Unlike pilots in the Navy, most folks in the Army don’t have a cool call-sign like “Maverick” or “Ice” or “Snort” or my favorites, “Notso”, a moniker hung on two guys, one named Swift and one named Bright.
Each unit in the Army is given a small pocket sized code book, good for 30 days, that lists the frequencies and call signs for pretty much every unit in their division or brigade. This is the Signal Operating Instruction or SOI. Since there is only so much bandwith in the radio spectrum, they have to be careful that everybody gets a frequency to work on, without stepping on someone elses conversation. Everybody on one frequency is said to be on a net, which is of course short for “network.” Each company will have its own net. Often, each platoon will have its own.
The SOI also gives the call signs. These are alphanumeric constructs. For instance, Company A, 1st Battlion, 27th Infantry, of the 25th Infantry Division, may have the call sign today of M67, and tomorrow it may be C28. Usually, you talk to your peers on your net, and listen in to the net of your higher headquarters. Thus, the CO of the Company would have a radio set to the company net, and one set to the Battalion headquarters net.
Now, it is tough to keep track of all the changes in the call signs. It isn’t so bad remembering your own, but it is pretty hard remembering that the third platoon’s platoon sergeant is T54D. What often happens is that at the company level and below, the call signs from the SOI are disregarded, and the company uses a color code. How’s that work? I’m glad you asked… Let’s take a look at my last company, A-1/12 IN.
The company had a headquarters and three platoons of 4 Bradleys each. Each platoon, in addition to its Bradleys had a squad of infantry (the book says there’s two squads, but we never had enough people to fill both out, so we just used one squad.)
The headquarters color was Black. The first platoon was Blue, second was Red, and the third was White. The CO used the number “six” for his call sign. Thus, if you wanted to talk to the CO, you called for “Black Six.” The XO was “Black Five” (many of you may have seen the excellent milblog Blackfive. Does the name make more sense now?) The First Sergeant was “Black Seven.”
Down in the trenches, each Bradley was numbered one through four. Thus, the platoon leaders track in the first platoon was “Blue One”. His gunner was Blue One Golf, and his driver was Blue One Delta. The platoon sergeant was always “Blue Four”
The dismount squads adopted the callsign “Blue Five” with the team leaders for the squad adding either “Alpha” or “Bravo” as appropriate. I spent several months as “Blue Five Bravo.”
It may not have been as cool as “Goose” or “Slider” but you take what you can get.