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Air Force Slang You Need To Know Unless You're A Real 'Airman Snuffy'

Updated February 8, 2019 9.2k views20 items

If you're thinking about joining the Air Force, you might want to think about brushing up on your Air Force lingo. Each branch of the military has its own slang, words reserved for the men and women serving at home and abroad. Join the Navy SEALs and you may find yourself being called a banana; in the Air Force, being an Airman Snuffy is a tricky designation. 

Initially part of the US Army, the US Air Force became a separate branch of the military in 1947. Charged with both air and space operations for the country, the Air Force is about more than airplanes. Whether you work on the ground as a load toad or don a bag in flight, here are some Air Force sayings to get you ate up.

  • Ate Up

    Meaning: Dedicated to serve. Being "ate up" has both negative and positive connotations. It can be used to describe someone a little over the top in their dedication to the Air Force, but it also rings of a strong sense of responsibility, duty, and service.

    Use It In A Sentence: "Captain Hawk is so ate up, just try to keep him out of the cockpit!"

  • Gravel Cruncher

    Meaning: An officer who does not fly.

    Use It In A Sentence: "An order is an order, even when it comes from a gravel cruncher."

  • Zebra

    Meaning: A cadet officer or non-commissioned officer, a reference to the striped insignia worn on the uniform.

    Use It In A Sentence: "The zebra ordered me to report at 0600 tomorrow."

  • Airman Snuffy

    Meaning: Used by instructors as an example of an airman who is a headstrong and impulsive mischief-maker. The term refers to a real person named Maynard Smith, a man who went from receiving the Medal of Honor to being demoted to basic rank and tasked with clerical work. After reportedly failing to pay child support, Smith joined the military as an alternative to jail in 1942. While serving during WWII, Smith's aircraft took fire over France, and Smith managed to give first aid to his fellow crewmen, man a mounted rapid-succession device, and throw off extra ballast, which helped save the plane. At one point, he urinated on an onboard fire to put it out.

    He received the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first enlisted airman to ever earn the award. Smith was unaware of the medal presentation, so his peers found him on disciplinary duty cleaning breakfast trays, which delayed the ceremony, and government officials and a group of spectators had to wait. He had a reputation as someone who always made mistakes and was an overall misfit, with the exception of the event for which he received his medal. 

    Use It In A Sentence: "That new recruit is such an Airman Snuffy!"