Reporting Afghanistan

John Wendle

Petting the dog.

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A little on Army jargon and slang –

When I asked Major Miller where the meeting was yesterday, he replied:

This is the MSC at BAF.

After reading back through the email chain, I realized I was in over my head when it comes to acronyms. The email was drowning in them and they were threatening to take me down with them. In just four emails to set up a meeting to talk about embeds (that’s another story), these were thrown at me:


After a few years here, I know what all of these are, but its a shock to the system when you first land in Afghanistan and you’re trying to figure out what soldiers are talking about. They use acronyms all the time – not only because it makes a life befuddled by hierarchy and bureaucracy easier to understand – but also because all the soldiers have drunk the cool-aid – they all speak the same language. Besides worrying over whether you’ve put your helmet on backwards, dancing around like a fool trying to get at all the straps to tighten your body armor and picking up enough broken Dari to buy a round of nan in the morning, figuring out the acronyms is one of the biggest hurdles to reporting on the military in this country. You need one “terp” to talk to the Afghans, and another to talk to the military. “Terp” is short for interpreter – and is kind of a pejorative.

So, to sort out the above:

SSG is Staff Sergeant, ECP is a gate (though I still don’t know what it stands for), MSC is Media Support Center, OIC is Officer in Charge, DIV PAO is Division Public Affairs Officer, Maj is Major, MPAD is Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, BAF is Bagram Airfield and U/FOUO is Unclassified/For Official Use Only

That all has to be decoded just to set up a meeting on a Tuesday.

So, I’ve finally been picked up by the SSG at ECP3 for my meeting at the MSC with the MAJ who is the DIV PAO from the MPAD at BAF and we’re driving through the gate and Staff Sergeant Rutherford starts talking about “petting the dog.” They must have picked up on my silence from the backseat, because she quickly explained, “you know, going crazy.” Still lost, she said that after so much time stuck on base at BAF, she would be sent to the health unit to talk to a shrink and play with the puppy they have there to feel better. So, pet the dog is short hand for going nuts.

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