All Ahead Full! The Movie-Buff’s Guide to Navy Jargon


All Ahead Full! The movie-buff’s guide to Navy jargon

America’s Navy has served as the backdrop – and sometimes the star – for hundreds of films depicting the tales of Sailors braving the force of the sea. Unending stories of travel, adventure, and transformative personal growth consistently make Sailors compelling cinematic subjects.

With so many naval films, the average movie-goer has picked up a handful of ubiquitous naval terms, and noticed that Sailors often speak a language all their own: “All ahead full”; “aye aye”; “up/down periscope”; etc.

If you’re ready to take your knowledge to the next level, learn these terms and your Navy bona fides will be the stuff of legend (in your circle of movie buff friends, at least):

“Fire!” – Hollywood never gets this right. Every Sailor is trained as a firefighter, so the term “Fire!” is only used on a ship when there is an actual fire (not to shoot a weapon).

“General Quarters” – Drop what you’re doing and get to your battle station. Sailors regularly drill General Quarters scenarios to practice responding to all kinds of possible casualty events. Whether your sleeping, working, or emailing your mom, when you hear this order you get to your station.

“Bravo Zulu/BZ” – Well done or good job.

“Secret squirrel” – Intelligence Specialists, Cyber Warfare Engineers, Cryptologic Technicians, or someone with Top Secret security clearance. The Navy is hiring Secret Squirrels right now.

“Navy shower” – Water use is restricted on some ships, so sailors take Navy showers. They work like this: Water on, get wet, water off -> soap up -> water on, rinse off, water off. Done.

“X has the conn” – If the person guiding the ship (usually the captain, navigator, or Conning Officer) needs to leave the bridge, the order is given to another officer to figuratively take the wheel so everyone knows who’s in charge or has been delegated the authority while the captain is gone. Frequently featured in the Star Trek television series (“Mr. Chekov you have the conn…”).

“Make a hole” – Get out of the way.

“SWCC” – Pronounced “SWICK”, these Sailors wield serious firepower and a deadly skill set. SWCC operators—Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen— execute special warfare missions with Navy SEALs, as well as conduct direct action and reconnaissance missions of their own. You’ve never heard of them, and that’s how they like it.

“Nuke” – Nuclear technician/power plant operators and subsystems specialists that are responsible for propelling aircraft carriers and submarines via nuclear power. The Navy is hiring Nukes, too.

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