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Embrace the Suck, Revised and Expanded Edition, by Austin Bay

New York / Nashville: Post Hill Press Bombardier Books, 2017. Pp. 112. Illus., appends, links. $12.99 paper. ISBN: 1682614956.

A Layman’s Guide to Military Lingo

First published in 2007, Col. Bay’s dictionary of “Milspeak” – military jargon, technicalese, slang, and whatnot – drew its title from the modern soldier’s term, “the Suck”, for what Clausewitz called “friction”, that is, the inevitable dysfunctionalities and surprises – both great and small – that crop up in war that must be understood and accepted if the war fighters are to succeed.

In preparing this second edition, Bay has added a new introduction, which reviews post-2007 developments in military conflicts, and includes a number of sketches that illustrate equipment such as radios or flash glasses, as well as ideas such as “Road Toad”, a soldier assigned to road guard duty, and even a few maps.

Many new terms have been added to those in the original version. So we find “Mandatory Fun”, which refers to the inclusion of non-military activities, such as softball games, in the training schedule. There’s also “O Country”, referring to the officers’ berthing spaces on a ship, “Shadowing”, the assignment of newly arrived personnel arrival to “shadow” the persons they are replacing, and “Line of Operation”, meaning, essentially, “this is the plan”. This last, “Line of Operation”, has actually been in use since before the Civil War, but with a very different meaning from that which it now holds. This reminds us that milspeak is ever evolving. So while some terms seem to hang around forever, such as “UXB” for unexploded bomb, or “REMF”, for rear echelon “MF”, whereas a senior officer during the Civil War was a “Big Bug”, and during the world wars “Brass”, the term today is more likely “Star”, “Flag”, or “High O”, and of course, the ordinary soldier went from “Doughboy” to “GI” to “Grunt” over the last century.

So Embrace the Suck is useful for someone – whether contemporary citizen or future historian -- seeking to understand what military personnel are talking about.


Note: Embrace the Suck is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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