The Military Phonetic Alphabet

Welcome to the world of military terms, phrases, acronyms, and alphabet. Don’t feel bad if you find understanding your recruit’s new lingo, you aren’t alone. You can start learning the phonetic alphabet to make you look cool to your new service member. The first phrase you can learn is Bravo Zulu – Good Job or Well Done. Send a Bravo Zulu postcard to your recruit or candidate.

Bravo Zulu Postcards by

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 similar—as in, “M” and “N” or “B” and “D”—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 “muster at building DMG,” proper use of the Military Phonetic Alphabet would be to say “muster at building Delta-Mike-Golf.”

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 “Alpha” (the first word in the alphabet), the second phase would be “Bravo,” and so on. Likewise, “Oscar Mike” can 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 we’ve come to know today didn’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. However, 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 “A” and “B.” 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 – Army Infantry
40 Mike Mike – 40 Millimeter Grenade or M203 Grenade Launcher
Bravo Zulu – Good Job or Well Done
Charlie Foxtrot – Cluster F**k
Charlie Mike – Continue Mission
Echo Tango Sierra – Expiration Term of Service (someone who is about to complete their tour of duty)
Lima Charlie – Loud and Clear
Mikes – Minutes
November Golf – NG or No Go (fail)
Oscar-Mike – On the Move
Tango Mike – Thanks Much
Tango Uniform – Toes Up, meaning killed or destroyed or defective equipment
Tango Yankee – Thank You
Whiskey Charlie – Water Closet (toilet)
Whiskey Pete – White Phosphorus
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – WTF

Don’t forget to send your recruit our new Bravo Zulu motivational postcard.

Categories: featured, Good to Know, Recruit Training

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