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A student at the U. S. Military Academy, U. S. Air Force Academy, Reserve Officer Training Corps units as well as other officer procurement organizations. See Aviation Cadet.


Marine Corps issued boots. The predominant form of transportation for recruits and infantry Marines.

Call Out

To challenge another to a fight. Formalized by the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program it is supervised by a martial arts trainer. The rules are complex.

Call Sign

(Commtalk)The word identifier for a unit, aircraft or pilot. [NOTE: The editor is attempting to compile a list of Call Signs actually used in Vietnam. Please send your list to


A name brand version of a personal hydration system which allows the wearer to sip water through a tube from a bladder worn on the back.


The field uniform of the Marine Corps since the 1970s. The original design was stolen by the Army and then every other military service and in 2002 the “pixilated” design was introduced. The pixilated design itself includes tiny Marine Corps emblems and blends better into most natural settings.

Campaign Cover

The hat worn by drill instructors. Sometimes called a Smoky Bear hat. The only official Marine headgear not required to be called a cover in normal conversation. It is often called simply, "The Hat."

Cannon Cocker

A Marine in the artillery or a Navy gunner's mate.

Canoe U

The U. S. Naval Academy.


Casualty Assistance Officer.


(aviation) Combat Air Patrol. (Vietnam)Combined Action Platoon, Marines and Vietnamese soldiers working together, generally as part of the "Pacification Program".


(Vietnam)To fire at something or someone. See Busting Caps. From the act of busting the primer cap on a round of ammunition.

Captain Jinx of the Horse Marines

A popular square dance tune from the 19th Century. The captain is actually an Army officer but the tune was so popular that no application of fact could change the words.

Captain  (Marine)

The third grade of commissioned officer and most senior of the company grade officers indicated by two silver bars on the collar of the uniform. The rank insignia for a Captain of Marines differs from every other service's rank insignia (the tie-bars are at the ends of the rank bars rather than somewhat inboard like a railroad track--no one seems to know why and most reference sources use it incorrectly--the photo shown here is correct). The pay grade is O-3 and is the same in the Army and the Air Force. In the Navy and Coast Guard the rank is lieutenant and is additionally indicated on the shoulder boards and sleeves of various uniforms by two broad gold bands topped by the insignia indicating the branch of the service to which the officer is assigned (most often a gold star indicating a line officer) or, in the Coast Guard, a gold shield.

Captain  (Navy)

The sixth grade of commissioned officer of the Navy or Coast Guard indicated by silver eagles wo on the collar points or by four broad gold stripes topped by a gold star or insignia of branch of service on the shoulder board or jacket sleeve. The pay grade is O-6 and in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps is a colonel.

Captain’s Mast

Non-judicial punishment exercised by a ship's captain.

  Carlson, Evans  

  Legendary World War II commaner of "Carlson's Raiders," the first special forces unit in any United States military service.

Carry On

An informal order to continue what you were doing before being interrupted, usually by the appearance of a commissioned or senior officer.

Casual Company (or Platoon)

A unit of Marines awaiting reassignment.  See BMP.

Cat 4

Applicants who scored next to the lowest on the entrance exams. Under normal circumstances they would not be allowed to enlist but during times of war and when recruiting was difficult a number of them were allowed to join. In the 1960 the Pentagon was forced to accept some social engineering called Project 100,000 in which a great number of Cat 4 enlistees were taken in--the military has yet to recover. For classification purposes the category was further broken down to 4a, 4b or 4c which were defined by recruiters as "animal," "vegetable," or "mineral."

Cat 9

A reference to someone as "beyond dumb" since Category 5 is the lowest of the scores on the entrance exams.


A device on aircraft carriers that hurls an aircraft into the air. Operated by a giant steam piston it shakes the entire ship when engaged.

Cates, Clifton B.

Nineteenth Commandant of the Marine Corps. A Tennessee native, he was born Aug 31, 1893 and died June 4, 1970. He served as Commandant from Jan 1, 1948 until Dec 31, 1951 in the rank of General.

Cattle Car

A cargo trailer converted by adding bus doors to the right side, sealing the back doors and adding bench seating. It was pulled by a truck utilizing a fifth-wheel and it was employed at Parris Island, San Diego and Quantico until as late as the 1980s and perhaps beyond to transport recruits and officer candidates. The editor is a PI Marine and was of the understanding that Hollywood Marine recruits at San Diego were  transported from place to place in limos.  Hollywood Marine Ben Rollins and a number of others have written to correct my belief.  Thanks Ben et al.


Combined Arms Exercise. Exercises the MAGTF.


Correctional Custody.


Commanding General.

CH-46 Sea Knight  

Twin engine helicopter capable of carrying a platoon of Marines.

Chain of Command

The continuous chain of authority that links the most junior private to the Commander in Chief and vice versa. Many argue that the U. S. implementation of the chain of command is the most important strategy employed by our military forces. In other armies the loss of a commander would throw the entire organization into disorder while in the U. S. military, the next most senior person present just assumes command. It is taught that whenever two Marines are walking together, one is in charge.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  

A general or admiral appointed by the President to serve as his senior military advisor. He works with the Secretary of Defense and has no direct authority over the individual services. He does, however, direct the Unified Commands as the direct superior to their Commanders (who were previously called Commander in Chief until the practice was ended by President Bush who wanted exclusive use of the title).


A word or phrase given by a sentry to someone approaching his or her post. The person approaching must give the password or the sentry will assume that the person approaching is an enemy or an unauthorized person. Also Challenge Coin--a coin shared by members of a specific organization which is used to identify a member of that group to another member of the group.


Civilian Health And Medical Program of the Uniformed Services. (The military HMO)--now TRICARE.


A religious leader commissioned into the Navy to provide religious services to and for members of the Naval establishment. They are addressed as Chaplain regardless of rank.

Chapman Jr., Leonard F.  

Twenty fourth Commandant of the Marine Corps, serving from Jan. 1, 1968 until Dec. 31, 1971. He was born Nov. 3, 1913.


(Vietnam) The more formal form of Charlie.


(Commtalk) C.


(Vietnam)A Viet Communist soldier abbreviated VC or Victor Charlie, thus Charlie.

Charlie Echo Code

(Vietnam) A numerical code devised by aviators during the Vietnam War after they were admonished for their frequent use of profanity and unkind references to staff and command personnel. The code was a three-digit number with each number having a specific meaning. It was used in the form “Charlie Echo 103”.  I have been unable to locate a copy of the Charlie Echo Code but there is a copy of the Air Force version, the Falcon Code.

Charlie Sierra

Chicken Shit.


Yes, affirmative or I agree.

Check your six

Look behind you. From the aviation term, “your 6 o’clock” referring to the relative location of an aircraft with 12 o’clock being directly in front of the airplane.


See Sliders.

Cherry Boy

A newcomer to the Orient.


Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, legendary former enlisted Marine (see Mustang) who commanded Marines during the Korean War. Many Drill Instructors require their recruits to recite, “Good night General Puller, wherever you are.” Upon retiring at night. Also a favorite name for a bulldog who is the mascot of a Marine unit.


A basic element of the enlisted rank structure. Until the late 19th Century chevrons were worn in the Euro tradition with the point facing down--except in the Marine Corps where they have always pointed up. Now the normal position for a chevron in the United States military is with the point up.

Chicken Shit

Stupid and petty stuff usually directed by someone of more rank or authority.


(Vietnam) Chinese Communist.

Chief of Naval Operations  

Abbreviated CNO, this is the highest ranking Naval Officer, reporting to the Secretary of the Navy. He sits as a regular member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is eligible to serve as Chairman. He holds the rank of admiral. The Commandant of the Marine Corps does not report to the CNO.

Chief of Staff of the Air Force

The highest ranking officer in the Air Force, reporting to the Secretary of the Air Force. He sits as a regular member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is eligible to serve as Chairman. He holds the rank of general.

Chief of Staff of the Army

The highest ranking officer in the Army, reporting to the Secretary of the Army. Prior to the Civil War an officer in this position was often called General-in-Chief. It was last applied to Winfield Scott, commander of U. S. troops in the Mexican War. He sits as a regular member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is eligible to serve as Chairman. He holds the rank of general.

Chief of the Boat

The senior chief petty officer on a submarine.

Chief Petty Officer  

A Navy and Coast Guard enlisted rank consisting of three inverted chevrons with an inverted rocker on top and a Navy eagle sitting on the rocker. See Gunnery Sergeant of Marines.

Chief Warrant Officer

A Warrant Officer who has been commissioned. The top four grades of Warrant Officer (W-2 through W-5) are commissioned officers. (See Gunner and Lipstick Lieutenant)


(Vietnam) Unconditional surrender by an enemy soldier or force.

China Marines  

Marines of the 4th Marine Regiment assigned to China in the first half of the 20th Century. Also called Horse Marines.


Any piece of paper authorizing something (light duty chit, leave chit, etc.) within the Naval establishment.

Chop Chop

Quickly or in a hurry. Derived from Chinese by the old China Marines.



Chosin Reservoir  

The fiercest and most costly battle in the Korean War was a retreat under fire in 30 below temperatures against a well-trained, much larger force. Chesty Puller and all of the Marines were professional in all aspects of the operation. They won the respect of everyone from General MacArthur to the newest Army private who fought with them. See Puller, Lewis B.

Chow Hall

Place where meals are served, sometimes called a Mess. See Mess Deck.


(Vietnam) A reference to white Marines by black Marines.


Criminal Investigation Division. A unit of the Military Police charged with criminal investigations, polygraph examinations and other detective work. They are both commissioned and non-commissioned officers but wear civilian clothing and their rank is indicated as Investigator. They work closely with Naval Criminal Investigation Service (formerly NIS).

Cinderella Liberty

Liberty that expires at midnight. Used mostly in foreign ports where the captain is concerned for the safety of his crew or as a subliminal form of punishment.

Circle Jerk

See Cluster Fuck.

  Civil War Emblem  

  During and just prior to the Civil War, Marines wore the infantry emblem (a French hunting horn) with a distinctive red center and a silver English letter "M".  Commandant Zeilin replaced it with the modern Eagle Globe and Anchor in 1868.

Class A

The green service uniform with ribbons. Term use until about the 1980s, replaced by "Alphas".

Class VI

A military liquor store. From the priority level assigned to the shipment of such supplies during World War II. Class I was for medical supplies and ammunition, Class II for food and the lowest priority, Class VI, included liquor for troop consumption. Often written Class 6.


Directional anti-personnel mine with plastic explosive propelling ball bearings. Often used in perimeter defense.

Cleary, Robert E.

Tenth Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps having served from June 28, 1983 until June 26, 1987. He was born in Tewksbury, MA on June 2, 1931.


An inexact distance derived from artillery sightings in which each click of site elevation would move the impact point depending on a number of diverse options. Usually taken to mean either a mile or a kilometer. Used mostly since Vietnam. Another legend has it that when the GP (jeep) vehicle was first introduced the odometer would click every one fifth of a mile and that soldiers soon learned to judge distance by the click so that they could pay attention to road hazards and enemy positions. Take your pick.

Close Air Support

A concept developed by Marines during the Banana Wars of the 1930s, copied by the Germans in World War II and perfected by the Marines ever since. Aircraft strafe enemy positions or formations only yards from the Marine front line. Marine aviators are most proficient at it but flying sailors also do an acceptable job. The Navy calls it, "Moving mud to help out the grunts."

Cluster Fuck

(Vietnam) A mission, operation or activity gone bad. Confusion.


Commandant of the Marine Corps. The senior officer in the Marine Corps although under the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Unified Command systems of organization it is possible to have a Marine whose billet outranks the Commandant (Gen. Peter Pace,  when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in a position that out ranks the Commandant). Also, in the Navy, Command Master Chief Petty Officer.


Commanding Officer. Also, conscientious objector.

Coast Guard  

One of the five armed services and the only one not in the Department of Defense. In peacetime they are part of the Department of Homeland Security because of their missions which include water search and rescue, drug interdiction and waterway safety. Prior to being transferred to Homeland Security they were part of the Department of Transportation. They were originally part of the Treasury Department because one of the major components that became the Coast Guard, the Revenue Cutter Service  , was in that Department. The other major components that became the Coast Guard in the early 20th Century were the coastal U. S. Life Saving Service   and the Lighthouse Service .


An unofficial name for a member of the Coast Guard.  Officially they are called Guardsman.

Coaxial Machinegun

A machinegun mounted exactly alongside a tank cannon enabling the tank's gunner to use the same fire control system for both weapons.


Combat Operations Center. Sometimes called the Center of Confusion.

Code Talkers  

Navajo Marines who were recruited during World War II to serve as field radio operators. They would take the orders of the various commanders and translate them into Navajo and sending the information to another Code Talker who would translate it back into English. It is the only field code never broken by the Japanese.


The sixth grade of commissioned officer and senior field grade officer indicated by a silver eagle (always facing forward) on the collar of the uniform. Air Force and Marine colonels wear two eagles while Army colonels wear the eagle only on the left collar while the insignia of their branch of service is worn on the other. The pay grade is O-6 and in the Navy and Coast Guard the rank is captain.

Color Sergeant

By regulation the most senior sergeant (E-5) in the Marine Corps. He or she is assigned to 8th and Eye and has charge of the official colors of the Marine Corps.


The time of day when the national flag is hoisted or lowered from the flagpole. All personnel stop and render appropriate honors during this period. Also the flag of a specific unit upon which the battle streamers are mounted.

  Combat Action Ribbon

  The Naval Services equivalent of the Army's Combat Infantryman Badge.  Those sailors and Marines who wear this ribbon have seen actual combat (been shot at and shot back).  It is a significant badge of honor.

Combat Correspondents

Marines who report war news from the front and who assist the news media in reporting about Marines in combat. They are trained at the Defense Information School. See United States Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association.


Navy version of 1st Civ. Div. COMmander, CIVilians, AtLANTic.

Commandant of the Coast Guard

The highest ranking officer in the Coast Guard reporting to the Secretary of  Homeland Security in peace time and the Secretary of the Navy in wartime. He holds the rank of admiral.

Commandant of the Marine Corps  

The highest ranking person in the Marine Corps. The first CMC was a captain and the rank has increased until today he holds the rank of general. He serves at the pleasure of the President and reports to the Secretary of the Navy. The Commandant of the Marine Corps sits as a regular member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is eligible to serve as Chairman.

Commandant's Own  

Name given to the United States Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps.


One who has charge of a military unit exercising command authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or, in the Navy and Coast Guard a rank equivalent to a Marine lieutenant colonel.

Commander in Chief

The President of the United States. Prior to 2002 it was also used to indicate the senior officer in a unified command. In June of 2002 the Secretary of Defense decreed that the only CinC in the U.S. would be the POTUS

Commanding General

A general officer in charge of a unit with the authorities granted under the UCMJ to dispense justice and exercise optrational and training control appropriate to his or her rank.

Commanding Officer

A person in charge of a unit with the authorities granted under the UCMJ to dispense justice appropriate to his or her rank.


Not wearing skivvies.


Grocery stores on base run by DeCA (Defense Commissary Agency).

Commissioned Officer

Officers who have been designated as “officers and gentlemen” by the Congress on the advice of the President. Noncommissioned officers are rated and warrant officers are granted warrants to their grade. Enlisted Marines are fond of making note that their parents made them gentlemen, it did not require an act of Congress. The commissioned ranks are: second lieutenant, first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general and general.

Commo Wire

Field telephone wire.


A unit containing more than one platoon. They are typically commanded by a captain. Companies are assigned within Battalions.

Company Grade

A commissioned officer in the first three grades. In the Navy and Coast Guard they are ensign, lieutenant (junior grade) and lieutenant. In the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps they are first and second lieutenants and captain. Traditionally, particularly in the Naval services, these officers may be addressed as mister, but a smart Marine doesn’t follow this tradition.

Company Gunny

Usually a gunnery sergeant in a company who is charged with training. It is a billet and not a rank.


Commuted Rations. Payment in lieu of eating in the mess hall, usually paid to married Marines.


See Cumshaw.


Coiled ribbons of metal with both edges razor sharp. Used to deter access to an area.

Confederate States Marine Corps  

Many of the officers of the CSM were formerly officers or noncommissioned officers in the U. S. Marine Corps who resigned to "go south". Their headquarters were at the fort at Drewry's Bluff on the James River keeping the U. S. Navy from firing on Richmond, the Confederate capital.

Confidence Course

A series of large scale obstacles that a Marine must overcome, particularly in boot camp. It is generally not a timed event and is most often an individual effort to overcome fears of height and to develop confidence in recruits. See Obstacle Course.

Congressional Medal of Honor

No such thing. See Medal of Honor.

Conscientious objector

Someone who objects to combat on religious grounds. They can serve in non-combatant positions (including service on the battlefield as a corpsman or other unarmed person) or they can serve in non-military public service assignments. They are usually not slackers or traitors and deserve respect for making difficult decisions before getting someone hurt or killed in combat.


A Navy enlisted rank. See Seaman.


(Civil War) A slave freed by Union forces. Their status was unique in that, while they were in the South under Confederate control they were legally free but in reality slaves. When they passed into the hands of Union forces they were still slaves (the Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in the Union). Many of them enlisted into the Army or Navy, but because of their status could serve only in menial positions. A male contraband could, for instance, enlist in the Navy and serve in the rank of Boy being paid $8 per month (about half the pay of Seamen or Landsmen) Many sailors of the time were free blacks and were treated like any other shipmate, but they would not associate with contrabands. It was only after the Civil War that the Navy was segregated.  There were no blacks in either the U. S. or C. S. Marines during the Civil War.


Continental United States.

Conway, James T.

34th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Began his tenure in November 2006.

Cool Beans

Everything is OK.


To get, as in "cop some Zs".


A material used to make dress shoes and boots that has a high gloss finish. See Spit Shine. A registered product of the DuPont Company.


An abbreviation for the word corporation which is frequently used incorrectly in place of the word Corps.

Corporal of Marines

The first of the noncommissioned officer ranks is indicated by two chevrons and crossed rifles below the worn on both sleeves. The pay grade is E-4 and is equivalent to corporal in the Army, senior airman in the Air Force and petty officer third class in the Navy and Coast Guard..


A military unit containing multiple Divisions or a unique, specified military organization given the designation.


An enlisted member of the Navy Medical Corps trained in field medical aid. (During WWII they were Pharmacist Mates.) They usually wear Marine Corps uniforms with Navy rank and insignia. See Doc. Until they are promoted to Chief Petty Officer they wear subdued insignia of rank on the right collar of field uniforms and a shield with a Caduceus on the left collar. On service uniforms they wear their rank insignia on the left arm only. Their rank structure is:

HR - Hospital Recruit (E-1)

HA - Hospital Apprentice (E-2)

HN - Hospitalman (E-3)

HM3 - Hospital Corpsman Third Class (E-4)

HM2 - Hospital Corpsman Second Class (E-5)

HM1 - Hospital Corpsman First Class (E-6)

HMC - Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-7)

HMCS - Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-8)

HMCM - Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (E-9)


A protective fluid placed on rifles and other metal objects which hardens and keeps the item from rusting or corroding. It must be removed before the item can be used. Also refers to something new as in, "it was still in cosmolene".

Court Street

Liberty destination in Jacksonville NC for Marines from Camp Lejeune, Camp Geiger and MCAS New River. Until the 1980s the street was populated with bars, pawn shops and the bus station. The town cleaned it up and turned it into a "mall" sending the liberty crowd to the "second front", a range of bars along US 17.


Caps, hats and other things worn on the head. Marines wear covers, regardless of what the headgear actually is (except for the Campaign Cover which is often called "The Hat"). A Marine's cover is always removed when indoors unless that Marine is armed. Also, in ranks, to align directly behind the Marine in front of you.


One who steers a boat or has charge of its crew. Pronounced cox-SUN.


Command Post. Unit headquarters.

Cracker Jack



Individual meals used in the field from World War II until Vietnam. They came in a box containing cans of food and a foil accessory pack. They were replaced by the Meal, Ready to Eat.

Crawford, Leland D.

Ninth Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps having served from Aug. 16, 1979 until June 27, 1983. He was born in Sharon, WV on Feb. 16, 1930.

Crew-Served Weapon

Any weapon which requires more than one Marine to fire. Most artillery pieces, tanks and large machine guns fit in this category.

Crossing the Line

An allegorical ceremony performed aboard ship whenever the ship crosses a navigational line such as the equator or into another ocean. Very colorful and usually involves an initiation of those who have never crossed the line before.

Crotch, The

The Corps (pejorative form).


General reference to the Naval Eagle in the rank insignia of U. S. Navy petty officers.


A 54-hour training event in which Marine recruits are physically and mentally challenged by lack of sleep, minimal food, forced marches, teamwork exercises and leadership opportunities. It is the final major training event of boot camp and is designed to pull together everything they have been taught previously and survive a real challenge. Parents of recruits or potential recruits should be told that while it will be difficult for their child, it is safe and well supervised. It culminates in the Warrior Breakfast and signals a change in their drill instructors from task masters to mentors.


See Deployment.

Crumb Catcher

The mouth.


A present or gratuity, often a piece of needed equipment that appears when needed (while at the same time a similar item disappears from another unit). A cumshaw artist is generally prized within a unit for his or her ability to provide-and few questions are asked. From the old Chinese term “kam sia” meaning grateful thanks. The term was used at the start of World War II to describe payoffs by Honolulu's Hotel Street prostitutes to local police officials.

Cunt Cap

Garrison cover. See Pisscutter.


The tank commander's hatch.


(Vietnam) Combined Unit Pacification Program. Units consisting of Marines and South Vietnamese soldiers.

Cushman Jr., Robert E.

Twenty fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps, serving from Jan. 1, 1972 until June 30, 1975. The Naval Academy graduate was born Dec. 24, 1914 and died Jan. 2, 1985.

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Home Page ¦ Dictionary Cover ¦ Marine Quotes 

© Glenn B. Knight, 2002-2011

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