The Phonetic Alphabet

The military phonetic alphabet uses 26 code words to represent each letter of the alphabet. The functionality of the Military Phonetic Alphabet is a communication tool for military and civilian people alike, most often used to detail error-free spelling by phone.

Because many letters in the English language sound similarโ€”as in, โ€œMโ€ and โ€œNโ€ or โ€œBโ€ and โ€œDโ€โ€”the Military Phonetic Alphabet is crucial to help service members relay mission status, locations, codes, and other important information. For example, if directions are being issued to โ€œmuster at building DMG,โ€ proper use of the Military Phonetic Alphabet would be to say โ€œmuster at building Delta-Mike-Golf.โ€

Di Crusher teaches the Phonetic Alphabet

History of the Military Phonetic Alphabet

On a larger scale, clarity in communication during military operations can be the difference between losing a comrade or bringing everyone home. For instance, to successfully convey to its command that the first phase of a mission has been completed, a squadron would report back โ€œAlphaโ€ (the first word in the alphabet), the second phase would be โ€œBravoโ€ and so on. Likewise, โ€œOscar Mikeโ€ can be used to convey that the team is on the move.

History of the Military Phonetic Alphabet

Though the first recognized phonetic alphabet was adopted in 1927, the Military Phonetic Alphabet weโ€™ve come to know today didnโ€™t come to fruition until World War II. In 1941, the U.S. adopted the Joint Army/Navy radiotelephony alphabet to standardize communication among all branches of the U.S. military, though many nations used their own versions, and the Royal Air Force adopted a similar alphabet to the U.S.

The system created by the U.S. would later be called Able Baker after the letters โ€œAโ€ and โ€œB.โ€ In 1943, the U.S., U.K., and Australian armed forces modified the Able Baker alphabet to streamline communication between allied nations.

Common Military Alphabet Phrases/Slang Terms

11 Bravo โ€“ Army Infantry
40 Mike Mike โ€“ 40 Millimeter Grenade or M203 Grenade Launcher
Bravo Zulu โ€“ Good Job or Well Done
Charlie Foxtrot โ€“ Cluster F**k
Charlie Mike โ€“ Continue Mission
Echo Tango Sierra โ€“ Expiration Term of Service (someone who is about to complete their tour of duty)
Lima Charlie โ€“ Loud and Clear
Mikes โ€“ Minutes
November Golf โ€“ NG or No Go (fail)
Oscar-Mike โ€“ On the Move
Tango Mike โ€“ Thanks Much
Tango Uniform โ€“ Toes Up, meaning killed or destroyed or defective equipment
Tango Yankee โ€“ Thank You
Whiskey Charlie โ€“ Water Closet (toilet)
Whiskey Pete โ€“ White Phosphorus
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot โ€“ WTF

Categories: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy, USMC

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