The military alphabet was adapted by NATO decades ago for communication between NATO countries due to language barriers. The alphabet is known as the International Radio telephony Spelling Alphabet. The US military uses it for many different purposes, including communication codes, shorthand, slang, and certain acronyms.
What the Military Alphabet Letters Stand For
Each letter has a code or word in the military alphabet:
The Usage of the Military Alphabet
The main purpose of the military alphabet is for clear and concise communication by radio or other non-face-to-face communication. For example, it is used in all nine-line medevac radio communications. It is also used for land navigation, like if the grid for an lZ is yb2124, it would be transmitted by saying, “Yankee Bravo 2124” twice to ensure understanding by both communicators.
It is also used as slang or shorthand to transmit a communication faster than staying on the radio where communication might be interrupted. There are many examples of slang or shorthand used by the military, and it seems to get added to a lot. For example, slang in the military alphabet for thank you would be tango yankee. There are no set slang words, so if you’re going to use them or make up your own, make sure whoever you’re speaking to knows what you mean; otherwise, you’re going to end up repeating yourself.
While I was deployed and relieved other units, they had created their own slang. Inevitably we had to ask, “What’s that mean?” I suggest you stick to the basics. Do not try and be creative and leave the 10-4 good buddy to the truck drivers or police. The main purpose of the military alphabet is so that everyone transmitting or receiving understands what’s being said. The military alphabet has been used for decades by not only the U.S. military but other allied forces as well. It is important not to deviate from meanings or usage, or you prevent communications from being understood. Leave the Hollywood communications to the actors. Use the military alphabet as a professional line of communication easily understood and received by all.