIGHT might conger up images of men and women, dragging hoses and trying to extinguish a towering inferno. But in the military we know it as a heated exchange of gunfire against an armed adversary.
The difference in lingo is so great that after deciding to retire from active duty, Uncle Sam's Canoe Club sent me to a 2 week Indoctrination School. For almost 22 years I had not needed to pick out which clothes to wear. I had only one color of socks. 15 pairs of black socks. All of my neck ties were black. And my work clothes were all Khaki. But the words I had used to describe my surroundings made me uninformed and unable to communicate with civilians. "Yes Sir" and Yes Ma'am" would work fine. But if I wanted to know the location of the mens head, or where to find a scuttlebutt, or wanted some gedunk, there was going to be a problem! A head is a toilet. A scuttlebutt is a drinking fountain. And gedunk is snack food, like candy bars.

A bulkhead is a wall. A deck is a floor. A hatch is a door. Port and starboard are right and left when facing the bow. When civilians have a Field day, it is a pick nick. When sailors have a field day it is a top down scrubbing of the living areas. You go to bed in your bedroom. We hit the rack in the berthing compartment. You take a shower. Sailors hit the rain locker. You visit the Emergency Room. We go to the hurt locker. You brush your teeth. We scrub our bucks. You Take short cuts in procedures when doing a tedious job. In the Navy it's called Gundecking. If you take to many short cuts , you'll get called out on the carpet. If a sailor gets caught gundecking, they go to Captain's Mast.

And some terms just don't translate at all. Consider the day I  was in a weekly meeting. I was in the room with several high ranking executives. As the resident DATA SECURITY EXPERT, I was there to present evidence against a middle manager who had been misusing the Corporate Email. And when they asked for my recommendation on how to dispose of the offense. I said "Lets take him out back and Butt-stroke him."
Next thing I know, I'm in the HR Office with the "Head" of the company and a few other concerned members of my chain of command. I was being given an oral reprimand for suggesting a homosexual rape as a valid form of discipline. But the way they were dancing around the subject made it almost impossible to understand how or what had made them decide I had ever said such a thing.
When I asked "What ARE you talking about?"
They chimed in unison "BUTT-STROKE."
So, I grabbed a broom in the corner and held it in my hands diagonally at chest height. I shoved up and out with my right hand bringing the bristles end into the jaw of an imaginary adversary. And said, "If this broom were a rifle, I just stroked that guy with the butt."
"OOHHH!!! Never mind." They sang. And I went back to catch more evil doers.

But it really should have been no surprise. The Language differences between military and civilian is one thing.  There is a great difference.between languages, the individual services use.
What you refer to as a Captain, the military calls a Commercial Airline Pilot.
What the Army, Air force, and Marines calls a Captain. The Navy calls a Lieutenant.
What the Navy calls a Captain. The other services all call a Colonel.
What the other services call a General. The Navy Calls an Admiral. The Navy used to have a rank called Commodore. But they did away with it in the 80s, because the other services couldn't decide who had to salute a Commodore.
The differences go farther than rank names. Marines and sailors share a common language for the most part, because the Marine Corps was originally  the first shock troops formed to be the elite warrior class, and were under the Navy. Because there were no parachutes. And no planes to use them from. And the Army couldn't swim and using them to jump from ships to attack land would have been beyond reasonable expectations.
One quick language difference. You say "Aquamarine" and think gem stones. Sailors say aquamarine and think "Seasick Jarheads."

When The:
Navy and Marines say "Head." The Army says "Latrine." And the Air Force says "Toilet Facilities."
Navy and Marines say "Mess hall." The Army says "Chow Hall." The Air Force says "Enlisted Dining Room."
Navy and Marines say "Field Day." The Army says "Police the barracks." The Air Force says "Maid Service."
Navy and Marines say "Passage way." The others say "Hallway."
Even our tools have different names. When the Navy wants to measure the depth of the water, we use a "Fathometer." When the Coast Guard measures the depth of the water they use a "Yardstick." =o)

Consider the different services response to a simple order:

The Air Force will make arrangements to negotiate and fill a short term lease. And will ensure that the utilities, water and electricity, are included. And will make sure the price includes cleaning and maid services for all rooms. The rooms are inspected for Habitability. No guard is needed.

The Army will send in a team of experts to clean the building. Top to bottom. All horizontal surfaces are scrubbed down and the floors are waxed and polished. And they will check to make sure the lights are turned off. And they post an armed guard at the front door.

The Navy will inspect the building. Check that the lights are out and all the doors and windows are locked. They will use locks that will indicate tamper attempts. And armed guards are posted at the front and rear doors. But their pistols and ammo magazines will be in separate holsters on the belt.

The Marines will deploy Three, five man fire teams. Team one will set up a machine gun and lay down a suppressing fire. Teams two and three will each perform a flanking maneuver. Then they will move into position and deploy explosive anti-personnel ordinance through the ground floor windows. Fire team one will then storm the front door and do a room to room, floor by floor sweep to eliminate and neutralize all enemy threats. The fire teams will then be split up to form 4 automatic weapons emplacements. One at each of the four corners of the building. And the remainder of the teams will perform roving patrols around the perimiter of the building. And one, two man sniper team, will go up on the the roof.

At the end of each of these operations all services will report to their respective commanders:
"The Building is secure, Sir."
And the orders to "Carry on." will be issued. But that isn't "Permission to act a fool."


Ida said...

Chrisitans have that same problem. Some cults use the same language we use, and assign different meanings. As do different denominations. Is it any wonder that the lost world is in such a state of confusion.

Betty said...

I love this post.Interesting and beautifully written.And great topic, too.
Thnk you for your kind comments.
When I write a post I'm supposed to be intented for my bloggy-friends. And I love all my followers-friends:)
Have a great weekend!

Kelly Combs said...

This was very entertaining. Thank goodness I'm not in the military, I couldn't figure out what to say. LOL!

My husband's favorite term was for the creamed chip beef over bread they had WAY to often in the army. They called it sh!t on a shingle. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I accidentally stuck my head in the latrine and then proceeded to puke in the toilet.

samurai said...

I had never realized that i was multi-lingual like that. 8) I speak the "military", and fairly fluent in "IT-geek" as well.

I still get the sideways stare from the wife when i slip into one or the other without thinking about it.

This was a great laugh. Thank you. 8)

Edie said...

I'm beginning to understand my retired Air force Sargent friend. :)

Have a great week!