The 2013 12 oustanding Airmen of the Year.

Six things only Airmen understand

By the Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Whether you were an aircraft mechanic who sported the Shade 509 fatigues during the 1960s or a new Airman who graduated from basic military training last week, there are common references only known to those who’ve been a part of the greatest Air Force in the world. Some have serious origins and some are just for fun — See which Air Force-isms made our list:

Airman SnuffyMaynard Smith AKA Airman Snuffy
Sometimes promoted to sergeant, this individual always seems to be in trouble and making poor decisions. Airman Snuffy is often used as an example by military training instructors to describe to new trainees unacceptable or poor behavior.

The fun part about this saying is that Airman Snuffy actually did exist. His real name was Maynard Smith, a tail gunner in WWII forced into the military by a judge after a run-in with the law. Being senior in age to most of his instructors, Smith took the first opportunity out of training to make rank by volunteering for aerial gunnery school. Smith’s first mission in war was on a B-17 that took heavy damage. The plane took over 3,500 bullet holes and caught fire multiple times during the mission. Smith single-handedly put out the fires, lightened the aircraft by throwing out supplies and rendered aid to the six wounded aircrew members on the flight.

His heroic actions earned him the Medal of Honor, making him the first enlisted recipient. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson arrived to present the Airman his medal, but Smith hadn’t been informed of the ceremony. He was later found scraping leftovers from breakfast trays after being placed on KP duty for disciplinary reasons. His often difficult personality forever branded future troublesome troops. More on the legend of Airman Snuffy here.
PHOTO: Maynard Smith aka “Airman Snuffy” chose to be an aerial gunner because it was the quickest way to make rank. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

Secret SquirrelAircrew members before Operation Desert Storm.
The term is thought to have been created during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 after seven B-52Gs from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, took off for the world’s longest combat mission. The BUFFS were carrying a “black” weapon that was developed under strict secrecy in 1987. The aircrews called it “Secret Squirrel” after a cartoon character, but it was officially designated the AGM-86C conventional air-launched cruise missile (CALCM). The term secret squirrel is used today to describe information that is deemed too sensitive to be discussed outside secure areas, or even the secure areas themselves.
PHOTO: Aircrew members gather for a photo at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., before the mission that will fire the opening shots of OPERATION DESERT STORM, Jan. 16, 1991. (Courtesy photo)

“Shut up and color!”Keep calm and shut up and color
This endearing term has been long used by Air Force leaders and supervisors to help motivate their Airmen to put the mission first and get their tasks completed. This statement reminds them to focus on the bigger picture, and how they fit into the Air Force as a whole. It is not intended to offend, but rather to encourage Airmen to reevaluate themselves as leaders and followers. More info about this term’s meaning can be found here.

Best and brightest
This somewhat overused term can be found on many officer and enlisted performance reports to describe Airmen who are considered the true “cream of the crop” in the Air Force. These Airmen go above and beyond Air Force standards to become the service’s leading commanders, supervisors and leaders. They are selected for highly-competitive jobs as aide-de-camps for general officers, Air Force representatives with top companies through the Air Force Education With Industry Program, first sergeants or even military training instructors. The Air Force also recognizes its “best and brightest” every year with the service’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year Award. This award recognizes 12 outstanding enlisted personnel for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements. In short, this term helps identify Airmen who have excelled at their rank and in their career field. It signifies their commitment to joining the top tier of the Air Force and becoming one of the service’s future leaders.The 2013 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. PHOTO:The 2013 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year attended a reception and awards dinner hosted by the Air Force Association during the 2013 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 16, 2013, in Washington D.C. The OAY award recognizes 12 outstanding enlisted personnel for superior leadership, job performance, community involvement, and personal achievements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Varhegyi/Released)

Hurry up and waitAirmen process through a mock-deployment line during an exercise.
Wikipedia defines “hurry up and wait” as “any scenario where part of the time you are rushing and working very hard, and part of the time you are waiting around and prepared to work on demand and as needed.” It’s probably one of the most common phrases used by Airmen because it happens so frequently in the Air Force, such as in deployment lines, during exercises, and even at customer service offices. Airmen are frequently tasked to support functions and events where they are placed on “stand by” until they are needed or called upon.  This term is most often used to express frustration with lengthy processes and procedures.
PHOTO: Senior Airman Kalaya Irby, 30th Force Support Squadron customer service representative, assists Airmen to ensure the accuracy of their documents in preparation for future deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Antoinette Lyons/Released)

Squadron mottos and chantsCadets at the Air Force Academy shout a squadron chant.
Almost every squadron in the Air Force has some type of motto or chant they use to distinguish themselves at Air Force functions like award dinners and promotion ceremonies. Squadron chants help Airmen come closer together as a unit and enhance esprit de corps. It gives them something to bond them together when they are around other units or organizations from other Air Force bases too. Here are some of our favorite chants:

– “MXS, simply the best! Tell them why. We make them fly!”
– “What’s your profession? Fly, fight, win!”
– “Engineers lead the way!”
– “Best of the best! FSS!”
– “Med Group! Best care…anywhere!”
– “Pull chocks! Maintainers rock!”

PHOTO: U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 4th Classmen of Cadet Squadron 40 performs a squadron chant in front of waiting family members after the Acceptance Parade at the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan/Released)

A trainee is urged to move faster by an Air Force Military Training Instructor.Move with a purpose
Being in the Air Force is more than working a typical 9-to-5 job. It’s a privilege to serve and defend the nation, and “moving with a purpose” is seen as a way that each Airman takes pride in their work and service. Airmen first learn about this principle from their military training instructors at basic training. At this point, it’s more of a motivational phrase to get someone moving in the right direction. The term is often reinforced at technical school and by supervisors at each duty station to instill in each Airman to accomplish every action with the mission or goal in mind.
PHOTO: A trainee is encouraged to move faster by an Air Force military training instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Melinda Mueller/Released)

Can you think of some other Air Force-isms that didn’t make this list? Sound off in the comments below!

21 thoughts on “Six things only Airmen understand”

  1. I’m my opinion you left of the best chant…used by POL troops around the world. WHO THE HELL? POL!!!!

  2. The term Secret Squirrel far precedes DS and 1991. You might want to talk to some USAFSS vets from teh 60s and 70s…

  3. “Slick” The term of endearment used by the DI’s at Lackland to refer to recruits – as in “Just what in the name of all that’s holy is THAT, slick?!?”. Often used in combination with the term “Rainbow” to describe newly arrived recruits who have not been issued their uniforms.

  4. 509 uniforms in the 60’s? I thought they were 505’s? In 1965 I was in the CAP and they were called 505’s. CMSgt (ret), 1971-2001.

  5. Hurry up and wait has less to do with rushing and working very hard and then being put on standby than it does hurrying like hell to get to a formation or appointment and then having to wait for the commander or VIP or even NCO instructor to show up at 9 AM and conduct whatever it was you had to be there at 6AM for. And I’ll bet every Zoom knows about “standby!”

    rushing and working very hard
    rushing and working very hard

  6. I think that you’re referring to the khakis, which were AF Shade 1505. The column, however, was referring to the solid-color OD green fatigues, AF Shade 509. (former CAP Ranger instructor here)

  7. I’m just wondering why these are “Air Force-isms”? Many of these are used across many or all branches, and even predate the air force. “Shut up and color” is huge in the navy, as is “hurry up and wait”. I’m just saying that most of these are “Military-isms”, not “Air Force-isms”

  8. Shut up and color is a term meaning getting rid of a supervisor, usually an officer, who’s getting in the way of doing the work. It’s for someone trying to tell an experienced person how to do his job. It’s a gag gift to give a newly arrived officer a coloring book and some crayons.
    “I really thing we should…” “Sir, why don’t you just shut up and color.”

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