The Army loves acronyms and jargon. Virtually any conversation with troops devolves into an unintelligible (to outsiders) babble of grunts and acronyms and awkward phrases whose common meaning cannot be discerned.

To some extent, the use of jargon is a good thing. It speeds up communications within the military community. Every profession has this characteristic.

But the Army sometimes gets a bit carried away. And the trend has gotten worse in the last couple decades.

Stars and Stripes has a look at some folks that are pushing back at the trend:

Hollywood might poke fun at the Army’s liberal use of acronyms and abbreviations, perhaps with good reason: There are nearly 1,100 acronyms and approximately 2,000 operational terms in the Field Manual 1-02, the Army and Marine Corps’ manual of operational terms and graphics.

A team of Army terminologists is working to change that.

Carlos Soto, a terminologist with the Fort Leavenworth, Kan.-based Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate Joint Multinational Doctrine Division, said the philosophy of his group is simple: Because soldiers were taught English before joining the Army, why try to teach them a new language?

I’ll give you an example of one of my own pet peeves.

In the olden days, there was command. You gave orders, other folks carried them out. But that wasn’t enough. Soon enough, it became “command and control” which meant that after you gave your orders, you could modify them and guide your forces right in the middle of their execution. It also lead to the handy acronym “C2” which was easy enough. But then improvements in electronics lead to tossing in communications to the mix and changing it to “C3″.”

Fine, but then everything had to be computer based, leading to “C4”.

I think the current iteration is “C4ISR” for Command, Control, Communications, Computers,  Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. Which, basically, it all still boils down to the tools used to exercise command. So why don’t we just call it “Command” and leave it the heck alone?

10 thoughts on “Acrophilia”

  1. Bravo! And I didn’t mean anything by that except I applaud Army leadership pursuing to trim down acronyms that require a human brain to process the meaningless into the meaningful.

    In university Information systems classes we emphasized the importance to use terms with meaning…and to try to not be too clever when we coded. Both were to help the human brain to process and respond more quickly.

    Kudos. Also, thanks XB. Much enjoyed the article.

  2. Because C4ISR allows some staff officer to fill out a kewl bullet point on the resume. When I was a Sigo, we didn’t have C4ISR. We had comms. If comms were down, the commander didn’t command and I got my butt chewed by everyone from PFC Suffy to Col. Halftrack. Heck, if I had C4ISR, maybe I could still eat sitting down.

  3. Albert Einstein said, “It is very simple to make something complex and very complex to make something simple.” Acronyms play an important role in any Army. They keep everybody confused. Let me ask you, how would you feel if you were being sent to di-dah school? It sounds like a kindergarten for morons.

  4. The army just trashed “Command and Control” as a “Warfighting Function” (which you may recall was formerly a “Battlefield Operating System”) and replaced it with “Mission Command” which was lifted directly from the concept of “Battle Command”, though “Battle Command” was formerly a subset of “Command and Control” and now “Mission Command” has replaced both “Battle Command” AND “Command and Control.” The only thing worse than a slew of acronyms is emerging doctrine.

  5. C5ISR: Command, Control, Communications, Computers,Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

  6. The ONLY militarism that I thought made sense was the infameous “short arm inspection.”

    Once, at a dance several Marines were talking and one mentioned that day’s “Short arm” and several of the ladies asked what THAT was.

    Said one quick thinking Marine, “Well, they have to check us to make sure our arms are long enough to reach the trigger.”

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