The military loves acronyms, and each branch of service has to have its own flavors of alphabet soup. Come Thanksgiving, the extended Sherpa family table welcomes Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army National Guard, all sitting together, making nice, giving thanks, and rarely understanding what the heck the other guy is going on about.
Mostly, that has to do with language. Or maybe it's dialect. Whatever you call it when someone has a different word for practically everything under the Government Issued sun.
If we can't understand each other, how can we possibly fight? The enemy, I mean.
Of course, we do it to ourselves, too. Each service has apparently run out of good acronymns, because now we're recycling them. Consider, for example, my surprise when called to a recent meeting about answering our unit's "RFI," or "Requests for Information." That's what the Army calls formal questions asked on behalf of an entire unit. There were about eight of us in the room, four of whom seemed to want to talk of nothing but uniforms, boots, coats, sweaters and the like. It turned out that the supply guys and gals had been the ones to call the meeting. They wanted to discuss the "Rapid Fielding Initiative."
Same planet, different worlds.
There are other instances, of course. Nearly every year, for example, U.S. National Guard soldiers go on two or three weeks of Active Duty for Training (ADT). In the National Guard, there are also any number of Agribusiness Development Teams (ADT) deploying to assist Afghans with agricultural production and marketing. The Iowa National Guard--both Army and Air--will deploy one such unit later this year.
So, pausing a moment to do some acronymal math: It is theoretically possible for "a deploying ADT to issue an RFI about RFI during ADT."
In my current Army training course, a Kentucky Army National Guard officer described his deployment to Iraq with this anecdote. "When they said they needed someone to go as an FSO, I jumped at the opportunity." The gentleman is in the Field Artillery branch, in which "FSO" means "Fire Support Officer."
"It turns out they meant 'Food Service Officer,'" he laughed.
Ouch. Pass the salt?