Adapting a Military Comms Plan to Civilian Life for Brevity, Clarity and a Little Fun - ITS Tactical

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Adapting a Military Comms Plan to Civilian Life for Brevity, Clarity and a Little Fun

By Nick H.

Walkie Talkie

Day to day communication in the military differs greatly from that of civilian life. For instance, in the military everything is an acronym and actually becomes a language of its own.

“Does your MOS require a PCS for your AIT or can your CMC just send you TDY/TAD?”

Many of you know exactly what that sentence means.


“Does your job require you to relocate for your professional instruction or can your boss just send you on a business trip?”

The reason that this happens in the military is to streamline communication for speed and to create less confusion. Why can’t we learn to implement certain terms, signals and responses into our every day life as civilians and Veterans? Of course, I don’t mean to use more acronyms, but rather similar speech. There are certain terms and even non-verbal communication that will increase your ability to be concise, specific and deliberate in your day-to-day communication. Here’s a taste.


“Copy All” – Do you ever get long emails with a lot of information, questions, concerns and opinions all wrapped up into one paragraph? Instead of commenting on every subject presented, you can simply send a return of “Copy All.” I like this because while it’s non-committal, it lets the other party know that you’ve read and understand all the material contained within the email.

“Wait One” – This means that you’ll reply in a bit. It can easily replace, “hang on a second,” or “I’ll get right back to you” and even “I see what you mean, let me check with the boss and get back to you with the answers you need.” It’s an extremely versatile way of saying what you mean in a way that won’t be misunderstood.

“Will Advise” – When someone asks you for information that you don’t have yet, you can easily respond with “will advise.” The implication is that you’ll let them know as soon as you’re made aware. This can, of course, be turned around to request information the moment it becomes available by simply saying, “please advise.” It works pretty well both ways.

“Check” – This is more or less the F-word of the SOF community.

“F the F’n f’ers,” is a way of using one word as a verb, an adjective and a noun. In the same way, “Check” is every bit as versatile, but I’ve never heard it used as a noun. It can mean almost anything, considering the context and can be used to express happiness, anger, or disrespect, although the original intent was to express “I understand” or “will do.”

Q: “Can you take out the trash?”

A: “Check” meaning “will do.”

Q: “Your boss needs cover sheets on these TPS reports.”

A: “Che—eck” meaning “what a dick.”

Q: “I want to break up.”

A: “Cheeeyaack!” meaning, “who cares” or “thank god, I didn’t want to have a 5-hour conversation to the same effect anyway.”

The point is that it’s the Holy Grail of responses and can be manipulated to meet your needs with little more than voice inflection.

“Out” – Has anyone else ever been extremely annoyed by people on comms who get the words “Out” and “Over” mixed up? Personally, it used to drive me up the wall. No one wants to sit there on the other end of a radio waiting for a follow-on thought, only to realize that the other person meant that they were done talking. The same kind of miscommunication can happen on cell phone calls. Instead of the awkward good-bye where both parties say why they have to get going in three separate forms of “Later” before hanging up, you can simply say “Roger, Out.”

*Muster III Note: You guys will be on comms this year, so be sure to get the lingo down now because it will most certainly come into play more than once. When you’re done with a sentence and wish to allow the other person to speak, end your transmission with “Over.” The other person will respond accordingly without hesitation. When you’ve understood the person on the other end and wish to end your radio transmission, simply say “Roger, Out.”*


Situation: You’re on a conference call with important people when Ted, the resident “that guy” decides to barge in and say, “Have you seen Johnny?”

The next time you’re on your phone and someone asks you where someone is, don’t tell the person on the line to “wait one.” Instead, point two fingers to your eyes and point in the direction of the individual they’re looking for. This tells the person, in no uncertain terms, that you saw the guy and he’s that way.

“Hey bro, you didn’t really go streaking after last years Christmas party did you?”

Instead of frantically looking for the mute button, just put your fingers together and start making a “slash your throat” gesture. While this may not be a direct translation from the military use, it will surely get your point across, even to Ted.

“I need help and I need it now!”

Simply make a fist with your hand and raise it above your head. This is the universal sign for halt, but will translate well into “be quiet and wait a moment, Ted.”

Phrases that say A LOT

“He’d be a great neighbor” – This is an insider way of saying that you’d never want to work with the guy. It’s a good way of warning a trusted friend about someone who isn’t up to speed for whatever reason without trash talk or gossip.

“He’s a ‘nice’ guy” – Ouch! The kiss of death. This means that you don’t recommend the guy to anyone, for any reason. It’s believed that the first time this description was ever used was when Judas crashed the last supper. It was also how Hitler referred to Mussolini after the Allies marched on Rome.

“Good Dude” – Stamp of approval. Only use this when you’ve spent enough time with someone to really vouch for him or her. If the individual is somewhat unreliable, the term can still be applied if he’s really funny, drinks well and NEVER screws his buddies over.

Have any phrases that work for you? Whether they get the message across clearly or are just funny, let us know!”

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Nick recently left the Navy after serving for 10 years as a Navy SEAL with multiple deployments, having been awarded the Bronze Star for operations in austere environments. Nick’s been with us since the beginning here at ITS on our Advisory Board.

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  • backyardsniper

    Informative but funny, this is what I come to ITS for.

  • I’d strongly stress the distinction between acronyms such as TDY or the old police 10-codes and what you are describing. The former are jargon and confuse everyone but the most experienced. Not good.

    Your examples are what’s called pro-words. “Wait One” can be understood by anyone and is easy to learn. The distinction between pro-words and ordinary speech is that a pro-word is always used and has one precise meaning. Someone always says, “Wait one” not “Hang on just a second would you?” or something similar. It makes misunderstanding unlikely. Often the various pro-words are chosen to sound different from one another. I once read someone who was impressed that the landing beaches at Normandy were distinct and impossible to confuse with one another. Ditto “Alpha, Bravo, Charlie…” 
    Pro-words have long been common in air traffic control, where a miss-communication can quickly prove fatal. In the last decade or so, they’ve moved into other areas that were once dominated by obscure jargon.
    When I worked at a USAF radar site at Eglin AFB, I heard one illustration. The weather was dreadful, so the mission controller guiding the plane into bombing runs (or whatever) asked a pilot what his visibility was. He replied that he couldn’t see beyond the nose of his plane. The controller then responded:
    “Sir. be advised that our radar is auto-track and we cannot provide surveillance.”
    Each term has a precise meaning. The “be advised” made clear what happened next was the pilot’s call, the controller was merely providing information. The “auto-track” and “surveillance” stated very clearly that our FPS-16 radar could only see him. It couldn’t see nearby aircraft. Left unsaid but obvious was that he might fly into another plane.
    To which the pilot responded:
    “Squawk Wolfcall, I’m headed home.” 
    Wolfcall was air traffic control for Eglin. No wasted words or uncertainties on either side of the conversation.
    There’s any interesting contrast between pro-words and the two-way radio conversations you sometimes read in old British novels. In the latter, the speech is often excessively wordy, formal and elaborate, but not that clear. It sounds just like someone who’s never keyed up a mike before and is terrified by the process. They chatter on, saying little.
    Sometimes pro-words can be very terse. Recently, I watched a description of an air battle in which one pilot saw a German fighter close on another fighter’s tail and about to open fire. There was only time for him to scream, “Break left!” His partner did and escaped. 
    Recent movies seem to be big on the various gestures Allied soldiers were taught in WWII. It’d be great to have an ITS Tactical article detailing them.

  • coydog1254

    How about ” Good To Go “

  • SurvivalPunk

    Good Day Sir! AKA go eff yoursefl

  • CharlesJMiller

    “FINE” In answer to “How are you today?”  Lifted from The Italian Job, it serves as an acronym for freaked-out, insecure, neurotic and emotional.  Use it in the office where only my people know what it means (as best I can determine).  Love double entendre that conveys a message.  Not exactly military comms, but a propos to the second part of the article.

  • JohnR

    We use “Wait Over” for “Wait One”, but it would make sense to all of our guys (Civilan SAR) and  “Wait Out” for “Will Advise”. I believe their use originally came into our organisation from British forces Military radio procedure, but I’m not sure.

    Regarding “over” and “out”, when we were being trained, misuse of those meant it was your round in the pub later.

    I like the use of Check. Also, it can be used as a question, where the tone rises through the word, kind of like “I got that, but are you really sure?”.
    While not a pro-word.  “Oscar Mike” is one we’ve started to adopt from somewhere or other when a vehicle is on the move.


  • B54

    A couple of handy ones:

    On me = this way lads
    Seen = I am aware and have eyes on

  • mpeas
  • Galvinator77

    Would add a couple more one word terms, “Roger” which was used above in an example but not defined.  Like “Copy” it means I have recieved your transmission but would imply that you also  understand what was said, not that you are necessarily going to do anything about it…. Then there is “WILCO” for when you are going to comply or execute watever message was transmitted.  The “Over” vs “Out” discussion is always classic.  Used to be the only one who could use “Out” was the party that initiated the conversation, letting the reciever know they were done communicating. Using “Over was letting the other party know you were done talking and were expecting a response. Then you have the ultimate redundant abortion of radio terms from the old classic TV show “Highway Patrol”  (OK you have to watch the old time TV show channel) that the Star used to sign off the radio “Roger, WILCO, Over and Out”   Some variation of that one keeps showing up in TV and Movie depictions of radio protocol

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