Origins of the name: "Roger" and "Wilco" ("will comply") are both affirmative expressions in radio talk.

Roger Wilco is also a name of a freeware Windows voice chat program for all those people who don't believe in the keyboard chat feature found in FPS games or flight simulators, or any situation in which sergeant's bark is faster and more convinent than his typing fingers. It's developed by HearMe, and Roger Wilco Team, formerly Resounding Technology, Inc.

Roger Wilco was the hero of Sierra's Space Quest series of adventure games, which ran from 1986 to 1993.

These days, however, the name has sadly become more synonymous with a little program that lets you converse with teammates during network matches via a microphone than with a galactic hero.

Although a recognized phrase which can be heard both in regular conversation as well as by those attempting to emulate military or pseudo-military radio traffic (or any other sort of communications, really), in actual military traffic it is quite incorrect. Both ROGER and WILCO are what are called "prowords." Basically, this is a short list of very recognizable words or abbreviations that are shorthand for a variety of things.

ROGER, for example, means "I have heard and understood your previous transmission." That's quite a mouthful, and you'd probably get bored saying it over and over--because in radio traffic, you almost are required to continually state that you are receiving correctly because of signal degradation, external noise, and any number of factors.

WILCO, on the other hand, means, "I have heard and understood your previous transmission, and will comply with whatever directive you have just given me." As you can see, WILCO neatly contains the meaning of ROGER--and on communications system that could (conceivably) go out at any time, redundancy in one's speech is a big no-go. Get out all the information you need. If the guy on the other end didn't get it, he'll tell you so.

So the next time you feel like saying "Roger wilco," think again.


Additional reading:

Expounding on what Byzantine said,Communications Instructions Radiotelephone Procedures, ACP 125 explains the difference thusly:
Roger: "I have received your last transmission satisfactorily." This does NOT imply intent to comply with the transmission.
Wilco: "I have received your last signal, understand it and will comply." To be used only by the addressee (i.e. the Commanding Officer). Since the meaning of Roger is included in that of Wilco, the two prowords are never used together.

To help you better imitate the way the real Navy signalmen do it, ACP 125 illustration acknowledgements by the following example, in this case between a surface action group flagship (ALFA ONE MIKE, or A1M) with the vanguard (FOXTROT SIX ROMEO, or F6R):

"When an originator desired confirmation that his message can (or will) be acted upon, he may request an acknowledgement from the addressee. The request is included in the text. The message is receipted for in the usual manner, but only the Commanding Officer or his duly authorized representative can acknowledge a message.

F6R-THIS IS A1M-SEARCH AREA BRAVO FOR POSSIBLE PLANE WRECKAGE-ACKNOWLEDGE-TIME 1445Z-OVER.
A1M-THIS IS F6R-ROGER-OUT.

If the commanding officer had heard and understood the message and directed acknowledgement, the operator would then have replied:

A1M-THIS IS F6R-WILCO (YOUR LAST TRANSMISSION)-OUT"

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