Airsoft Action|June 2020
It was probably about five minutes into your very first event when you realized how important communication was going to be in your new hobby. Organizing units over long distances, coordinating attacks, and calling for help all require a way to get in touch with your team. Those messages have to be fast, clear, and preferably not yelled into the air where the enemy can hear them! So it’s no surprise that airsoft players have turned to radios to solve that problem.
Dozens of radio solutions get deployed on the field. You can find low-cost handheld units like the Baofeng UV5R, fully functional replicas of the AN/PRC 148 MBITR, and AN/ PRC 177 radios and high-end professional Motorola models used by law enforcement. All of these serve their users well, from simple communications to high-quality impressions. Unfortunately, as more people pick up communications tools it becomes clear the problem isn’t always with the type of radio.
“Can you hear me?” “Comms check.” “Someone is hot mic-ing!” “What did you say?” *Static*
The best comms gear you can buy will only be good for Instagram photos if there isn’t a competent operator behind the microphone. We can’t cover everything in a couple of magazine pages but we can suggest three self-study areas you should focus on if you want to be an effective communicator.
1. LEARN BASIC PROCEDURES
While different sectors and militaries have different standards for communication, many share common fundamentals. Messages clearly identify the sender and receiver, they use strategies to ensure the message is easy to understand and they only allow one person to speak at a time. These fundamentals are often referred to as “Radio Operating Procedure”.
If this concept is new to you, one of the easiest procedure formats to use is the “Receiver, Sender, Message, Over/Out”. Begin your message with who you are trying to reach, then add your own callsign so everyone knows who’s speaking. State your message, then finish with “over” OR “out” (not both!). End your message with “Over” if you’re finished and ready for the next person to speak. Use “Out” if you are finished speaking and are ending that conversation. This simple format makes each message a clean package that is easy to understand and helps the listener know when it is OK for them to speak. If you want to be more authentic, do some research on your local Military and Law Enforcement units to see how they format their messages.
Clear messages also rely on clear speech. This can be challenging when it comes to strings of letters or numbers that sometimes sound the same over a radio. Confusion is even more likely if transmissions aren’t perfectly clear. NATO utilizes the “NATO Phonetic Alphabet” - a system of words and pronunciations that make it easier to understand what letters and numbers are being spoken. This system was designed to work well in English, French, and Spanish. Your country may have a system of its own, however, if you want to use the NATO alphabet, there’s a great chart available. Unfortunately, the only way to learn it is through memorization. You could try reading local vehicle license plates using the Phonetic Alphabet for practice.
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