The US Air Force has its own military jargon that it uses, that can be easily understood by other troops and their immediate family members. But it may sound like a foreign language to others. Here are some common expressions and acronyms used, with a brief definition of what they mean.
This is the “Base Exchange” that military members and their family can access for their shopping needs. Some of the items on sale in the BX include clothes, shoes and electronics. They are tax free, which often makes them much cheaper to purchase than items on the local economy. BX’s vary in size and in the goods that they carry, across the United States, as well as in other countries.
BDU’s stands for “Battle Dress Uniform” and is the everyday uniform that is used by active duty Air Force personnel. It is a darker and heavier uniform than the one used during deployments to desert regions of the world.
This is “Desert Camouflage Uniform” and it is worn during deployments to desert locations. It is a different pattern and is lighter in colour than BDU’s.
The sponsor is the active duty member and is the reason why his or her spouse has any base privileges at all. Sometimes, the active duty member will be a sponsor for more distant relations such as disabled siblings or infirm parents, rather than just their spouse or children.
Sponsor’s last four
This is an expression that military spouses will hear whenever they visit a military hospital or dentist’s office. When asked for your sponsor’s last four they are asking for the active duty member’s last four digits of his or her social security card number.
This stands for “Leave and Earnings Statement” and is issued on the 1st and 15th of every month. It details an active duty member’s pay for each two week period, as well as how many days of leave have been accrued, used and so forth.
This acronym stands for “Temporary Duty”. When someone is sent on a training programme or for some other purpose they are said to be “TDY”. It is not the same as a deployment that lasts for a few months. It is for a much shorter period of time.
When an active duty member is sent on a remote tour, it means that they will be absent from their usual base for about a year without their family. Airmen usually come home for a visit halfway through their remote tour.
This stands for “Defence Enrolment Eligibility Reporting System”. Whenever a service member’s personal circumstances change, such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child, they will need to update their DEERS information and enrol their new family member into DEERS. The system is used to ensure that the family members and active duty member will receive an ID card, medical treatment, dental treatment and so on. It is a database of personal information.
PCM stands for “Primary Care Manager” at the base or hospital. Each patient is assigned their own PCM, or personal doctor who will oversee their health requirements.
Active duty personnel who will be assigned to another country will be able to “command sponsor” their family members. This means they will be able to access the base services such as hospital and dentist’s at the next base.
PCS means “Permanent Change of Station” and occurs whenever an active duty member is assigned to another base. It can be within the same country or abroad. Most Air Force members PCS many times throughout their career.
This is slightly different to PCS. It means “Permanent Change of Assignment”. It means the active duty member will be staying at the same base. They will simply be moving to a different unit.
Decoding Air Force jargon can take a while. But it will soon roll off the tongue for those who are new to the Air Force way of life, such as military spouses or new recruits.