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HOWTO - Radio Communications Primer

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Tactics, Techniques and Procedures

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Old December 30th, 2008, 19:32   #1
MadMorbius
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HOWTO - Radio Communications Primer

Radio Communications Primer

The following communications primer is intended to provide the reader with a basic level of familiarity with radio communications procedures and “best practices”; the purpose of this primer is to familiarize the novice or experienced user with a standard for radio use, ensuring the most efficient use of the communications network by all users.

The type of radio used is not relevant to this communications primer; it should be mentioned however that attention to proper protocol becomes more important as the size of the network (number of users) and / or the power of the radio increases.

Adherence to protocols greatly increases the usability of a large network with many endpoint users by limiting useless chatter and maximizing availability for critical messages. As the power of the radio increases, so does the effective range of the radio, and the associated size of the potential communications net. Again, adherence to protocol ensures that the communications network remains a working tactical advantage as opposed to a distraction and hindrance.

Callsigns
All users on a radio network are issued, or shall assume, a unique callsign which identifies the individual to other users of the network. Callsigns should be limited to no more than two syllables; anything greater introduces more opportunity for misinterpretation.

The most common callsigns are numeric, frequently two-digit numbers. For example, 66 (SIX SIX) or 59 (FIVE NINER). In some cases, a letter may be applied phonetically as a prefix to the numerical callsign. The letter is used to differentiate operational units, functions, geographical locations, etc. For example, two teams may be operating in the same environment. Team A will use callsigns that begin with A (ALPHA). Team B may use callsigns that begin with B (BRAVO). Therefore, a user with the callsign of SIX SIX assigned to operational unit A wil be addressed, and identify themselves, as ALPHA SIX SIX.

When addressing individual squad mates within the same operational unit, where the frequency in use is assigned to that operational unit specifically, the letter designator need not be used. For example, if Team A is on a specific frequency, there is no need to address other members of team A as “ALPHA”. The numeric callsign will suffice.

Please note that numeric callsigns are typically more effective, and efficient, than “handles”. It is easier to remember a two-digit number and associate it with a function than a “handle”.

Basic Radio Use

When using a radio, it is important to observe the following:

Hold the microphone 3-5 inches from your mouth.
Key the radio and wait a full 3 seconds before speaking
Continue to depress the talk button for a further 3 seconds once you have completed speaking
Turn off “roger beep” or “confirmation tones”. Nobody wants to hear these things beeping everytime someone accidentally keys a microphone.
Turn off (or avoid radios with) call functions. Once again, these are irritating, particularly when there are several dozen users on the network.
Refrain from long, drawn-out conversations. Messages should be short, and sweet. Longer messages may be delivered but should be broken into smaller segments to allow other users to access the network. More on this topic will be explained later.
Think about what you intend to say before you key up the microphone. Think out your entire statement, key up, make the statement, then get off the air.
Ensure that PTT (push to talk) switches are firmly attached, and located in an area where they are not likely to be depressed accidentally or inadvertently for long periods, rendering the entire network unusable.
Assume all conversations are being monitored. Key targets, locations, or plan elements should be pre-defined with code words to preserve strategic and tactical operations security on the network.

Initiating a communication:

Communications are initiated by identifying the station calling, and the intended recipient. There are many ways this is done in practice, but the most effective (in the writers opinion) is the “STATION X CALL STATION Y” method. For example, consider that SIX SIX is calling FIVE NINER:

66 sends: FIVE-NINER CALL SIX-SIX
59 responds: FIVE- NINER

The responding station replies with their own callsign. From this point forward, each station identifies themselves with their own callsign until the communication is closed.

Please note that numbers and letters are always transmitted phonetically. For example, 66 becomes SIX-SIX, as opposed to SIXTY-SIX. “A66” becomes “ALPHA SIX-SIX” as opposed to “ayeh sixty six”. There are many reason for this, but the most important for you, right now, is because it clarifies communications by minimizing complex multi-syllable sentences which increase opportunity for misunderstanding.

Delivering a SITREP, MESSAGE, or FLASH TRAFFIC.
SITREP: Situation Report. For example :
59 sends: SIX-SIX CALL FIVE-NINER, SITREP, OVER.
66 responds: SIX SIX UNDER CONTACT FROM NORTH, HOLDING, OVER

MESSAGE: A long message. Often requires breaks to allow interrupt traffic. For example:

66 sends: FIVE- NINER CALL SIX-SIX, MESSAGE, OVER.
59 responds: FIVE-NINER, SEND YOUR MESSAGE

If FIVE-NINER is occupied, or otherwise unprepared to accept the incoming message, they will reply:

59 responds: FIVE NINER, WAIT ONE

OR

59 responds: FIVE-NINER, STAND BY.

This indicates to SIX-SIX that they are not prepared to receive the message at this time. When FIVE-NINER is prepared to accept the message, they will re-initiate the communication later:

59 sends: SIX-SIX, CALL FIVE-NINER, SEND YOUR MESSAGE, OVER.

At this time, the message can be sent:

66 responds: SIX-SIX, MESSAGE FOLLOWS. PROCEED TO ALPHA SEVEN FIVE AND HOLD UNTIL THIRTEEN-THIRTY HOURS. RENDEZVOUS WITH CHARLIE, ALPHA SEVEN FIVE, THIRTEEN THIRTY HOURS. REPORT RV, ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS AT THAT TIME, OVER.

59 responds: FIVE-NINER, WILCO ALPHA SEVEN FIVE HOLD THIRTEEN THIRTY FOR RV WITH CHARLIE.

WILCO is a proword which means "I have received your message and will comply"

It is a good practice to read back a message. This confirms the message was properly relayed. If there is an error in the message interpretation, it can be clarified at this time.

Note that if a transmission becomes unreadable during a message, for example when another unit attempts to transmit and the signal is interrupted, a request can be made to repeat only the portion of the message which was missed. For example:

59 responds: FIVE-NINER, SAY AGAIN ALL AFTER HOLD.

SIX-SIX will repeat all instructions after the word HOLD was transmitted. FIVE-NINER will then readback the message as illustrated above.

If the message must be broken, do so using the proword BREAK. Wait a full 10 seconds, or until break-through traffic has completed, and then resume the message:

66 sends: SIX-SIX, FIVE-NINER, MESSAGE RESUMES….

Avoid the use of the word “REPEAT”. REPEAT is a proword used to signal a request to REPEAT an artillery barrage or fire mission on previous coordinates. Although the likelihood of the signal being interpreted as such is minor outside of a military net, it is good practice to avoid operands outside their intended usage.

Recall that the purpose of a radio network is to inform or keep informed. The radio network should be used for the relaying of information or intelligence. Any information which is not actionable, or which cannot be analyzed to produce intelligence, should not be transmitted over the radio network.

Messages should be clear, concise, and to the point. Anything that can be discussed in person should be, leaving the network free for emergency traffic.

FLASH TRAFFIC: A message of critical importance. A Flash message may or may not be addressed to any particular unit, for example, the following SALUTE flash message (Size, Activity, Location, Unit type, Time, Equipment):

59 sends: FIVE-NINER FLASH TRAFFIC ENEMY SIGHTED, PLATOON STENGTH, MOVING WEST ALPHA SEVEN-FIVE, INFANTRY. NO CONTACT.

Note: CONTACT is a proword. It assumes an ACTIVE CONTACT, where the enemy has been engaged or the caller is under engagement. A SIGHTING assumes that the enemy has been observed, but has not observed the observer. Avoid calling a CONTACT unless there is active indication of engagement or imminent engagement; a SIGHTING is IMPORTANT. A CONTACT is CRITICAL.

Last edited by MadMorbius; January 7th, 2009 at 22:03..
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Old December 30th, 2008, 21:19   #2
FlyGuy
 
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Not bad Mad, but I do have one small critique...using the term, "call xx" is improper radio phraseology. During first establishment of a contact, correct procedure is to first identify the called station followed by the words, "This is..." and then the calling station's id. For subsequent calls of the same conversation, you can drop the "this is..." part but you still have to identify called station followed by calling station. So assuming your are X (X-ray) and the station you are calling is Y (Yankee), the proper radio phraseology for starting a contact would go something like this:
"Yankee this is X-ray. Over."
"X-ray, this is Yankee. Go ahead."
Scenario 1:
X-ray delivers message and if no further acknowledgement is required, ends transmission with the words "X-ray, out".
ie. "Yankee, X-ray. EOD team required at north building in One Zero minutes. X-ray, out"
Scenario 2:
If further acknowledgements or traffic is required, X-ray ends with the word "over", and comms continue until desired conclusion where it's ended by the last one speaking identifying themselves and using the term "out". Also, for acknowledgements the terms "Roger" or "Affirmative" are interchangeable as desired and are both correct phraseology.
Building upon the above example, here's how a possible contact-request-signoff would go:
Yankee this is X-ray. Over.
X-ray, this is Yankee. Go ahead.
Yankee, X-ray. Confirm EOD team required at north building in One Zero minutes. Over.
X-ray, Yankee. Roger, EOD team required at north building in One Zero minutes. Yankee, out.

Otherwise, I think your primer is a very good intro to comms-101.



Ready...FIRE...Aim!
'Fly
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Last edited by FlyGuy; December 30th, 2008 at 21:54..
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Old December 30th, 2008, 21:40   #3
MadMorbius
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As I said above, there are many ways of doing it. I find the posted method the most effective.

For the record, I was taught the same way as you've described, some 20 years ago.

Last edited by MadMorbius; December 30th, 2008 at 22:42..
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Old December 31st, 2008, 15:36   #4
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Very nice I've learned alot on radio comms for my years to come i cant wait 2 more years lol thanks guys and you Mad
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Old January 7th, 2009, 21:59   #5
MadMorbius
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Updated - Radio PROWORDS
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Old January 19th, 2009, 23:31   #6
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I would just like to add a little pet peeve...and cover it under expedience for radio etiquette.

OVER is the word you say at the end of a transmission when a reply or acknowledgement is expected. It tells the recipient that the speaker has finished talking and that the radio net is clear.

OUT is the word you say at the end of a transmission when a reply or acknowledgement is not expected or desired. It tells the recipient that the conversation is over.

OVER AND OUT is what you say to make everyone want to kick you in the nuts. You're wasting words and time on the radio, plus making it confusing for others on your team who need to use the broadcast net. They'll be like, "Is he over or is he out?" "Who cares, let's kick him in the nuts." "Good call. Then he'll be out."

Knowing the difference is the first step to being a radio god. Then you will be loved.
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Old August 30th, 2009, 09:43   #7
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To elaborate upon Morb's last part of his original post;

"Contact" is traditionally used to pass reports of actual contact, or observed enemy. However this gets confusing at airsoft games if every time you see an enemy you are yelling "CONTACT!" into the radio. So if you're just passing an observation of the enemy, and no firefight it's best just to pass that along as a standard message using the method described in previous posts.

Procedure upon "CONTACT".

When the ENFOR has been engaged, the proper method for passing that up the chain is a CONTACT REPORT. We'll use Morb's SALUTE method for the formatting instead of the CF format, because I think it'll be easier to remember for the average player.

*Note: Just to mention here, when you are sending this report you are about to be engaged by an ENFOR or are currently engaged. It's important to think about this one and the situation you are in; are you the pointman? The machine gunner in your squad? Probably the wrong person to be chatting on the radio while plastic is whizzing over your head. Instead the best person to send this report is someone on the tail end of the contact, ie: your squad got bumped and no one is shooting at you yet. If you have time to "maneuver for position", then you have time to send this report.

So, your squad Alpha Two has been bumped, and most of your guys are exchanging fire. You were the "last man" on your patrol and have not yet been engaged. Before you "hook in" to the fight, you send off a quick CONTACT REPORT;

"Zero this is Alpha Two, CONTACT OVER/WAIT OUT" (wait out if you need a moment)

- AT THIS POINT ALL OTHER RADIO TRAFFIC CEASES -

"Alpha Two, Zero, send CONTACT REPORT over"

"Alpha Two, section of enemy engaged at the crashed plane, infantry over" *1

"Zero, roger over"

"Alpha Two, out"

*1. Note here how the "1 this is 2" callsign method is dropped, and whomever is speaking simply states their callsign then the message. This is done to reduce the amount of time it takes to send a message.
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Old August 30th, 2009, 20:06   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kokanee View Post
...Note here how the "1 this is 2" callsign method is dropped, and whomever is speaking simply states their callsign then the message. This is done to reduce the amount of time it takes to send a message.[/I]
Correct: In practice, that's done all the time both in the civvy world where I am and in the military. The "X, this is Y..." phraseology is the technically (politically?) correct method designed to reduce ambiguity/confusion during partial or noisy transmissions, and it's the one we look for when administering the Radio Operator's Profficiency exams (aero & maritime). However, and as you've correctly pointed out, in 99.9% of real-world ops, it's shortened to "X, Y..."


'Fly
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Old August 30th, 2009, 22:08   #9
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I'd also like to add, Positive and Negative are never used on the radio. (to my knowledge)
unless it's saying blood type.

Last edited by Forever_kaos; August 31st, 2009 at 01:00..
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Old August 30th, 2009, 23:47   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Forever_kaos View Post
I'd also like to add, Posative (sp. it's spelled Positive) and Negative are never used on the radio. (to my knowledge)
unless it's saying blood type.
FK, you are 1/2 correct: NEGATIVE is a valid procedural word and can be used. To finally put this discussion to rest, I shall refer you to Industry Canada's RIC-22, "General Radiotelephone Operating Procedures". See Appendix A, "Procedural Words and Phrases" if you don't believe me.

Apart from anything special or specific for military requirements, this is the definitive reference for proper, CANADIAN civillian radio operating procedures. Anything else you may hear has been morphed by operational practices (or shortcuts) over time and isn't "technically" correct.


FlyGuy...out!
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Last edited by FlyGuy; August 30th, 2009 at 23:59..
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Old August 30th, 2009, 23:57   #11
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However in Military Voice Procedure, the question can be either answered by "YES" or "NO". Positive and Negative in my experience were always reserved for the denoting temperature, or blood groups. And Affirmative well that is either a Yank or Holliwood thing. Consider that you have about 45 seconds at times to transmit on your net. You need to use as few words a possible, that have very specific meanings.

Keep to words that are two syllables or less. Firstly they will not occupy needless tranmission time. Secondly, they are less likely to get confused with another word.

You need to use the least amount of time to transmit the maximum amount of information.
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Old August 31st, 2009, 00:59   #12
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Good read Fly, thanks!
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Old September 1st, 2009, 14:21   #13
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Hey F_K, as a team will be cover radio and voice procedure at one of our training sessions in OP:RESOLUTE REBUILDER
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Old November 25th, 2011, 18:35   #14
Righthook
 
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In the military:

-Usually there is one station that is in charge of directing all the others,representing the commanding officer. This includes enforcing the use of proper voice procedure.Sub-units have their own subnets and the radioman at company HQ had to listen to two nets at the same time (to the tactical net and to the higher HQ).

-learn your phonetic alphabet by heart.

-If you really want to have some fun and depending on your level of realism (it's probably not worth it if you're playing in a room paintball style, but if you're doing it like the army with rucksacks and patrols and everything, I'd say go for it), it's possible to buy things like radio frequency scanners and eavesdrop on your opponent's VHF radio comms if he is not encrypted.
.If strong enough encryption is used, it is not going to be decrypted in a timely manner.

You can do certain attacks against VHF comms even if they are encrypted, but since your opponent is very unlikely to have artillery or want to spend a good deal of money on Electronic Warfare, a good encrypted radio should be all right.

(if there is demand, I will try and fetch some for you at a good price ---not army equipment, civviie stuff)

-Download this:it's the radio communicators' bible.
http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=95281.0

have fun kids.

Source: worked as army signaller.

Last edited by Righthook; November 25th, 2011 at 18:41..
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Old November 25th, 2011, 19:52   #15
Righthook
 
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Here is another trick you can use:

If you can afford to have a spare radio ,use this.
Once you know the frequency your opponent is transmitting on,
take a piece of electric tape (or a string, be creative) and use it so that the PTT is always held down. If your radio is the more powerful,it will jam your opponents'.

If they are smart, they will just change frequency, but it will take some time for people to catch on (it might just be a guy who is pressing down his PTT).

Last edited by Righthook; November 25th, 2011 at 19:56..
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