The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

TALKING THE TALK |

February 23, 2011

Name: Etta2010
Stationed in: Afghanistan

Some readers may be tired of the washed-out, complaining vein of thought I've been peddling lately -- everyone has their problems, right? So this will be a more lighthearted post, without the melodrama of contact, or the pitiful, self-indulgent discussions of my current emotional disposition. What do I have to complain about, really -- my body is whole, and I've got a full belly of FOB chow.

I'm going to discuss some of the sayings and phrases I've heard this deployment that stuck with me, for whatever obscure aesthetic reasons:

1) Fanning Balls. This means "doing something other than working," or anything that doesn't involve firing one's weapon. Particular emphasis implies that what one is doing is not useful to the group, or contributing nothing to the war effort.

"What did you guys get up to on the last patrol?"
"Nothing, just sitting at checkpoints, fanning balls."
or
"I won't be coming on this mission, I'll be on the FOB fanning balls [or "on the FOB just f.b."].
or
"Then so-and-so got his vehicle stuck and we had to sit around fanning balls for eight hours while a wrecker got out to us to recover."

2) Blow into [something]. This means to energize or otherwise invigorate a project that has encountered difficulty, or will probably be difficult.

"We're having trouble tracking down what happened to the generators after they left camp for Bagram. XO, I need you to blow into this, get to the bottom of things, figure out where they are and who's got accountability for them."

3) Some of the many ways to euphemize getting yelled at: Nuked, detonated, lit up, blown in place [a strangely sexual metaphor, must be unintentional], tore [sic] out of the frame, slam-dunked, torn a new one, f***ed five ways from Friday, destroyed, skullf***ed, annihilated, taking HEAT rounds, taking hits, getting flamed, getting torched, "having words with the boss."

4) Taking a sh**, or taking a dump. This means breaking. Things that can and have taken a sh** this deployment: my computer (lost everything on the hard drive, but saved by my discipline in backing up the system on CDs), my vehicle, comms (on numerous occasions, usually when I can least afford to lose it), other peoples' vehicles, Internet, the cell phone network.

Note: bathroom activities have their own series of euphemisms, which I will not use or explain here, as to do so would be a low thing.

5) "Shucking and jiving," "Cutting and jabbing," "Making it happen," "Working the mojo" "Working it": Ways to explain that one is making headway with a problem that is difficult to define or quantify. Also, ways to say that one is making headway when in fact one is not making headway.

6) Smoke and mirrors: The active and conscious attempt to deceive another party as to what one has done, or failed to do:

"That was a hell of a brief, everyone seemed really impressed."
"Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors."

7) Other ways to underline the importance of doing something, and doing it right: get personally involved, dig into it, figure it out, nug through it, get into the weeds, get into the TM / FM, [this is] a no-fail task, [this is] my number one priority [it is possible to have numerous "number one priorities" at the same time], do the head-check.

8) To finger-drill [something]: to do an inadequate or half-assed job.

"I need you to conduct rehearsals on movement to contact under NVDs [night vision devices]. This is important, we'll be out for a few days with no vehicles, so you cannot afford to talk through it or finger drill the rehearsals -- actually do them, and do them until they're right."

9) Pushed to the right: delayed.

"Sir, when are we SP-ing tomorrow?"
"We're not. Mission's pushed to the right 24 hours."

10) Shelved, tabled: cancelled.

"Sir, when are we SP-ing tomorrow?"
"We're not. Mission's shelved. Pushed to the right indef."

11) Dust off the plan: Mission that was cancelled a week or more ago is now no longer cancelled, again.

"Hey, I need you to dust off Operation Success, it's a go."

"Sir, when are we SP-ing tomorrow?"
"We're not. Operation Success is back on, so our other mission is pushed to the right. Dust off your balls, we're getting blown in place."


Comments

Is fubar dead? :-)

Don't worry about complaining. If you did not gripe you'd probably explode.

Shuckin' and jivin' the smoke and Mirrors? Is the body really whole when there is an emotional disposition to be quantified? Don't finger drill this.
On a lighter note; is there anything better than sitting in a COB eating chicken noodle MRE's? Now that's really livin'.

Two of these phrases struck a responsive chord:
- of the various slang terms related to being 'chewed out' or 'dressed-down,' my favorite has always been the British soldier's 'caught a rocket.'
- I first encountered 'smoke and mirrors' as a suggested sales technique. When promoting a product, we were supposed to use verbal 'smoke and mirrors' to conceal negative aspects.

Great post! Looking for more - writing a research paper in military lingo!

Thanks for this! It's nice to have a bit of unofficial terminology to teach my cadets to lighten up the lessons (and expose them to the reality of the situations they will be responsible for).

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