The military, the medical professions, police, etc. - they have their professional jargon. One noteworthy characteristic of this jargon is the extensive use of abbreviations. Those abbreviations are associated with "being a professional" to such an extent that tv shows often use them as shorthand for marking out the professionals.
As far as the general picture goes, soldiers at least do indeed use a lot of abbreviations (personal experience here). So to that extent, the media got it right.
Now, when writing fiction in a military setting (or medical, or police, or similar), I see two opposing problems:
- How is the audience supposed to understand a flood of professional jargon, if they are not previously familiar with it? (In fact, I remember struggling with this for my first couple of days in boot camp). Even if you introduce a "rookie" character who's learning the ropes, so you have an excuse to provide the meanings of the abbreviations once, how many can the reader remember, without getting confused and frustrated? Not to mention there are the procedure words in addition to the abbreviations...
- If one chooses to write less abbreviations, that's not very realistic, is it? Not just in the "they should be saying this instead of that" way, but also in the more general way of the overall atmosphere - soldiers should be speaking a certain way. The language is an essential part of the military atmosphere.
How does one manage both issues, without falling into one or the other? How does one use jargon to maintain the desired atmosphere, without losing the reader in the process? How does one maintain at least some measure of realism?
(My own interest is from the military sci-fi angle, but the question should be applicable to multiple genres, and multiple professions that use a jargon.)