Nonners, AFIs, and extra — An Air Drive lingo information for the remainder of us

With its host of acronyms, ranks, scores and buzzwords, the army has a language all its personal, with loads of localized jargon and dialects for every department, occupation and even unit growing distinctive phrases to do their jobs.

The Air Drive particularly has a number of highly-specialized jobs that play important roles in preserving plane able to fly. Airmen in every Air Drive Specialty Code (the service’s time period for Navy Occupational Specialty) take pleasure in what they do, to the purpose the place there are a blinding variety of nicknames for every function, and non-Air Drive of us could do not know what they’re speaking about.

Everybody desires to be “joint” operations today, and what’s a greater approach to try this than to talk Air Drive-ese? Under is a primer to get you began.

Port Dawgs

The U.S. army has a worldwide presence, however that presence would crumble if not for the individuals who load stuff onto airplanes so it may possibly get to Japan, Korea, the Persian Gulf, or anyplace else. ‘Port Dawgs’ is the nickname for airmen who work within the air transportation AFSC. They’re those who “plan, schedule and course of” passengers, cargo and baggage and cargo them onto army and contracted plane, in response to the Air Drive. This reporter is just not positive the place the “dawgs” comes from precisely, however the “port” is probably going brief for “aerial port squadrons,” which many Port Dawgs belong to. Air transportation specialists additionally drive forklifts to place stuff on planes, and a few drivers take immense pleasure in being the actual spine of the U.S. army. Some have even proposed creating their very own department often known as the Fork Drive. Fork Drive or no, the port dawgs are the elbow grease behind the U.S. army’s world attain. Additionally they clear the bathrooms on plane, so give a port dawg an enormous ‘thanks on your service’ subsequent time you see one.


Who handles the cargo and passengers as soon as they’re on the airplane? Air Drive loadmasters, in fact. There’s a science to placing individuals and objects on Air Drive cargo plane such because the C-130, C-17 and C-5. A loadmaster’s job is to determine how you can load the cargo with out upsetting the plane’s stability or surpassing its weight restrict, which might make taking off, flying and touchdown a difficult enterprise. Even tying down the cargo takes ability and calculation, as a result of relying on its weight and top that cargo may have further restraints to maintain it from coming free in flight or on touchdown. Loadmasters additionally discover ways to conduct a cargo airdrop and oversee airborne troops leaping out the again of the aircraft. That coaching is vital, as a result of Air Drive cargo can contain something from tanks to dolphins to a whole lot of refugees fleeing wartorn Kabul.

Workers Sgt. Cassandra LaVoie, third Airlift Squadron loadmaster, checks the motion limiting chains aboard a C-17 Globemaster III earlier than flight March 5, 2018, at Dover Air Drive Base, Del. LaVoie was a member of an all-female C-17 crew that flew a neighborhood mission in honor of Girls’s Historical past Month. (Airman 1st Class Zoe M. Wockenfuss/U.S. Air Drive)

Dust Boyz 

Even the Air Drive has to come back again right down to earth generally, and civil engineer airmen be sure that the roads, buildings and infrastructure airmen use throughout their terrestrial hours are in tip-top form. Just like the civil engineers of different providers, they maintain the bottom services operating one of the best they will by solar or shine, and so they restore runways so plane can maintain utilizing them to take off and land. It’s onerous work, particularly within the scorching southwestern deserts and humid southeastern swamps the place the Air Drive appears to like to construct bases. If I did that, I’d need a “z” on the finish of my nickname too.

Purple Horse 

The time period for Purple Horse doesn’t come from horses, however from an acronym: Fast Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Restore Squadron Engineer. In plain English, Purple Horse squadrons are like fast response forces however for heavy building. Once they deploy, they create the gear and folks to construct or restore a runway and the services that encompass it at a second’s discover. Additionally they put on crimson onerous hats or baseball caps to dam the solar and match their imaginary crimson horse. The distinction between Purple Horse and different civil engineer models is that different models be certain that bases work all yr spherical, whereas Purple Horse creates new buildings or repairs new buildings and might achieve this downrange.

“We’re this agile, versatile unit that is ready to go anyplace on the planet and construct or restore massive building tasks,” mentioned Capt. Ryan Hill, director of operations for the 820th Purple Horse squadron in a 2020 press launch. “We’re our personal mini mission help group. We’ve got cops, providers, medical, logistics, finance and extra. We are able to do something to get the mission finished.”

‘Dirt boyz,’ ‘Port Dawgs,’ and ‘Red Horse’ — A guide to Air Force lingo for the rest of us
U.S. Air Drive Tech. Sgt. Julio Duran Sangabriel, left, Grasp Sgt. Michael Rael, undertaking supervisor, and 1st Lt. Kyle Worth, a design engineer, with the 557th Expeditionary Fast Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Restore Squadron Engineer Squadron, or RED HORSE, oversee the drilling of concrete of a taxiway at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait, Feb. 22, 2022 (Senior Airman Natalie Filzen/U.S. Air Drive)


Talking of adverse jobs, Safety Forces (the Air Drive equal of army police) is one among them. Although they’ve a legislation enforcement mission, one of many defenders’ most vital jobs is to protect Air Drive bases and defend the costly, harmful plane or nuclear missiles inside. Defenders are the closest factor the Air Drive has to a common infantry pressure, since their unique mission was to offer the identical safety for air bases that Marines present for Navy bases. They proudly put on darkish blue berets, although they’re usually overworked, undermanned and undergo from a number of the highest suicide charges within the department, in response to 2019 knowledge. Their ranks additionally embrace two of the funniest airmen you’ll ever meet. 

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Think about being a grunt who will get to fly round on airplanes all day. The closest you may get to that’s the Phoenix Raven program, the place safety forces fly aboard cargo plane to offer safety if the flight is sure for unfriendly territory. There’s a particular coaching course for ravens, which pays off throughout intense operations just like the record-breaking Afghanistan airlift final August. Throughout that mission, ravens broke up fights between stressed-out passengers, helped medical groups and helped evacuate Marines who have been wounded within the Aug. 26 suicide bombing of the Kabul airport.

“It was humbling to have the ability to take these injured Marines again to higher care,” mentioned one raven, Workers Sgt. Timothy Bukovich, in an Air Drive press launch. “I used to be honored to save lots of their lives, serving to the [aeromedical evacuation] staff in no matter approach I might.”

air force raven
A U.S. Air Drive safety forces raven, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, keep a safety cordon round a U.S. Air Drive C-17 Globemaster III aircraftin help of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan, Aug. 24, 2021 (Grasp Sgt. Donald R. Allen / U.S. Air Drive)


Each language has its personal distinctive insults, and within the Air Drive, ‘nonners’ is one among them. The time period is brief for ‘non-sortie producing motherfucker’ and refers to anybody who is just not on the flightline straight serving to put airplanes within the air. It’s type of just like the Air Drive equal of ‘POG,’ the infantry time period for ‘individuals apart from grunts.’ The precise boundaries of who’s and isn’t a nonner is up for debate nonetheless, as a result of technically everybody within the Air Drive is concerned with producing or facilitating sorties on some stage.

“Only a pleasant jab,” wrote one commenter on Reddit. “If anyone truly means it they’re salty as a result of they selected a profession discipline with shit hours.”

Zipper-suited solar god 

You know the way the pilots within the film High Gun act like they’re God’s present to Earth? That’s not too removed from the reality, at the very least if you happen to ask any disgruntled enlisted airman. It’s no secret that pilots, notably fighter pilots, promote sooner and have extra respect than some other job within the Air Drive, however that doesn’t imply they will’t be made enjoyable of for it. ‘Zipper-suited solar god,’ refers back to the many-zippered flight fits that pilots put on and the immense authority airplane drivers have within the service. However simply wait, the forklift pressure may have their time within the solar sooner or later.


This isn’t a lot a nickname as it’s a catchphrase that has come to epitomize a profession discipline. In the event you ever puzzled who places collectively the missiles and bombs that Air Drive planes carry, it’s the nonnuclear munitions specialists who deal with these pointy-ouchy objects with “excessive care,” because the Air Drive describes the job. The so-called ‘ammo’ airmen put the bombs collectively, maintain monitor of them and prep them for battle. ‘IYAAYAS’ stands for ‘if you happen to ain’t ammo, you ain’t shit.’ The airmen who load them onto the airplanes are a part of the plane armament programs profession discipline, additionally referred to as ‘weapons,’ ‘loaders,’ or ‘load toads.’ They’re those who take the bombs that ammo builds and places them on the airplanes. Don’t get the 2 confused like this reporter did!

air force bomb
Airmen from the 378th Expeditionary Upkeep Squadron Munitions Flight construct Joint Direct Assault Munitions at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sept. 22, 2020. (Workers Sgt. Cary Smith / U.S. Air Drive)


Additionally referred to as a ‘first shirt,’ this time period refers to ‘first sergeant,’ The place is just not a lot a job as it’s a particular obligation, the place a senior noncommissioned officer turns into the unit commander’s advisor on enlisted morale, welfare and high quality of life, in accordance to the Air Drive. In plain English, the primary shirt serves as a mentor for decrease enlisted ranks and is meant to supply a serving to hand if a junior airmen goes by a tough patch of their private or skilled life. First sergeants sport a diamond form on their rank insignia to set them aside. The custom of first sergeants goes again to the seventeenth century Prussian military, the place ‘feldwebels’ have been charged with sustaining obedience within the enlisted ranks. Oddly sufficient, ‘feldwebels,’ have been the one NCOs allowed to beat enlisted troopers, in accordance to the Air Drive.


Talking of particular duties, a method the Air Drive likes to acknowledge particular college students in technical faculty (the specialty faculty that comes after fundamental coaching) is to provide them brightly-colored ropes to put on round their shoulders. There’s a rainbow of ropes on the market. Inexperienced, yellow and crimson ropes confer with college students answerable for different airmen of their dormitories or of their fast group, with inexperienced being the bottom stage of accountability and crimson being the best. There are additionally white ropes, for airmen who volunteer to assist their group or are chapel guides, orange ropes for airmen with “an modern mindset,” and teal ropes, who counsel different airmen and are skilled in serving to their friends cope with army sexual trauma. It’s a particular honor to put on a rope, although airmen on social media have a tendency to think about the stoplight-colored chief ropes as being obnoxious busy-bodies.


Airmen who proceed to indicate promise after graduating tech faculty could also be up for a below-the-zone promotion. BTZ is an early promotion program the place an airman first-class might be promoted to the E-4 rank of senior airman six months sooner than they usually may need been. Airmen usually should be studs at what they do to make BTZ, so the promotion is an official acknowledgement of that ability.


Some persons are actually into the Harry Potter e book sequence and might quote it chapter and verse. Others could want Lord of the Rings. However if you happen to’ve served within the Air Drive, there are specific AFIs that you understand by coronary heart. The Air Drive Directions are the laws that lay out each facet of life in America’s premier airpower service. With regards to grooming requirements or uniform look, the AFIs are nearly as good because the Ten Commandments.

jungle pararescue
U.S. Air Drive pararescuemen assigned to the thirty eighth Rescue Squadron Blue Staff, pose for a gaggle photograph throughout jungle warfare coaching in Wahiawa, Hawaii, March 31, 2022. Blue Staff took turns monitoring down their teammates within the jungle utilizing methods they realized from Tactical Monitoring Operations College instructors. (Workers Sgt. Devin Boyer/U.S. Air Drive)

Guardian Angels 

The Air Drive doesn’t simply drop bombs on individuals: it additionally drops individuals off to go rescue different individuals who have been shot down or trapped behind enemy strains. Personnel restoration is among the Air Drive’s most vital missions, and Guardian Angels are the airmen who carry it out. The time period consists of pararescuemen (additionally referred to as pararescue jumpers or PJs), the elite commandos skilled in search-and-rescue and fight drugs; fight rescue officers (principally commissioned PJs), and Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape specialists who can survive in blazing deserts or freezing tundra. 

Whereas we’re as regards to particular operations, we must also point out fight controllers (CCTs), the commandos who name in airstrikes and arrange touchdown zones for Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs and different particular operations forces; Tactical Air Management Events (TACPs), who carry out an analogous mission however with much less elite models and fewer of an elite standing; and Particular Reconnaissance (SR) airmen, elite commandos skilled in using drones and digital warfare. All of those jobs make up Air Drive Particular Techniques, who’re collectively the least POG-y airmen you’ll ever meet.


Many individuals know the large strategic bomber that has served because the Nineteen Fifties because the B-52, however many airmen name the growing older jet BUFF, which stands for Huge Ugly Fats Fucker or Fella, relying in your language desire. So if you happen to see any memes with the actor Shia LaBeouf’s face plastered on a B-52, now you understand why.


One other Air Drive jet so huge it deserves its personal acronym is the C-5 Galaxy cargo jet, which is among the largest army plane on the planet. It guzzles a ton of pricy gasoline, however it’s not probably the most dependable plane, that are referred to as ‘hangar queens’ since they spend a lot time being repaired. Thus, the C-5 has been dubbed FRED, that means Fucking Ridiculous Financial/Environmental Catastrophe. 

weapons school
Maj. Justin Hargrove, 509th Weapons Squadron KC-135 pilot, Fairchild Air Drive Base, Wash., wears the coveted United States Weapons College Graduate Patch throughout Deliberate Strike Night time at Nellis Air Drive Base, Nevada, June 16, 2016. (Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum / U.S. Air Drive)

Weapons College 

The Army has Ranger College, the place troopers undergo by bodily torment to earn a tab that can set them other than their friends for the remainder of their profession. In a considerably comparable vogue, the Air Drive has Weapons Colleges for a lot of of their plane, the place pilots be taught each nut and bolt of their platforms to allow them to turn out to be bona fide specialists and share their hard-won knowledge with their friends again residence. Weapons faculty graduates are distinguished by a bulls-eye patch on their shoulder. They’re subsequently generally often known as “patch-wearers.” Nevertheless, like some other elite standing, generally the expectation is totally different from actuality.

“Rapidly, you’re anticipated to know every thing about F-16s [fighter jets]. That’s very tough as a result of there are a whole lot of good guys on the market who’ve by no means been to Weapons College,” mentioned one graduate within the 2004 e book “Eye of the Viper: The Making of an F-16 Pilot.”

“If something, it makes you a really achieved bullshitter,” the graduate mentioned, “which is able to maintain you in good stead in your Air Drive profession.”

Correction: This story has been corrected to make clear that munitions airmen make the bombs for airplanes, whereas weapons airmen put them on the airplane. 

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