Imagine you are in the army. (I know its difficult - I couldn't even do that 14 months ago) Imagine your unit is somewhere in the field. It is a real world combat situation. You need beans 'n bullets, as they say. You get on the radio to your supervisor and tell him your grid coordinates - a combination of otherwise nonsensical letters and numbers.

Or imagine this. You are working behind the lines a little bit. Your life is in no immediate danger. But your job is to pass information on enemies' locations over the radio. What if you get it wrong?

In either case the lives and welfare of many men are dependant on your ability to correctly communicate that information to the guy on the other end. Radio static, speech impediments or accents, and hearing problems are only a few possible interfering factors. You want to be absolutlely sure you are heard correctly.

Enter the phonetic alphabet:

Alpha
Bravo
Charlie
Delta
Echo
Foxtrot
Golf
Hotel
India
Juliet
Kilo
Lima
Mike
November
Oscar
Papa
Quebec
Romeo
Sierra
Tango
Uniform
Victor
Whiskey
X-Ray
Yankee
Zulu

And as far as numbers go:
1 - one
2 - two
3 - tree
4 - foe-er (two syllables)
5 - fife
6 - six
7 - seven
8 - eight
9 - niner
0 - zero

For maximum clarity and uniformity, each digit is said as if it were a single entity - for example: "fife tree two", not "fife thirty-two" or any variant.

With this system the difference between D and E (for example) is so great that it cuts through so much interference that with that amount you wouldn't be able to communicate anyways. There are no longer 9 letters that end in 'ee'. The syllabic pattern and wide variety of sounds in this system give each character a very useful uniqueness.

Aka the phonetic alphabet or military phonetic alphabet. Appropriate uses are during radio or other voice communications, or anytime you want to be perfectly understood - even in person. But its not like we all go around spelling eveything this way.

There are some notable exceptions to the above.

1. When passing numbers a decimal point is transmitted as "DECIMAL." This is important during the transmission of radio telephony (r/t) frequencies, mainly because DECIMAL is trisyllabic and should therefore be easier to pick out on a garbled or interfered frequency. For example, "DELTA TWO THIS IS DELTA ONE CONTACT CONTROL ON ONE TWO FIFE DECIMAL SEVEN FIFE." (Don't ask why, but transmissions are by convention written in capitals.)

2. When passing a bearing and range the range should be given in whole numbers (eg FIFTY SIX as opposed to FIFE SIX). This is to prevent the receiver from hearing a long string of confusing numbers. So, for example, if D1 wishes to tell D2 about a contact due east at a range of 145 miles from D2, the transmission would be "DELTA TWO THIS IS DELTA ONE CONTACT YANKEE YANKEE ZERO NINER ZERO ONE-HUNDRED-AND-FORTY-FIFE", as opposed to the confusing "ZERO NINER ZERO ONE FOUR FIFE." (YANKEE YANKEE = from your current position)

3. Common abbreviations such as ESM (electronic support measures), EW (electronic warfare), r/t (radio telephony) and RAF (Royal Air Force) are passed in usual format for brevity - ie, "DELTA TWO THIS IS DELTA ONE R A F ACTIVITY IN HIGH E W REGION DETECTED CONTACT R A F ON USUAL R T FREQUENCY" as opposed to the unneccesarily time-consuming, "DELTA TWO THIS IS DELTA ONE ROMEO ALFA FOXTROT ACTIVITY IN HIGH ECHO WHISKY REGION DETECTED CONTACT ROMEO ALFA FOXTROT ON USUAL ROMEO TANGO FREQUENCY."

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