Know your acronyms…

One of the most important skills you’ll develop as a staff action officer, aside from the obvious requirement for extreme proficiency in PowerPoint, is the ability to name projects, programs, and groups in such a way as to make their acronym memorable. In a giant bureaucracy there are few things more important than making sure the leaders high on Mount Olympus being able to remember what your little part of the machine does for them. Giving it a good name is where that starts.

To that end, members of the staff since time immemorial have struggled with just the right naming convention for the efforts. The US government is replete with agencies – NSA, CIA, FBI – that need no further introduction. A few, those gifted with true overachievers, have striven to match their make with a pronounceable acronym. The White House Military Office (WHMO) is pronounced “Whamo!” for instance. Whoever came up with that one deserves some kind of damned medal.

On the other end of the spectrum are the ones who tried and failed. That’s when you end up in a meeting talking about the ASTWG and ASTAG. For some inexplicable reason the Army Science and Technology Working Group decided their name should be pronounced “Asswig” while the Army Science and Technology Advisory Group settled on “Asstag.” I have no idea why anyone thought either of these was a good idea… but expecting anyone to sit through a meeting to discuss the important workings of the Asswig and the Asstag and somehow manage to keep a straight face is just entirely unreasonable.

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