Strange military terms: Snowbird and Blackbird

As I’ve written about before, it’s not uncommon to go through an Army life hearing terms over and over again without knowing the meaning. For me, Snowbird and Blackbird are two of those terms. I first started seeing them when I was getting ready to go to OCS and looking  up information in online forums. I’d see people use the term in sentences like “you’ll have time to do that school while you’re Snowbirding,” or “generally, you’ll have a lot of Blackbird time.”

I’ve come to understand that the terms refer to the time that soldiers get in-between mandatory training events. That is, if you have a course that ends in August and your next course doesn’t begin until October, you would be Snowbirding (or Blackbirding) in September.

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I have no idea where these terms came from or who started them, and they’re a bit obscure. Not everyone uses them, but those who do tend to use it with the confidence that everyone knows that they exist. They’re certainly not doctrinal terms, although in a cursory search for some information on this I did the term “Snowbird” used in an official-looking ALARACT message.

My guess is these terms were more popular a long time ago and are being used less and less, in the same way much of the lingo popular in the Vietnam era is now completely out of fashion. If anyone has any information on the terms, I’d be curious to hear it.

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