The ABC’s of Submarines – The Acronym Guide

Listening to your spouse speak to a fellow sailor can sound like a jumbled version of the ABCs and includes words that are a far cry from a description of what they mean. Here is a list of terms and acronyms that will help you decide more of the conversation or at least assist with decreasing the number of “what does that mean?” during dinner conversations. 


  • BN/Boomer/ SSBN. A Boomer or “Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear.” These submarines are larger, contain ballistic missiles and deploy for three months. Boomers are only stationed in Kings Bay, GA and Naval Base Kitsap in Bangor, WA, and operate with two crews. 

  • Fast Attack/ SSN. Fast Attack or “Submersible Ship Nuclear.” These submarines are smaller, do not contain nuclear missiles and deploy for up to six months. They are stationed in all submarine bases except Kings Bay, GA.

  • GN/SSGN. A “Guided Missile Submarine” or “Ship, Submersible, Guided Missile, Nuclear.” These submarines are stationed in Kings Bay, GA and Silverdale, WA only, and operate with two crews. 

  • PCU. Pre-Commissioned Unit. A submarine in the process of being built.

Out at Sea

  • Underway. The period of time when a submarine leaves for sea.
  • Patrol. SSBN or “Boomer” deployments are called patrols due to their different missions. 
  • Deployment. An extended period of time the submarine is out to sea, i.e. 3-6 months. Fast attack and GNs deployments are substantially longer than Boomer/ BNs but are less frequent per sea tour. 

People or Groups

  • Chain of Command. Sequence of leadership.

  • FRG. Family Readiness Groups, a support network for service members and their spouses, including ombudsmen, Fleet and Family Support Centers (FFSCs), chaplains and more. Every submarine also has a designated FRG that meets regularly to support families while servicemen and women are out at sea.

  • Khakis. Slang for chiefs and officers.

  • NR. Nuclear Reactors. Overseeing Navy agency controlling all things nuclear for the submarine. NR will come on board during different parts of testing, maintenance, and ship building. 

  • Ombudsman. Person in charge of sharing command information provided directly from the commanding officer (CO). An ombudsman is assigned to every submarine, typically a fellow submarine spouse. They are your resource for any questions, concerns, family emergencies or other issues that may arise when your spouse is out to sea. Your ombudsman should attend every FRG meeting, as wellness affairs.

  • Riders. Both military and civilian members come to “ride” the boat to ensure maintenance is going well, certify the boat for different aspects of the mission.

  • Squadron. Grouping of submarines, and the command overseeing the submarines and supporting their mission.

On The Job

  • CONUS / OCONUS. Continental US, Outside of Continental US.

  • CRE. “Forward” testing by squadron to certify the crew is seaworthy that is incredibly intense requiring significant preparation.

  • Dinq. Behind or delinquent on qualifications for dolphins.

  • Dolphins or Fish. Warfare pin earned approximately one year after joining the first command. It is a long and hard process to earn your “Dolphins” due to the extensive qualification process on board. 

  • Duty. The 24-hour period of specific tasks that typically includes staying overnight, on-board the submarine. Most sailors and officers rotate regular duty days. 

  • Fast Cruise. The crew pretends to go to the sea pier side closing hatches and all. Fast cruising typically occurs after an extended time docked at the pier to ensure the crew and boat are ready to go underway. 

  • FIDE. A virtual simulator of engineering submarine missions and activities to practice while on land.

  • Halfway night. Celebration both on board and on land (FRG) halfway through a deployment or patrol.

  • Hot racking. Sharing a bed with another sailor on a time share basis.

  • IPDT/APDT . Pre-deployment trainer (lots of long days expected).

  • Leave. Military term for paid time off.

  • ORSE/ PORSE. Engineering testing by squadron to certify the crew is seaworthy that is incredibly intense requiring significant preparation.

  • PNEO. The Prospective Nuclear Engineer Officer is an eight-week course that mentors and prepares junior officers to become engineer certified. A written exam is administered locally, then students fly to Washington D.C. for the oral exam.  

  • Slate. List of jobs that are available provided by detailer to rank to allow input for new orders.

  • Trainer. Virtual stimulated version of submarine “forward” missions/ activities to allow sailors to practice on land.

  • PCS. Permanent Change of Station. The moving process as described by the Navy.

  • POA. Power of Attorney, written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private familial, financial and business affairs. All military spouses are recommended to do so before servicemembers go out to sea. To learn more, check out this blog post.


  • Commissary. Grocery store designated on most naval bases. 

  • Lower Base. Part of base where the submarines are docked, usually with restricted access and parking. 

  • MWR– Morale Welfare Recreation. An excellent resource for children’s programs, fitness classes, discounted travel, local attractions.

  • NEX/ Exchange. The Navy Exchange is a mini department store, typically a place to buy uniforms, furniture, appliances, clothing, shoes, electronics and more at discounted prices without paying taxes. 

  • Pass and ID. Office to obtain military ID. Strongly recommend always making an appointment.

Is there another acronym you wish you knew? Please comment below and we’ll be sure to add it!

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