TDY/TAD: Temporary Duty Assignment/Temporary Additional Duty

A: “Is Sierra ok?”
B: “Yeah, she’s just a bit down cuz her dad went TDY to Cali and now he’s gunna miss her birthday next week.”

When I was 5, my dad went TDY in Okinawa for almost 6 months. On the plus side, it meant Grandma got to stay with us while he was gone. Unfortunately, after 6 months of her cooking, I couldn’t eat grilled cheese sandwiches or tomato soup again until I was 17.

PCS: Permanent Change of Station

A: “Hey, where’s Sam?”
B: “You didn’t hear? His family PCS’D over the weekend. They’re in Germany now.”
A: “That bastard owes me 20 bucks!”

Mom or dad can get new orders at just about any time, often with very little notice. PCSing is without a doubt one of the most stressful aspects of growing up in a military family. My dad got orders to return to Okinawa in 1995 and made the tough call to live there alone for a year so my brothers and I could finish 4th, 6th, and 8th grade with our friends.

TLF/TLA: Temporary Lodging Facility/Temporary Living Allowance

So you’ve survived your PCS and arrived in your — WHOOPS! Sorry, there’s no housing quarters available on base yet. Enter the Temporary Lodging Facility, a magical home away from your new home, provided on the government’s dime. Just make sure to reserve your TLF and apply for your Temporary Living Allowance (TLA) as early as possible and follow EVERY SINGLE RULE to ensure you’re eligible to get that TLA reimbursed.

O Club: Officer’s Club

I hated waking up on Sundays for church but I endured it for one simple reason: BRUNCH AT THE O CLUB. Getting up early and dressing up were a small price to pay for that endless buffet of bacon, omelets, pizza, pasta, bacon and BACON.

MRE: Meal, Ready to Eat

A stand-out in the “proud” history of field rations, and the best thing for mischievous young brats to steal before going outside to play. Although some of the less palatable selections have earned nicknames like, “Meals, Rejected by Everyone,” “Meals, Ready to Expel” and “the four fingers of death,” I recall the chocolate brownie, and crackers and cheese spread to be pretty damn satisfying.

AAFES: Army and Air Force Exchange Service

The glorious benefactor of service member and military brat alike. Provider of the BX/PX, the Class Six, on-base movie theaters, a cornucopia of fast food options, and just about every other convenience from barber shops to dry cleaning.

Class Six aka Package Store

Say it with me now, TAX. FREE. BOOZE. God bless America.

MWR: Morale, Welfare and Recreation

The kind folks at MWR are the people who look out for the people who look out for America. Every branch has its own division and we can thank them for the discounted/free recreation activities and facilities available to service members at home and abroad. Nice people.

AFRTS (Pronounced A-FARTS): Armed Forces Radio and Television Services

If you can’t say it without laughing, it can’t be bad, right? AFRTS is the progenitor of such classic programming as the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Network.

AFN: American Forces Network

When we moved to Okinawa, we had exactly one tv channel: the soothing, reliable programming of the Far East Network (FEN) brought to you by AFN. This was back before the internet was a tv option, so when something good like The Simpsons came on, it was a BIG DEAL. Despite its less than incredible programming, my brothers and I still spent most of the year before we got cable watching AFN’s diverse offerings of war documentaries, family movies, and cheesy PSA’s like these:


“Remember to practice good OPSEC!”

OPSEC: Operations Security

The U.S. Military prefers to conduct its operations without spoilers.

DODDS: Department of Defense Dependents Schools

One of the “joys” of explaining to people that I went to high school in Okinawa is inevitably answering, “Did you go to a Japanese school?” If you went to school on-base, you went to a DODDS school and I’m damn glad I did. Kubasaki was more diverse than any university I’ve attended and had some especially good teachers. I’ve also heard that teaching at DoDDS schools offers some nice pay and benefits for skilled teachers that are looking to travel.

Photo: Carl Wycoff