A while back, someone asked me if I had a cool call sign when I was in the Army.
Well, not really. The Army doesn’t really do call signs the way Naval Aviators and Air Force pilots tag people.
But for a while, I did have a nickname- Battle Bear.
Oh? Do tell, how did that come to pass. Well, the Bear part was a rather obvious diminutive of my last name, rather than a reference to any particular ursine qualities of my physique or character. The Battle part, however, is a tad more involved.
Ideally, on any radio net in the Army, the various operators will consult their Signal Operating Instructions to find the assigned call sign for the 24 hour period as well as the assigned frequency for the particular net upon with they are operating.
At the time, I was the driver for the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division’s Executive Officer. And the brigade was nicknamed The Battle Brigade. And let’s face it, the commander, XO, and staff officers were highly unlikely to spend the time to actually remember that today’s SOI call sign for the S-3 (Plans and Operations Officer) was Z34D.
Instead, the informal call signs adopted were ass such. Each staff section was known by it’s number, preceded by the Brigade nickname. As such, our S-3 was known as Battle Three. Likewise for the S-1, S-2, and S-4 sections. And throughout the service, the XO is always the –5, the CO is “The Six” and the Command Sergeant Major is always the –7.
And so, you can see, my boss, the XO, was known, at least on the radio, as Battle Five. Now, the XO was a busy fellow. In addition to my duties maintaining and operating the M1009 CUCV truck that was his assigned vehicle, I was also responsible for operating and maintaining the two VRC-46 series radios installed aboard said truck. And so, when Battle Five was out of the truck, or otherwise engaged doing XO stuff, I would answer all his calls.
For instance, a typical incoming call might go like this:
“Battle Five, this is Battle Six, over.”
Now, Battle Six, the brigade commander, doesn’t really care to talk to me. He wants to talk directly to his XO.
But rather than just letting the call go unanswered, I’d reply. Because full bull Colonels tend to get annoyed when no one answers.
“Battle Six, this is Battle Five Delta, stand by for actual.”
The “Delta” part was because I was Battle Five’s driver. The informal norm throughout the Army is the driver is tagged with his boss’s call sign, with the Delta appendage. The “actual” part refers to Battle Five himself. Basically I’m telling Battle Six that the XO is out of the truck at the moment, but that I’ll go fetch him for you.
Now, while I was assigned to brigade, I still lived right next door to the rifle company I’d been assigned to previously, and still spend most of my off duty time socializing with them. And so, soon enough, I was tagged as Battle Bear. Which, of all the nicknames I’ve been tagged with over the years, that’s a pretty good one, and I wasn’t about to complain.