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  • Listen up, privates!

  • You wind up in some sticky situations when you're in the field.

  • You might be in a dense forest, surrounded by enemies.

  • You can't see them, but even the slightest mistake on your part could give away your

  • team's location and have them pouring out of the trees at you.

  • You've got to think fast in combat situations, and you might see something critical - a trap

  • waiting for you.

  • You've got to alert your team - but even the slightest sound out of place could alert

  • the enemy.

  • What do you do?

  • The good news is, Uncle Sam has you covered.

  • Welcome to the world of military hand and arm signals.

  • There are a lot of ways to communicate in combat situations, even when you can't talk.

  • Using flares and other pyrotechnics is a great way to signal your location for a rescue or

  • backup - but that only works if there's no enemies about, or if they already know

  • where you are and you need an extraction.

  • But if you want to communicate with your fellow troops without causing any sort of fuss, you

  • need a silent and effective way to get simple ideas across.

  • That's why the military uses hand signals to communicate in the field.

  • Of course, communicating with the hands is nothing new.

  • Remember when you were a kid and were taking a little too long to come in for dinner?

  • As soon as mom put her hands on her hips, you knew she meant business.

  • Or when you were listening to music while dad was watching his game shows?

  • As soon as he put his finger to his lips, it was time to move to the other room.

  • People have been communicating with gestures for a long time - and it evolved into a more

  • complex version, with deaf people using a versatile series of gestures called sign language

  • to communicate since the late 19th century.

  • And it was only a matter of time before it made its way to the battlefield.

  • First introduced in the aftermath of World War 2, the signals got one update decades

  • later to add new signals and refine some of the gestures.

  • There's a simple reason all soldiers are trained to know these gestures - when you're

  • armed with knowledge, you don't need anything to communicate in the field but a working

  • arm and a clear line of sight.

  • Squad leaders can maintain command and control over their unit no matter the circumstances,

  • and units often customize their own hand signals for specific missions.

  • Of course, nothing's foolproof.

  • Military hand and arm signals do have their weak points, with the first being their range

  • and reliability.

  • If a unit is mired down in fog or it's a dark night, it can be hard to see feet in

  • front of your face.

  • This also goes for rocky and uneven terrain, where the leader may be over a hill and his

  • men behind him can't see him clearly.

  • The signals can also lead to misunderstandings if two units are crossing over and they see

  • each other's signals.

  • That's why the brass encourages standardized signals, but making them too standardized

  • has its own risks.

  • If every unit is using the same signals, they can be seen repeatedly by the enemy, understood

  • - and intercepted, eliminating the goal of hiding actions from the enemy or even allowing

  • the enemy to set up traps.

  • No system is perfect - but few are more versatile than hand signals.

  • A soldier could find themselves in any number of situations that impair verbal communication.

  • You could be in a hot site surrounded by enemies.

  • You could be wearing gas masks to protect yourselves from toxic fumes.

  • You could even be communicating with a fellow soldier from inside a cockpit, only having

  • a few seconds to get across a mission before you speed in opposite directions.

  • In all of these situations, one system works flawlessly to get across a clear message - using

  • your hand signals.

  • Now, are you ready to learn some US Military arm and hand signals?

  • You've actually known some of them for years!

  • One of the most common uses of hand signals is to communicate time.

  • You need to communicate that the unit is moving in three seconds?

  • Just hold up three fingers!

  • But this isn't kindergarten, where you could just count on your fingers.

  • You've usually got at least one hand busy, and only five fingers to work with.

  • So how do you communicate larger numbers?

  • The military has specific gestures for those.

  • For six through nine, you're going to pinch the thumb and one finger together while holding

  • up the rest - which finger it is will give away the number moving from your pinky for

  • six to your index for nine.

  • For ten, you'll want to create a circle with all five fingers.

  • Need thirty seconds - like if that's when the unit's about to jump out of a plane?

  • Hold the thumb and index finger apart by about an inch.

  • But numbers are just scratching the surface!

  • Need to get your unit's attention?

  • It's as simple as extending your arm out sideways, palm to the front, and then waving

  • your arm up to your head and back down several times.

  • This one can be seen pretty easily - but it can also be seen by enemies in the vicinity,

  • so keep an eye out.

  • Time to move out?

  • Just extend your arm towards the person closest to you, then raise your arm just above horizontal

  • with your palm facing them.

  • This way they know you're ready to move, and they can communicate any dangers before

  • proceeding.

  • Need to mount your supplies for an operation?

  • Just communicate with the unit by extending the arm with the hand straight and the palm

  • outward, and move the arm up and down to a little above the shoulder.

  • This differs from the attention signal by the stiffer arm and lower level, and they'll

  • know to start getting ready.

  • But things don't always go smoothly with signals - and you should be ready.

  • Need to cancel a previous command?

  • Maybe you just sighted a problem in the area, or realized you made a mistake.

  • Raise both your arms above your head and cross your wrists over your helmet, making an X

  • signal.

  • This gets the order to stop across loud and clear.

  • But what if one of the men makes a signal - and you just don't get it?

  • There's a way to communicate that too.

  • Raise both your arms sideways, bent at the elbow, and place both your hands across the

  • face with the palms in front.

  • This will slow things down and get the signaler to repeat and hopefully clarify.

  • Need to get everyone moving in a hurry?

  • Just simulate the cranking of an engine by making a fist and moving your arm in a circle

  • at waist level.

  • If you need to do this at night when the subtle motion might be harder to see, use a flashlight

  • to make a figure eight signal in front of your body.

  • But what if you need to stop in a hurry?

  • Just raise your hand upward to the full length, palm forward - and hold it like a statue until

  • the person you're addressing gets that.

  • At night, you can use a light horizontally back and forth in front of you to stop any

  • vehicles or engines before they cross into dangerous territory.

  • Of course, your unit isn't the only people you might encounter in the field - and getting

  • that across quickly can be the difference between life and death.

  • You see an enemy.

  • You need to react fast to let your team know that it's time to mobilize and prepare for

  • combat.

  • Just hold your hand over your weapon hand, palm extended towards your weapon.

  • Silently, your team can move for their weapons and get the drop on the enemy before they

  • get the drop on you.

  • But what if you see a civilian?

  • If it's an adult, just hold your hand extended to around shoulder level, indicating adult

  • height and letting the team approach them without being prepared for combat - but still

  • cautious.

  • If it's a kid, hold your hand at roughly waist-level, which will indicate an even lower

  • threat level.

  • And what if it's not a kid...but a very good boy?

  • A dog is a welcome sight in most situations, but in combat it can be tricky to address.

  • Dogs are unpredictable and can start barking, alerting the enemy to an alien presence in

  • the area.

  • That's why it's important to approach them cautiously - starting with giving a hand

  • signal to the unit of a partially extended arm and an upturned palm - almost like you

  • were giving that good boy a scratch under the chin.

  • But sometimes, you'll need to be prepared for some nasty situations.

  • One of the biggest dangers facing any unit is a sniper.

  • These gunmen are often stationed far away from you and can pick you off from a distance

  • one at a time.

  • If you see one on the horizon, you might only have seconds to find cover.

  • That's why it's important to make a quick motion of putting your hand to your eye, your

  • fingers curled as if you were looking through a scope.

  • Then you can begin moving to shielded territory before the sniper can open fire.

  • Some enemies play dirty - and you need to be prepared.

  • If an enemy has taken a hostage, be it a local civilian or a member of the unit, the team

  • needs to know to hold their fire to protect the innocent life if possible.

  • To signal this, hold your hand to your throat and grip lightly, to indicate someone being

  • held against their will.

  • This will de-escalate the situation and increase the odds of a safe rescue.

  • But what if you're about to come across a high-value target?

  • It's rare to see an enemy commander in the field, as they're more likely to be back

  • at base giving orders.

  • But if you're lucky enough to stumble upon the enemy leader, this may be the most important

  • approach of your career.

  • To ensure the team takes all the precautions to capture the enemy leader, hold your hand

  • on the upper part of your weapon arm, signaling for their attention and letting you give any

  • extra instructions.

  • Every sense matters in combat - and sometimes it can save your life.

  • Most hand signals are based on visual or auditory indicators giving away a location or danger.

  • But another sense can be critical to staying alive - smell.

  • If you smell gasoline in an area, this could not only indicate enemy activity, but could

  • make it extremely dangerous to set off any weapons and potentially trigger an explosion.

  • At the first sign of a gas smell, hold your hand over your nose as if you're pinching

  • it to let the whole unit know to hold their fire.

  • Making an entry can be one of the most dangerous things a unit does - so here's how to make

  • it safer.

  • You've gotten intel that an enemy or hostage is located inside a building.

  • Now you need to make your entry.

  • But what's the safest way - and how to communicate it to the men?

  • If you want to enter through the standard door, trace the outline of a door with your

  • hand - covering the left, top, and right sides.

  • If you want to breach through a window instead, just complete that signal by adding the bottom

  • part of the frame as well.

  • Time to hit that site!

  • But to get out alive, you might need to know what to do in the event of some deadly situations.

  • Death comes from the air, and an air attack can be one of the hardest to survive.

  • You'll only have seconds to warn the troops, so quickly raise your arms over your head

  • and cross them at a forty-five degree angle with your hands forming an X.

  • If there's a chance to take cover, raise your arm at a forty-five degree angle and

  • ten lower it down to your side, indicating that the unit should head to the nearest safe

  • space.

  • You might have an even shorter time to survive the next attack.

  • In the event of a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack, the danger can linger in

  • the air long past the initial attack.

  • You might have only seconds to let your team know to get their gas masks on, so quickly

  • extend your arms and fists and bend your arms to your shoulders - repeating as many times

  • as needed till your team gets the message.

  • Warfare is a fast-evolving field, and the odds are the US military's hand and arm

  • signals will evolve again eventually.

  • But until then, these signals are a unit's best chance to stay in contact and communicate

  • important messages without letting the enemy know what they're planning.

  • Dismissed!

  • For more on how to survive in the military, check outMost Dangerous Military/Army

  • Jobs”, or watchCan You Believe the Military Eats This Stuff (Military Food)” for more

  • on what it's like to chow down in the field.

Listen up, privates!

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B1 unit enemy communicate military signal palm

Military / Army Hand Signs Explained (Signals & What Do They Mean)

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    Summer posted on 2021/06/20
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