From Alpha to Zulu

Miltary Life from Alpha to ZuluWife on the Roller Coaster threw down the proverbial gauntlet last week with a challenge: outline your military life from A to Z — or in the phonetic alphabet, Alpha to Zulu. Mine grew somewhat in the telling from a list of words to a compendium of definitions that largely turned out to be specific to the Naval Aviation community. I had fun with it, and I can’t wait to see what other military spouses come up with for their abridged dictionary versions of military life.

Got your own list? Go forth and link up at Riding the Roller Coaster!

Alpha to Zulu (Naval Aviation Style)

Alpha is for airshows, which not only play a great role in military recruiting and awareness in the community, but also make for some sweet-deal cross-country flights.

Bravo is for Boat, what aviators call the aircraft carrier to irritate the shoes (see “Sierra” below) who think it ought to be called a ship.

Charlie is for Carrier Onboard Delivery, the mission of my husband’s aircraft.

Delta is for debrief, the post-flight play-by-play that includes, if you were landing on the carrier or practicing to do so, the grades of your passes by the LSO (see “Lima” below).

Echo is for EPs, the aircraft Emergency Procedures that must be memorized so they can be put into action at a moment’s notice. Many spouses of flight students become well-versed in EPs through quizzing their loved ones.

Foxtrot is for flight schedule, AKA the “Sked,” which rules each day of our lives and doesn’t come out for until the evening before.

GoshawkGolf is for the T-45 Goshawk, the jet trainer in which my husband made his first carrier landing.

Hotel is for Hail and Bail, a party during which we greet the FNGs (Fu… uh, “Fine” New Guys/Gals) and say goodbye to those moving on to the next assignment.

India is for IP, or Instructor Pilot. When you’re in flight school, you live and die on how the IPs grade you.

JOPA PatchJuliet is for JOPA, the unofficial Junior Officer’s Protection Association made up of the squadron’s O-1s, O-2s, and O-3s. JOPA must stick together under the occasional onslaught of “great ideas” of O-4s and above.

Kilo is for Kingsville, Texas, our first home as a married couple (and a place we would not have chosen to live without the Navy’s insistence that flight school take place in a part of the country with lots of empty airspace).

Lima is for LSO, or Landing Signal Officer. Also called “Paddles,” this is the guy or gal who stands on the platform to help pilots land aboard the carrier and grade their landings.

MeatballMike is for meatball, the Fresnel lens glideslope indicator that tells pilots whether they’re coming in for a carrier landing correctly. If you’ve heard someone talking about “calling the ball,” this is what they mean.

November is for NATOPS, the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization program. This thick tome contains as much as it is humanly possible to know about flying a given aircraft, and it is often said to have been “written in blood.”

Oscar is for ORM, or Operational Risk Management, which imbues both our Navy and Civil Air Patrol activities.

Papa is for PCLs, the pocket checklists for each aircraft my husband flew in flight school that litter our house to this day.

Quebec is for the Q, whether it refers to Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, or Combined Bachelor Quarters. We’ve lived in one Q or another whilst looking for permanent housing at a new duty station.

Romeo is for ready room, an environment in which one had better have a thick skin; aviators aren’t known to be Mister Rogers-esque paragons of gentleness in their speech or mannerisms.

Sierra is for shoe, short for “blackshoe” — a Surface Warfare type. Only aviators wear brown shoes in uniform.

Tango is for tailhook, without which carrier landings would be well-nigh impossible for fixed-wing aviators.

Uniform is for underway. Even when my husband is at home, he is busy flying out to support any carrier that is underway within reach of this coast.

Victor is for the VTs, as in VT-6 or VT-3, the Navy’s fixed-wing training squadrons. Contrast with the HTs, the helicopter training squadrons.

Whiskey is for Wings of Gold. Whether double-anchor (for Naval Flight Officers — think “Goose” from Top Gun) or single-anchor (for Naval Aviators, the pilots), earning one’s wings is a proud accomplishment following an arduous passage through flight school.

X-Ray is for the X. “Getting the X” means completing the syllabus flight, not always an easy task in flight school, when so many things are dependent on the weather or having an up (functional) airplane available.

Yankee is for “You fool!” — what you are if you expect military life to make sense all the time.

Zulu is for “zipper-suited sun god,” a tongue-in-cheek appellation for those who spend most of their time in flight suits.


7 thoughts on “From Alpha to Zulu

  1. Ah yes, brown shoes. Mr. W got those his check-in day here. Some had to wait until they were deemed worthy by the JOPA. And ahhhh, the JOPA – I love those guys. The group is very strong here. And the hangovers are very strong here too the morning after they go out.

  2. Loved this! We’re a displaced sub family stationed at an air base (Pensacola), so this was a helpful tutorial! You did miss “P for PAJAMAS” though..that’s what the rest of us say flight suits look like!

  3. Awesome! And I’m so glad you explained each one because I would have had to go and look them up.

    Thank you so much for participating and linking and spreading the word. You rock!

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