I recently saw the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and it got me thinking about the title. It turns out that the film uses the NATO Phonetic Alphabet as a subtle way to provide an exclamation about the war in Afghanistan, the subject of the movie.

The Phonetic Alphabet was developed to reduce confusion about what was being said over radio transmission lines. Instead of wondering if the person said “D” or “B”, you can eliminate that uncertainty by saying “Delta” or “Bravo”. (e.g.: It’s helpful if your pilot is told to land on runway D8 that she understands it’s Delta 8 instead of Bravo 8.) And rather than having to come up with new words each time you transmitted, the alphabet identifies a distinct word to correspond with each letter.  

I can’t recommend the movie to anyone, but I do suggest that you use or develop a way to increase the likelihood that your communication will be understood by the other party. Should your staff be using the NATO Phonetic Alphabet when they repeat back reservation information? Is it appropriate for your use when you relay instructions or tell people directions? Could you incorporate it into your language when you spell your name or give out an unusual street address?

For anything you transmit verbally, the Phonetic Alphabet could help make things much more Charlie, Lima, Echo, Alfa, Romeo.

beth triplett

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