Mary Anna Thomas

21 Military Phrases Exclusive to Those Who’ve Served

Military personnel have a unique understanding of one another, and it often seems they speak their own language. In addition to using phrases that show the strength of their bond with each other, people in the military use acronyms for quick communication. We take a look at 21 inspirational phrases only military personnel will truly understand:

“Leave No Man Behind”

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This powerful phrase reinforces the importance of caring for fellow soldiers and never abandoning them in battle or difficult situations. In the civilian world, looking out for your friends, family, and neighbors in times of need is the best way to create a happier society. 

“Embrace the Suck”

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“Embrace the Suck” is a blunt but effective motto acknowledging the challenges of military life and encouraging perseverance to get through them. While military personnel will understand hardships more than most, this phrase can apply to everyday life when we need encouragement to stand up again when we get knocked down.

“Improvise, Adapt, Overcome”

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Core principles of military training include instilling resourcefulness, problem-solving skills, and the ability to adjust to unexpected situations. This advice is drilled into people when they start in the military and pass down the chain of command as they rise through the ranks. 

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF) 

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WTF may be a phrase we hear from teenagers today, but it has been a longstanding uttering in the military. Officers use WTF as a shared way to express surprise, disbelief, or frustration in a tense situation without being too offensive when using comms. 

“This Too Shall Pass”

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Hearing the words “This Too Shall Pass” can be comforting in times of despair. For people in the military, it is a reminder that even the toughest deployments or challenges are temporary, and better days lie ahead.

“Fair Winds and Following Seas”

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“Fair winds and following seas” is a traditional nautical saying used as a farewell or blessing to someone embarking on a journey, especially at sea. Fair winds symbolize the hope that a person’s journey will be smooth and easy, and following seas refer to waves that come from behind the boat, making the boat move forward more easily. 

“Get Some Skin in the Game”

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Telling someone to “Get Some Skin in the Game” encourages them to take initiative and contribute to the team’s success. Bystanders who avoid getting involved are not only letting their teammates down but also depriving themselves of development opportunities. 

“Hooah All the Way! (US Army) Oorah All the Way! (US Marines)”

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This fun, motivational chant shows enthusiasm and determination to complete the mission, regardless of obstacles. While civilians may not employ these exact works, research shows that listening to music can be a great motivator.

“We Train Low, We Fight High”

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It goes without saying that military personnel deal with very stressful situations. This motto reminds them that the demanding training will pay off with effective performance in real-world situations.

“For God, For Country, and For Corps!”

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“For God, for Country, and for Corps!” is the US Army Corps of Engineers motto, highlighting dedication to duty, patriotism, and service. While “for Corps” refers specifically to the US Army Corps of Engineers, patriotic Americans across the country repeat the rest of the motto.


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“Geronimo” is a battle cry traditionally used by US paratroopers before jumping out of airplanes, symbolizing courage and fearless action. It expresses courage and excitement and can be heard in playgrounds and diving pools worldwide. 

“Semper Fortis” 

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Temper fortis” is a Latin phrase that means “Always Strong.” It’s most commonly used as an unofficial motto by the United States Navy and United States Army Special Forces. We all have tough periods, but a reminder that we have inner strength can help build resilience. 

“Never Underestimate the Power of a Motivated Grunt”

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Most people will never have heard this saying unless they know someone in the military. These words are a tribute to the infantry who are the backbone of many forces. It is a phrase said with pride as it acknowledges the determination and impact all military members possess. 

“First In, Last Out”

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In this case, “First In, Last Out” refers to special operations forces that are often the first to enter combat zones and the last to leave, ensuring the safety of others. These days, the term is often used when there are redundancies in an organization that will let the last people they hired go first.

“Hotel Six”

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“Hotel Six” is military slang for a dangerous or uncertain situation. It refers to the sixth position on a compass where you can’t see what’s coming. Using the phrase will prompt soldiers to be more cautious and prepared.

“We Got Your Back”

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People often tell us that they “have our backs,” but not many of us know the origins of the phrase. It is a powerful expression of camaraderie and solidarity, assuring your soldiers they have a backup.

“Silence is Golden”

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Believe it or not, “Silence is Golden” was not a phrase invented by parents of toddlers; it came from the military. The words remind us of operational security, where discretion and avoiding giving away information can be crucial.

“Hooah for the Heroes, the Fallen, and the Fight for Freedom!”

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This is a heartfelt saying used by the US to honor those who have served, sacrificed, and defended liberty.

“One Team, One Fight”

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“One team, One fight” is a unifying motto emphasizing teamwork and cooperation. If the military doesn’t work together towards a common goal, they are very unlikely to succeed. Team leaders and sports coaches often use the phrase to bring their teams together to meet a group goal.

“Hope Is Not a Strategy, but Neither Is Surrender”

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This saying reminds us never to give up hope but also to take decisive action and fight for what we believe in. These military words can push us to continue in a world where it is easy to feel we have no power. 

“Dust Off the Boots”

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In military lingo, “dust off the boots” means to prepare for military action or redeploy after a period of inactivity or rest. In civilian life, “dusting off the boots” is a sign that you’re returning to an activity that you have not done for a while.

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