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Glossary of Military Terms

Check this glossary for commonly used military terms.

The list of terms below is from Today's Military online guide by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Active Duty
Continuous duty on a daily basis. Comparable to "full time" as used in reference to a civilian job.

Money, other than basic pay, to compensate in certain situations for expenses, such as meals, rent, clothing, and travel. Usually given for maintaining proficiency in a specific skill area, such as flying or parachuting.

Large cannons or missile launchers used in combat.

Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. A test that assists students in career exploration and decision-making. Used by the military services to determine enlistment eligibility and to assign occupational specialties.

A location of an installation on which a military force relies for supplies or from where it initiates operations.

Basic Pay
The pay a military member receives, as determined by pay grade and length of service. Does not include other benefits such as allowance or bonuses.

Anyone not on active duty in the military.

Commissioned Officer
A member of the military with the rank of second lieutenant or ensign or above. This role in the military is similar to that of a manager or executive.

Delayed Entry Program. Allows an applicant to delay entry into active duty for up to one year for such things as finishing school.

To train or exercise in military operations.

Assigned task or occupation.

Enlisted Member
Military personnel below the rank of warrant or commissioned officers. This role is similar to that of a company employee or supervisor.

A service member, not a warrant officer or commissioned officer, who has been accepted by the military and has taken the Oath of Enlistment.

Enlistment Agreement/Contract
A legal contract between the military and an enlistment applicant. Includes information on enlistment date, term of enlistment, and other options such as a training program guarantee or a cash bonus.

GI Bill Benefits
A program of education benefits for individuals entering the military. Allows service persons to set aside money to be used later for educational purposes.

Inactive Reserve Duty
Affiliation with the military in a non-training, non-paying status after completing minimum obligation off active duty service.

Units of men trained, armed, and equipped to fight on foot.

Job Specialty
A specific job or occupation in one of the five services.

Military Entrance Processing Station. The enlistment process occurs at stations located around the country.

National Guard
Serves in both a state and federal capacity. May be call on to assist in community support, disaster relief, and other local emergencies. During national emergencies, units are called on to support their active counterparts in the Army and Air Force.

Non-commissioned Officer. An enlisted member in pay grades E-4 or higher.

The period of time one agrees to serve on active duty, in the reserve, or a combination of both.

Officer Candidate School. For college graduates with no prior military training who wish to become military officers. Qualified enlisted members may also attend. After successful completion, candidates are commissioned as military officers.

Officer Training School (Group). See OCS, Officer Candidate School.

See commissioned officer.

Pay Grade
A level of employment designated by the military. There are nine enlisted pay grades and 10 officers pay grades through which they can progress during their career. Pay grade and length of service determine a service member's pay.

Living accommodations or housing.

See enlistee.

Regular Military Compensation
Total value of basic pay, allowances, and tax savings. The amount of pay a civilian worker would need to earn to receive the same take home "pay" as a services member.

People in the military who are not on full-time, active duty. May be called up in a national emergency to serve on active duty. During peacetime, they support the active duty forces in our country's defense. Reservists are also entitled to some of the employment benefits available to active military personnel.

Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Training given to undergraduate college students who plan to become military officers. Often they receive scholarships for tuition, books, fees, uniforms, and a monthly allowance.

Service or Services
A branch or multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces. There are five in all: the Army, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Marine Corps (or Marines) and the Navy.

Services Classifier
A military information specialist who helps applicants select a military occupational field.

Service Obligation
The amount of time an enlisted member agrees to serve in the military as stated in the enlistment agreement.

A place of assigned duty.

Tour of Duty
A period of obligated service. Also used to describe a type of duty tour, such as a "Mediterranean tour."

Warrant Officer
A member of the Army, Navy, or Marines who is a technical specialist or pilot. These members are generally appointed from the enlisted, non-commissioned officer ranks.