Military acronyms – love ‘em or hate ‘em if you work in defense or homeland security, you’re probably pretty familiar with them. Whether you’re in the active duty service or not, military acronyms are a hard habit to break.

While you’ll read a lot of good advice here at about how important it is to keep acronyms – even the most common ones – out of your resume, I personally love a good acronym around the office. Acronyms serve their purpose – they save time, help abbreviate notes and are a great way to confuse interns.

Anyone using them probably has a favorite or two, but I wanted to share here a few of the best military acronyms for everyday use.

AAR – After Action Review.


Most of us could probably use a little bit more of this one around our offices. AARs are conducted in the military after training exercises or events. They offer the opportunity to go over what went well, and what could have been done better. They also offer the opportunity to get a cross-section of staff involved, which is always ideal when you’re looking to improve business processes. So go ahead, get your AAR on and you may be surprised at the performance results.

PT – Physical Training.


One perk of my time working for the Army was always having access to great gym facilities and frequently even built-in time to enjoy physical activity. A little PT can be mentally as well as physically stimulating, and is something that employees in the Washington, D.C. area, in particular, could really use a bit more of. Physical and mental toughness go hand in hand, so if you find yourself spending more time at line in Dunkin Donuts than you do in the gym, maybe it’s time to incorporate a little PT into your daily routine.

AO – Area of Operations.


Call me territorial but I think we benefit from our own space, even at work. And whether your AO is a cubicle in a florescent lit office or a FOB (Forward Operating Base) in Afghanistan, get to know your AO. You don’t necessarily need to establish a perimeter and begin patrols, but it sure sounds a lot cooler to say you’re headed to your AO than it does to say you’re just walking back to your office or cube.

MIA – Missing in Action


This was a popular one at one of my last jobs, where it seemed some employees spent more time at the Pentagon City Mall than they did at the actual Pentagon. In the modern office building (which seems to get bigger and bigger, wherever you work), it’s pretty easy to lose a coworker or two. Are they at a meeting with sales, at the satellite office down the street or napping in the courtyard? MIA is a great all-encompassing term to use the next time someone’s inquiring about the location of your nearest coworker.

OPTEMPO – Operating Tempo

Most offices have a rhythm, and it’s always a good idea to know what the daily tempo is before you head to the office (so you know whether or not to call in sick). In the Washington, D.C. area tempos often circle around budget cycles or congressional activities. In other areas of the country local calendars or even inter-office cycles may predict the pace of activity. Like it or not we all have up days and down days. Keeping tabs of the OPTEMPO and having your coworkers do the same is a great way to make sure productivity stays predictable even during highs and lows.

These are pretty basic, and if you work in the government or defense sectors I’m sure you’ve heard them used a time or two. I’d love to hear your favorites, so please share them in the comments section!

Related News

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.