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I was listening to a dialogue/interview on the radio about a researcher in Africa, and she used an expression similar to:

I have been in country for around three months now, and in that time...

It sounded like a deliberate expression, not that she missed or omitted the word "the" before "country".

Of course, there is an obvious face-value meaning, such as "staying in the country", but it also seems to carry some other kind of connotation I can't express.

Am I over-analyzing this, or is there a meaning/connotation beyond the obvious?

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    It probably dates to the American involvement in Vietnam. It was a common expression used by troops referring to their tour overseas. – Cascabel May 2 '17 at 4:21
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    Relevant post at Phrase Finder concerning "in country", "in the country", and "in-country". – Cascabel May 2 '17 at 5:12
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    In my experience it's used by the U.S. foreign service (and possibly also troops) (and the British foreign service, probably) to indicate they're in the country to which they've been posted. They don't say "I'm living in France", but rather, I'm "in-country." – Xanne May 2 '17 at 6:19
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It is an expression mainly used in military or scientific contexts.

In-country:

being or taking place in a country that is the focus of activity (such as military operations or scientific research) by the government or citizens of another country:

  • scientists and in-country colleagues will carry out field research

  • Tropicus Conservation International readied my gear for my first mission in-country — Darryl Young

(M-W)

In-country(adverb & adjective):

In a country rather than operating from outside but in relation to it.

  • as adverb ‘the people we're putting in-country will get instructions from satellite radios’

Usage examples:

‘And then it hands over management of its own in-country operation to that very same company.’

‘The training has begun to have a multiplying effect with initial in-country training now extending to courses conducted outside Iraq.’

‘Typically the station operates out of an in-country US installation, with or without the knowledge of the host country.’

(ODO)

As shown in Ngrm the expression was used from the early '60s, probably during the Vietnam War as suggested in the comment from (answers.com)

  • Since the war lasted so long and so many men were rotating in and out of South Vietnam from so many branches of service; US Army, US Marine Corps, US Navy, US Air Force, US Coast Guard...and probably civilians too (CIA, Contractors, etc.), plus there were so many 2nd, 3rd, and more "tours" in the Vietnam war...it simplified everything all the way around to simply state "in country." Meaning "he's either here or he ain't."
  • So it is the "focus of activity" that gives it a distinct meaning to simple "in the country"? – aaa90210 May 2 '17 at 7:33
  • @aaa90210 - yes, it's become a jargon expression especially in military contexts. – user66974 May 2 '17 at 7:49
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In book titled Indiginous People’s History of the Americas the military term in-country is the abbreviated version of indian country. Until I read this book I understood in-country to mean in a combat zone. The term goes way back to early European settlers in America.

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