They don’t call it the ‘Silent Service’ for nothing. The world of U.S. Navy submarine operations may be shadowy, but it’s full of rich culture, honed over years of stuffing bus loads of sailors into a steel tubes for months on end. Out of this unique environment, some colorful terminology has sprung.


Marty Noe, a veteran submariner, is here to give us a taste of this unique language. Noe served on three nuclear fast attack boats, the USS Phoenix (SSN 702), the USS Montpelier (SSN 765), and the USS North Carolina (SSN 777). So an old school Los Angeles-class boat with fairwater planes and no vertical launch system for Tomahawk cruise missiles, a newer Los Angeles-class boat with bow-planes and a vertical launch system, and an ultra-modern Virginia Class, on which he was a plankowner (part of the first crew to launch and operate the boat).

Noe also served shore tours in Washington DC and Naples, Italy. During his service in the Navy, which ran from late 1986 to mid 2009, he was a Chief Yeoman and qualified and stood topside watch, below-decks watch, duty chief, basic sonar operator, chief of the watch, diving officer of the watch, pilot/co-pilot. After retiring from the Navy her got his bachelor’s degree in History, went to grad school and now works in college administration at his alma mater.


Here are some of the submarine terms, a few of which are related to unique stories, that stand out from his 23 year long naval career, all in his words. We’ve edited it lightly for grammar and whatnot, but after this, you might not want to be such an air breather anymore:

Aft: Anything aft of the watertight door that divides the engine room from the forward compartment. The engine room. Nuke-land.

A-ganger: A conventional machinist’s mate. Works on non-nuclear machinery such as scrubbers and burners, or the diesel engine, throughout the forward part of the ship. Knuckle-draggers, tough guys, and absolutely, by tradition and right, the most profane individuals on a submarine. They take cursing to levels undreamed of by mere sonar technicians, storekeepers, yeomen, etc..


Air Breather: A useless person. Almost always used in conjunction with nub, non-qual piece of shit, or some other pejorative term.

AMR: Auxiliary Machinery Room. A-ganger land. Nubs beware. Where the diesel and other assorted machinery reside, such as scrubbers, burners, oxygen generator, and a huge diesel engine. Also, after the smoking lamp was extinguished except for designated areas (early 1990s), one of the few places to have a smoke, so, suddenly, all sorts of people who rarely ventured down there started showing up.

Angles and Dangles: High angles, usually resulting in significant depth changes, to ensure that everything is stowed properly prior to running drills, engaging in some exercises that would require running fast/changing depth quickly, etc. Usually accompanied by stuff hitting the deck, often in the galley, and loud swearing.


Auto-dog: Soft serve ice cream machine common on submarines. So called because it comes out of the dispenser in coiled ropes, sort of like dog shit.

Bluenose Ceremony: An initiation for anyone entering the Arctic Circle for the first time. Somewhat humiliating, funny in a kinda-sorta way, and something I did on my first boat. The ceremony involved lots of ice, ice cold water, eating ice cream out of our fattest cook’s bellybutton and generally being subjected to hazing involving coldness. I went through it because I was 19 and it’s what you did. I am not a fan of this type of thing (which caused me lots of grief at times later in my career) and I wouldn’t do it now, but at the time it seemed important to get my bluenose certificate and be a part of things.


Ball Valve: Used in many applications in various submarine mechanical systems but most commonly refers to the ball valve in the ship’s toilets (head, shitter, etc.). If an A-ganger failed to put up the warning sign or if you failed to heed a posted warning sign while sanitary tanks (waste) were being blown and opened the ball valve, you would receive a face full of shit and waste water. Not fun for you, but hilarious for everyone else. Except maybe the Doc, who would have to cordon off the head, have it cleaned up, and then disinfect it.

Battle Stations: Everyone gets to their station as quickly as possible, just like in the movies. Control gets super crowded with all the extra plotters (people, not machines) packed up there, all who are doing various mathematical things to help support target prosecution and, eventually, if needed, a firing solution. If you are on station, you might go to battle stations quietly, with no alarms and no running. I have done this a time or two, but it’s pretty rare.

The Bomb: Oxygen generator. So called because oxygen and hydrogen are flammable and explosive under certain concentrations. Submarines make oxygen while submerged through electrolysis. We breathe the oxygen obtained and pump the excess hydrogen overboard. I actually have never heard it called the bomb on any of my boats, but a friend of mine referred to it that way one time and said that on all his boats that’s what they called it. I’m skeptical; he probably read it in a Tom Clancy novel or something.


The Box: Maneuvering Room located in the engine room. The nerve center of all things nuclear.

Bubble: The up or down angle of the boat, with a “zero bubble” being an even keel. The bubble may have to be changed to maintain depth. For example, if the ship is getting heavier as it’s making water, or lighter due to pumping sanitaries or any other myriad evolutions, you may have to pitch the ship’s nose down to stop from rising or pitch it up to stop the boat from sinking. The ship could also be out of trim fore to aft, not only heavy or light overall. The Diving Officer of the Watch is responsible for keeping the ship in trim. Rarely do you have a zero bubble; right around a ½ degree up is fine and at periscope depth you actually want an up angle of 1, 1.5 degrees or so depending on sea state. This up angle at periscope depth accomplishes several things: it keeps the screw from broaching in case you suddenly pitch down (the screw can’t do its job if it’s in the air and not the water), it keeps the scope clear, and it keeps the expanse of the ship aft of the sail lower, thereby lessening suction upward by wave action (because of the Bernoulli Effect).

Crank: New guys get sent to work in the galley for sixty or ninety days soon after reporting aboard. They wash dishes, scrub decks, smash trash, etc. Basically, all the shit jobs that the cooks have for them to do. Between cranking, putting up with all the verbal abuse you get as a nub, working on quals (qualifications), participating in drills and other ship evolutions, and trying to help out in your division so that you get to know those guys, the life of a new guy is pretty taxing and terrible. It gets better though and a good attitude and work ethic during this time goes a long way toward making your reputation with the rest of the crew, thereby making your post-crank life much easier.


The Cretin: An oft-told story from my first boat about the local guy (a giant apparently) on the island of Crete who put one of our radiomen in a headlock and dragged him out of a phone booth. There was no other violence or anything. He was sort of polite about the whole thing, if you can call a headlock polite. This was in the dark old pre-cellphone days and this guy wanted to use the phone. Our radioman was on the line with his girlfriend back in Pennsylvania and had been talking to her forever while this guy stewed, becoming more and more irate. Good times.

COB: Chief of the Boat. Senior enlisted man onboard. In charge of all enlisted men, watch station assignments, rack assignments, cranking assignments, head of the Chief Petty Officer’s mess and about a million other things. Generally, they are crusty, profane, wise to the ways of men and submarines and they dispense advice and/or ass-chewings in equal measure. The COB can make or break the ship. You want the best one you can get.


Coffee: The military runs on coffee, and I know for a fact that the submarine force does, specifically. Our coffee is not Starbucks or something frou-frou like that. It comes in giant square cans that get stored under the main engines. There is always coffee being drunk, and woe to the shitbird who takes the last cup and doesn’t start a new pot. We drink it either black and bitter-no sugar, no cream or blond and sweet-sugar and cream, or some variation of those. Another way is to drop a bit of the Auto-dog (soft serve ice cream) in the bottom of your cup and pour hot black coffee over it. My wife went on a Tiger Cruise (when we invite our families and close ones on board for a day at sea) early in my career, and she swears that the worst coffee in the world is to be found on submarines.

Conn: Originally short for the “Conning Tower” from which the submarine was controlled. This term now refers to the raised area where the scope and various sonar and other tactical displays are located for use by the Officer of the Deck. It’s where he stands his watch. You need permission just to cross the conn. For example:

Auxiliaryman of the Watch (AOW): “Officer of the Deck, permission to cross the conn, sir”.

Officer of the Deck (OOD): “Cross the conn”.

AOW: “Cross the conn, aye sir”.

This exchange also demonstrates the proper method of acknowledging an order – a verbatim repeat back.


If control of the conn is shifted, this fact is announced to the control room and acknowledged by the watchstanders under direct control of the OOD (all watchstanders are under the OOD but some, such as the helmsman take orders directly from the OOD; some watchstanders, such as the helmsman, also take orders from other people simultaneously).

Cupola: A navigational landmark in Norfolk, VA. On my first boat, our Chief Quartermaster was a very, very, meticulous man in speech, manner and dress. He was always exquisitely squared away in everything he did. He liked to use unlined paper for notes and correspondence and draw his own lines on it using a ruler before he would write anything. When he was on the scope taking sightings during maneuvering watch, he would say “Cupola, bearing, MARK!” with such verve that we would all just stand there admiring him. Maybe you had to be there.

EAB: Emergency air breathing apparatus. A mask with an attached hose which you plug into a series of oxygen outlets throughout the boat or into the adapter on a shipmate’s hose. These are identified by deck markers and either indicate the direction they are located in, or that they are right above you (you can feel the non-skid deck marker with your foot so that in total darkness you can still find air). As part of your qual board, you are generally asked something like, “In an EAB, how would you get to the (some far off location in the boat),” so that you would have to demonstrate knowledge of the location of the EAB connections. Pretty important stuff to know.


Emergency Blow. If you have ever seen a sub movie or read a sub book, you know what this is. I have done these as a passenger (i.e., off-watch), as a helmsman, as planesman, as Chief of the Watch (which is cool because you flip the “chicken switches” (what we call the EMBT actuators), and as Diving Officer of the Watch. Always fun to experience. I did it for CNN one time while they were onboard filming, which was kind of neat. The best part to me is that precise moment when you have come out of the water and have yet to start back down, like the precise moment of apogee, it feels weightless, like you get on an elevator sometime, but in something as gigantic as a submarine. It is hard to describe any other way than that but it’s pretty awesome. You do have to be careful to limit you’re up-angle as you ascend, as you could start leaking out of the ballast tanks and can start sliding back down to depth with limited air to perform another blow. Meanwhile, the casualty situation that prompted the initial blow could still be in progress.

Emergency Deep: A super-quick way of leaving periscope depth or aborting on the way up to periscope depth so that you don’t get run over or spotted, but mostly so you don’t get run over. It’s always pretty tense for a few seconds and everyone has a few things to do really quickly to make sure that everything goes the way it’s supposed to. I did quite a few of these in a certain part of the Adriatic, dodging smugglers headed for Italy in speedboats. They would start up and be on top of you in no time. Of course, they were shallow draft, so you didn’t have to get down very far to avoid them.


Field Day: Weekly at sea, all hands that aren’t on watch clean the ship. Seriously, the submarine force loves cleaning (probably the entire military loves it). I get it, dirty equipment breaks down, if you are cleaning something regularly you might notice if it has some malfunction of something in need of repair, and discipline in maintaining your surroundings translates to discipline in your watch-standing, combat readiness, and so on. But when you’ve run drills all day, stood the mid-watch and then have to field day and run some more drills before going back on watch, you get pretty unmotivated for some field day.

Forward: Anything forward of the watertight door that divides the engine room from the forward compartment.

Goat Locker: The Chiefs’ Quarters. CPO living/working/socializing space. Knock before entering. Smells like old men and farts; I lived there so I get to say this.


Green Table: When you are in front of the Green Table (which is actually just a green cloth placed over the Wardroom table), you are at Captain’s Mast for some disciplinary infraction. I don’t know how it is on surface ships but to go to Mast on a submarine, you have to screw up pretty badly. Generally, things get handled at a lower level. That being said, as the Leading Yeoman, one of my jobs was to attend every Mast to ensure everything was done by the book, punishments are legal, paperwork, rights statements, appeals, and so on and so forth, and I attended quite a few.

Heavy: A compliment meaning that someone is knowledgeable about submarines in general or a specific system.


Heavy or Heavie: Pronounced “hEEvEE,” not heavy. Small line with a monkey’s fist (weighted ball) on the end which is heaved from the boat to the pier to haul mooring lines across. Linehandlers take great pride in their ability to get the heavy across on the first try and get a ration of shit from everybody if they don’t.

Hot Racking: There are never enough bunks onboard, so junior guys have to hot rack. Usually three guys will share two racks, or sleep in the torpedo room in their own makeshift rack. It sucks but usually you advance in rank, get in a better watch rotation, and newer guys arrive, so you don’t hot rack for a super-long time.


“I’ve spent more time on the shitter at test depth than you have doing (insert activity here)”: Disparaging comment to someone who is touting their knowledge or experience at something. Usually it’s a beefy A-ganger saying this, punctuating it with some choice swears and a couple uses of the word shipmate. For example:

“Shipmate, shipmate, I have spent more fucking time on the shitter at test depth than your worthless ass has operating that pump, so don’t fucking talk to me.”

Ladder: There are actual stairs on submarines, but in most places to get between decks there are ladders. Prior to ascending/descending, you normally call out “up/down ladder” but this can be omitted if no one is above/below the ladder. The hatches in the floor above a ladder usually have a handrail and safety chain around them to prevent anyone from falling down the hatch. Always put the chain back up as you go up or down the ladder.


“Like a Dog with Two Peters”: Someone who is confused or clueless; similar to “didn’t know whether to shit or go blind” or “like a monkey fucking a football”. I don’t know if this phrase is specific to submarines but I certainly heard it used and used it a lot. Wonderfully descriptive.

Machinist’s Punch: A trick played on nubs. A new guy is sent to either AMR or to the engine room to ask a machinist’s mate for a machinist’s punch. He gets punched in the arm, usually by the mongo-ist machinist’s mate there. Yuk yuk.

Maneuvering Watch: The watch set for leaving/entering port. Always on the surface and always follows a surface transit of varying length. For Norfolk, it’s crazy long because the water is so shallow due to the continental shelf. For a place in the Caribbean, it’s short usually as those are islands are usually surrounded by deep water. It is a manpower-intensive affair with special watches being set and no one is left in their rack.


Masturbation: Look, we’re all adults, here. Most all of us have or still do engage in some self-pleasure. Few groups though are as matter of fact about it as submariners though. We certainly don’t do it in front of each other, and it would be a little embarrassing to get caught doing it, but we freely admit that we do it and in the pre-digital age at least, there was a brisk swap of various magazines. It’s just one of those things that goes with being confined for long stretches at a time. BOCOD is a related term which you can look up, if you are interested.

Midrats: Midnight rations. The meal served before/after watch relief is underway. Watches were six hours long and usually you were in 3 section rotation, so six hours on, twelve off and you ate whatever meal was available before going on watch or right after being relieved from watch. Midrats was almost always one thing, never a meat and three sides or whatever like lunch or dinner. Ravioli, turkey noodle surprise, and beanie weenie were all on the midrats rotation. You never knew what you were going to get for midrats but you knew it wouldn’t be very good, unlike the food served at other meals, which was often great, depending on your cooks. Subs in general are pretty solid food-wise.


MIZ: Marginal Ice Zone. Went there at the tail end of the Cold War on my first boat. We were all super excited to be up there hunting the Russians. Did some cool stuff I can’t talk about, got my ribbon, liberty in Scotland trying to match Brit sub sailors drink for drink (not even close). Pretty great deployment!

Noise: Obviously, noise is not good when the primary advantage you have as a warfighting platform is your stealthiness. We are careful to not slam toilet seats, slam doors, drop tools, etc. and we request permission to run noisy equipment. Isolated noise events are called transients and are almost always human generated, so we do everything we can to prevent them. More problematic would be noise from a piece of equipment, so we monitor for those constantly. Such a noise could even become a signature of your submarine, so that anyone who had picked it up before could be sure it was the same class of sub or sometimes, even an individual boat. The golden rule is to make no more noise than necessary.


Nub: Non-useful body. A non-qualified person; a non-dolphin wearer.

ORSE: Operational Reactor Safeguards Examination. How well you run your reactor and, by extension, the ship with regards to powerplant, nuclear and ship safety, damage control, cleanliness, training programs, record keeping, quality assurance and so on. Do badly enough or, god forbid, fail, and they take the keys away. Heads roll, careers end; the baddest of all bad things (with the exception of surfaces not equaling dives-see below).

Qual Board: The final hurdle to clear to get your dolphins. Usually three to four heavy people sit on your board, an officer, a chief, and then another one or two, usually, technical rates, but, not always. I was a yeoman but sat many qual boards (yeah, I’m bragging a little but I worked hard for my heaviness, so yeah). Usually, the nonqual would bring cookies, or a can of mixed nuts, some bug juice or whatever to grease the skids. He would then undergo a rigorous oral exam with questions relating to ship’s equipment, operations, and so on. You can either pass, pass with look-ups (things you have to go research and answer prior to being qualified) or fail.


Qual Book: Can either refer to a nonqual’s notes and drawings that he makes while qualifying (do not ever misplace your qual book-someone will find it and you will have to go through hell to get it back), or to the book you read from at your dolphin ceremony. Most books have one for the ceremony, usually to do with WWII sub operations or something and you pick a passage that you like, or is relevant to your rate, or something to read before you get your dolphins pinned on. Kind of a cool thing to do.

PD: Periscope depth. The depth at which you can see out of your scope while still remaining submerged. As a ship’s control party guy, you would often spend hours here, uggghhhh. Maintaining your depth to within a couple of feet in a place. You would not be happy being discovered while a sea state 4 or 5 is tearing you a new one is pretty much the core of what we do. At this depth, you watch stuff, shoot trash, ventilate the ship and perform other housekeeping sort of tasks. Note that when “on station,” that is, watching stuff in a place you don’t want to be discovered, is not when you do the housekeeping. As a Helmsman/Planesman for my watch, for battlestations, any other special thing, and then later as Chief of the Watch, Diving Officer, and Pilot/Co-Pilot (Virginia-class at the end of my career), I spent a few thousand hours at PD.


Pillows of Death: Canned ravioli. This was a midrats staple. If you were eating it at any other time, it usually meant that your deployment got extended and you were running low on anything else that might remotely resemble food. Still, POD had their fans. I wasn’t one of them.

Procedure: Every operation or piece of equipment is covered by a written procedure or a standing order or the like. This is one of the reasons that submarines have such an excellent operating record, strict adherence to written protocols. It may seems anally-retentive to some people to have a guy read a procedure while another guy performs the steps he’s being read but it saves equipment, money, operational time, and lives.

Riders: Anyone onboard a submarine at sea who is not ship’s company. This could be sailors from other boats riding for qualification, shipyard folks (especially during sea trials), VIPs and/or media people, mission specialists such as Crypto Techs or “spooks,” and so on. Some of these guys really fit in and become part of the crew and you miss them when they return to their unit, others are simply “fuckin’ riders”.


Rig for Red: Also rig for romantic or rig for Johnny Mathis (this last one is no longer in use I’m sure, as it’s way too dated). Turn the control center lights to red in preparation for PD. Red light making it easier for your eyes to adjust to darkness when you rigged for black prior to heading up to PD. Back in the late 1980s, on my first boat, we all smoked, so you would constantly hear calls of “bright light in control,” as people lit cigarettes, always careful to cup the lighter in your hands to minimize the glare in the blackness of control. Sometimes, instead, we would send the lee helm out to nav center to light 7 or 8 cigarettes and bring them back to pass around to their intended recipients.

Ring Knocker: Pejorative term for an officer who graduated from the Naval Academy. They are always reminding you of their superiority by knocking their academy ring on a hard surface. I believe this is meant metaphorically as I never actually saw anybody physically do this, but I knew a few people to whom this term would apply. In general, submarine officers are super competent and highly intelligent. Some are really funny, too, and act like actual human beings. Some are clueless shitheads. Same as anywhere else.

Shipmate: If used by a submariner to a civilian, then it is meant to describe another crewmember, so its use is sincere. If used by a submariner to another submariner, then it’s used condescendingly. For example: “Shipmate, I don’t believe that you know as much about that complicated piece of naval equipment as you think you do.” Trust me, if you are a submariner and another submariner ever begins a sentence to you with “shipmate,” stand by for him to be condescending or sarcastic.


SHT: Anechoic coating. Rubberized tiles covering a submarine hull to deaden active sonar returns and to somewhat limit noise radiation. My first boat didn’t have these; we were bare metal, so to speak. One of my Supply Officers used to say when strippers got completely nude they were “bare metal.” This was his battle cry in many dubious establishments in the seedier parts of Fort Lickerdale, San Juan, PR, and various Caribbean islands to which we made port calls. After we got them installed on my first boat, a favorite pastime among bored topside watches was to bounce coffee cups off the deck and into the drink.

Sliders: Hamburgers/cheeseburgers. Traditional post-field day meal. Do not mess with sliders after field day. We had to buy hamburger meat in the Mediterranean one time, near Greece, and used it the following week for sliders. It was some kind of mystery meat, lamb or goat or something, and would not brown properly. It tasted terrible and so post-field day sliders were a huge disappointment; crew morale instantly went in the toilet. Things like sliders are hugely important when your existence is reduced to very few creature comforts.


Straight Board: A verbal report from the Chief of the Watch that major hull openings that he monitors are shut prior to submerging the ship, indicated by a row of bar indicators (as opposed to circles indicating open) on the Ballast Control Panel (BCP). I was always secretly thrilled when I got to say it because it’s just such a cool submarine thing to say. It also meant that we were very close to getting off the surface, which is always a good thing for submarines.

Sub School: Where we all learned to ply our trade. Fairly tough academically, or at least it seemed so at the time. Lots of people wash out I think. Three people from my “A” school class went, and I was the only one who made it through and became a submariner. One left for poor grades, the other for disciplinary reasons. Sub school is located in lovely and scenic Groton, Connecticut.

Yes, that is the heaviest of sarcasm you detect. It’s terrible there, like, absolutely, no hyperbole, awful. To be fair, though, I was a southern boy there in the winter, so huge snowstorms and bitter cold, grayness everywhere, and homesick for my girlfriend. Still, all things considered, not a place to which I would ever willingly return.


Surfaces=Dives; The number that everyone wants. No matter how bad your underway might have been, the or how bad your grade on your ORSE, TRE was, as long as your surfaces equal your dives, everything else, while maybe bad, is small potatoes to having these numbers be unequal.

Steinke Hood: Not used on subs anymore but were there for most of my career. This was a hood you would put over your face in case you had to swim out of your sunken submarine and buoyantly ascend to the surface. In theory, you would put it on, swim out of the escape hatch and “Ho, ho, ho” (simply something you were taught to say so that you wouldn’t hold your breath) your way to the surface. It was always rumored that before you ascended, the Doc would puncture your ear drums with a needle, so they wouldn’t burst on the way up. Who knows if that’s true? I suppose if you ever sank in shallow enough water that you weren’t crushed like a tin can you could do this. I would prefer to stay inside and wait on the rescue mission that hopefully would be quickly forthcoming. Most anything beats being in the middle of the ocean, eardrums burst, with the bends and hours or days before any help could conceivably arrive. We all just figured if we ever sank it was game over, man-the hoods always just seemed something for the folks back home, so they wouldn’t worry so much about little Johnny sinking and dying at sea.


STP: SCORPION, THRESHER, PHOENIX. Something we used to say on my first boat, USS Phoenix (SSN 702), long decommissioned. This phrase hinted that Phoenix, at the time the “cursed” boat of the Norfolk waterfront, would follow in the footsteps of USS Scorpion (SSN 589) and USS Thresher (SSN 593), both of which sank. Morbid or whistling past the graveyard? I don’t know, but we used to say it every time something went wrong.

Torpedo in the Water: A report from the sonar supervisor that yes, indeed, someone is trying to kill you. Guaranteed to send you to battle stations, initiate some evasive maneuvering, and tighten many sphincters. Sometimes speed boats starting up at close range will be mistaken for a torpedo in the water. This is especially true if you are in a naval exercise in which dummy torpedoes are being fired at you and you have a neophyte sonar operator on broadband who convinces his sonar supervisor that he is hearing a torpedo. I did this one time during a Fleet Exercise off the coast of North Carolina. Felt like an idiot afterward but, hey, better safe than sorry I suppose.

Sail: What you would think of as the conning tower. The Officer of the Deck and Lookout are stationed up there during surface transits. I loved being up there during good weather, nothing but miles of ocean and sky and sunlight. Occasionally, you would also see dolphins; they liked to swim alongside our bow and occasionally leap out of the water. Every time I witnessed this, like twice I think in my whole career, it felt like the hand of God. Pretty special. Also up there are various masts, periscopes, antennas (never call them antennae), and odd bits and bobs of navigation stuff.


Torpedo: A submarine’s primary weapon, the MK-48 torpedo/MK-48 ADCAP (ADvanced CAPabilities). They can be wire-guided up to a point (though this limits the ship’s maneuverability), are variable speed, have active sonar to “ping” with once the range to the target is short, can come back for another pass if it misses the target, and is generally, just not something you want coming your way. You can try to get away from a torpedo by turning off its track and dropping some countermeasures that might fool the torpedo (think chaff for airplanes but sonic distractions, instead of radar distractions), and/or speeding way up and hoping to outrun it long enough that it runs out of fuel. Good luck with all that. Casualties associated with torpedoes other than being the end target of one, are an Otto Fuel spill (the fuel inside a torpedo to which exposure can cause headaches, nausea, and whatnot. It’s also self-oxidizing, so fire is a definite concern) or hot run (the torpedo ignites inside the torpedo tube). There are a bunch of immediate actions to take in the event of a hot run to try and survive it but my first instinct, as a hardened agnostic, would be to pray quickly, and with great feeling.

TRE: Tactical Readiness Examination. An inspection that determines how well you fight the ship, focusing on target prosecution, tactical ability, damage control, safety, cleanliness, knowledge, etc. ORSE is for forward guys, but both TRE and ORSE involve everyone onboard. Failing it isn’t as bad as failing ORSE as it’s non-nuclear-related, but still, heads roll.


Turd-chaser: Another name for an A-ganger, as they were in charge of the sanitary system.

Twidget: Slightly insulting term for an Electronics Technician.

Water Slug: A water slug is fired from a torpedo tube, usually for training or maintenance/testing. You flood down the empty torpedo tube, and then fire it, expelling the “water slug.” The procedure is the same for firing a torpedo, except that the tube is empty. Nubs are often sent aft to retrieve a water slug (of course, having no clue what that is) from beneath the main engines or some equally-difficult-to-access place. Any nuke who gets a nub coming aft to retrieve a water slug, instantly knows what is happening and plays along, usually directing him how to retrieve said water slug by the most inconvenient and circuitous route possible. Similar in intent, but not execution, is the portable air sample.


Zulu Five Oscar. An impostor or someone with improper ID sent pierside by Squadron to test security on a boat. If you are the topside watch and you let a Z5O onboard because you weren’t diligent enough in scoping out his ID, or the authorized visitor list, woe be unto you.

A huge thanks to Marty Noe for sharing his list with Foxtrot Alpha readers. Hopefully we will have him back soon to share some stories with us!


Contact the author at