Communication

Communication, ShackTac-Style

Shack Tactical uses a combination of ArmA2's in-game "Voice-Over-Net" (VON) and Teamspeak 2 (TS2) to offer a robust set of communication options. Thanks to the usage of a standardized platoon structure, we are able to have a standard set of procedures for our communication. This allows us to reach a level of coordination and teamwork that would be difficult to approach with only TS2, only VON, or a less-structured platoon setup.

There are a few things that we believe are undeniable truisms regarding communication in ShackTac.

  1. Our platoon must communicate effectively in order to act as a cohesive whole.
  2. Having a standard structure reduces confusion and allows for our membership to always understand how communication flows, regardless of mission.
  3. It is critical that all members understand when, how, and why they should talk at the various levels available to them.

Basic Expectations of ShackTac Members Regarding Comms

In light of that, there are some expectations that we have of every player when it comes to our in-game communications.

We expect that each player is familiar with:

Being familiar with this section should allow any member to live up to those expectations.

Core Principles of Combat Voice Communications

The core principles of voice communication in a game like ArmA2 are as follows.

TS2 and Usage

In ShackTac, Teamspeak is used for Squad-level and Platoon-level communications, as well as pre- and post-game discussion. Think of it as the Platoon radio net. Fireteam members and leaders, as well as the Squad Leader, can talk into TS in their squad channel. Squad Leaders and the Platoon Commander can use Channel Commander to talk with each other as well. Squad Leaders can also give orders to their squad via their TS channel.

 

ShackTac TS Organization

Our ArmA2 channels are broken down into several sub-channels for the purposes of making the in-game voice communication as clutter-free as possible given the tools we have to work with. The ShackTac keybinds are essential for anyone who plans to play with us.

These squad, armor, air, etc channels are used for mid-level coordination within the respective element. Everyone who is in a given channel will hear everything said within it, which means that multiple fireteams in the same squad can talk to each other via the TS2 squad channel. Think of the TS2 channels as a "Squad/Section Radio Net".

ShackTac TS2 Keybinds

Our TS2 binds are as follows.

  ChannelBind  
  Main Channel - ST/ Armed Assault / Primary Alt + Numpad 0  
  Secondary Channel - ST/ Armed Assault / Secondary Alt + Numpad .  
  Squad One Alt + Numpad 1  
  Squad Two Alt + Numpad 2  
  Squad Three Alt + Numpad 3  
  Squad Four Alt + Numpad 4  
  Command Element Alt + Numpad 5  
  Air Element Alt + Numpad 7  
  Armor Element Alt + Numpad 8  
  Harkov's Ubersquad Alt + Numpad 9  
  Whisper to Channel Commander
in Channel Family
H  
  Toggle Channel Commander Right ALT + Right CTRL + Insert  
  Volume Up 10% Alt + =  
  Volume Down 10% Alt + -  
       

Keep in mind that the ALT listed is the LEFT ALT, right ALT will not work.
Download the ShackTac TS2 keybinds

 

When it comes to communicating, the way to address the various element over Teamspeak (aka 'the radio') is pretty easy to understand.

  Element Map Marker Label | Pronounce it as...  
  Alpha Squad, 1st Fireteam Alpha One  
 
Alpha Squad, 2nd Fireteam
Alpha Two  
 
Alpha Squad, Squad Leader
Alpha Lead  
 
Command Element
Command  
         

Channel Commander

The "Channel Commander" feature of Teamspeak 2 lets anyone who is set as a channel commander talk to all other channel commanders at the same time, regardless of what channel (ie 1st Squad or Air Element) they're in. Think of the "Channel Commander" functionality as a sort of "Platoon Radio Net". Only squad and section (ie air, armor) leaders who need to talk to other leading players should talk over the command channel. Other elements and players can listen in on it, but only the high-level leaders should be speaking over it.

How to Use Channel Commander

For coordination , ShackTac uses a TS2 feature known as "whispering" to keep the different leadership elements in contact with each other. If you plan to assume a leadership role, you should use the right-alt + right-ctrl + insert keybind to activate it.

Once you've become a Channel Commander, the green dot by your name will turn red to signify the change.

Channel Commanders can use their "Whisper to Channel Commander in Channel Family" bind to talk to all Channel Commanders at once, regardless of what channel they're in.

VON and Usage

VON Channel Descriptions

ArmA2's VON allows for an automatic, logical grouping of units to occur without the necessity to manually change channels as in TS2. It is one of the greatest improvements to ArmA's communication capabilities and is used extensively in-game due to how much it helps to simplify comms while at the same time making them much more robust and powerful.

There are five main channels in VON, each of which can be independently bound to a push-to-talk key. I recommend that all players at least have "Direct Speaking" bound to a key. I personally use left Ctrl as my Direct Speaking push-to-talk key. Binding "Vehicle Chat" and "Group Chat" is also helpful. There are also two other channels, which will be described after the main ones.

Side Chat
This acts as a broadcast to all players on the same side. Only platoon-critical messages should be said over Side Chat, since literally every player on that side hears everything spoken on that channel. The Platoon Commander may use this to say important things to all players at once. Think of this as a Platoon Radio Net that everyone can hear, not just the Channel Commanders (as in TS2).

Vehicle Chat
When using this mode, every player within the vehicle will be able to hear you, regardless of what group they're in. This mode is excellent for crew communication, since multiple tanks can stay in the same TS2 subchannel for overall section coordination yet each tank can communicate internally via the Vehicle Chat, which overall means that every tank crew can coordinate tightly with themselves while still maintaining communication to the overall element. Think of this as the internal vehicle comm system.

Group Chat
This mode allows every player within your group to hear you. We use this for Fireteam chat primarily, since each of our in-game groups is fireteam-sized. This allows for excellent group-level coordination and communication. When a fireteam (or other element) wants to talk to their sister elements (ie the rest of the fireteams in the squad, and the squad leader), they do so via TS2 Subchannel chat. Think of this as fireteam-level personal radios.

Direct Speaking
This mode is just like talking without any sort of radio. Your voice comes from your character's location, is directional, and the character even lip-syncs what you're saying. Your voice will be affected by everything that influences in-game sound, so if you run behind a building and try to talk to someone, your voice will be muffled and indistinct. Direct Speaking is excellent for communicating with people around you regardless of what group they may be in. Shouting "Grenade!" over Direct Speaking is one example of how it can be used effectively.

The Unused (by ShackTac) Channels

The following two VON modes are useful if you do not have an integrated Teamspeak/VON structure, but for us, they are not used. Descriptions follow.

Command Chat
Command chat transmits only to people who are group leaders. ShackTac does not currently use this channel, due to having a Teamspeak integration that makes it redundant.

Commander Chat
Commander chat, on the other hand, is a transmit-only channel that the highest-ranking in-game unit can use to communicate to all of the other group leaders. The commander is the only person who can speak on this channel. ShackTac also does not use this, due to our Teamspeak integration making it unnecessary.

The Radio and What It Does

In ArmA2, the 'radio' becomes an item in your inventory. When carrying this, you are able to use all VON channels. However, if you do not have it, you become restricted - you can only use direct-speaking mode. If you get into a vehicle, you will gain access to the full range of VON channels for as long as you remain in that vehicle, to simulate the military radios that most ArmA2 vehicles would have in reality.

This can be used to great effect when creating missions with restricted comm structures - such as enforcing the use of 'radiomen' that must be used to communicate longer distances, or taking out long-distance communication capabilities entirely by removing all radios from units.

The Many Uses of Direct Speaking VON

Direct Speaking VON is an incredibly useful tool with a wide variety of potential uses. In no particular order, some of the uses are as follows

Direct VON is also a good way to keep random chatter off of the radio nets, leaving them clear for important things. There are even some mission types that are direct-VON oriented, where orders must be passed verbally and a completely different planning and execution dynamic is at play. ArmA2's "Paradrop" mission, created by ShackTac member kevb0, is a good example of that.

Standard Teamspeak & VON Usage Guidelines

Standard TS/VON Channel Usage Guidelines

Different levels of leadership in ShackTac will use different Teamspeak and VON channels to communicate to other players. The breakdowns are as follows, starting at the general level and working all the way up to what the Platoon Commander typically uses.

General Usage

Fireteam Member

Fireteam Leader

Squad Leader / Special Element Leader

Platoon Commander

Radio Procedures & Rules

Radio Procedures - Identification

Since Teamspeak does not give any indication at to when Channel Commander is being used (apart from when using an overlay program like Teamspeak Overlay), it is important to maintain certain radio procedures to keep things running smooth and organized.

Hearing someone say "Enemy infantry, bearing 210!" is fairly worthless in a 60+ player game with the platoon spread out over hundreds of meters if not more. Because of this, and other considerations, we use a simple set of radio procedures to keep things running smooth.

If you are communicating across channel commander, you initiate each transmission with who you're talking to, followed by your own callsign, and then the message. For example, if Bravo Lead is contacting Command to tell him that they took a casualty in a firefight (post-fight, most likely), the transmission would be as follows:

"Command, this is Bravo, be advised, Bravo took one KIA."

This simple procedure keeps command chat organized and allows for the various leadership elements to know when they're specifically being talked to.

Text Chat - Using the different channels to maximum effect

ArmA2 has six different text chat channels. Channels can be switch via , and . when not typing, or the up and down arrows if the chat box is already open. The channels are Global, Command, Side, Group, Vehicle, and Direct. When text is sent, it'll appear only to the channel selected - Global is white in color and goes to all, Side is light blue and goes to everyone on a given side (West, East, Resistance), Group is green and shows up for everyone in your current group, and Vehicle is yellow and shows up only for people in the vehicle you're in. Direct chat shows up in the center-bottom of the screen without a speaker's name attached to it, and is generally useless for our purposes. However, there are some situations where this can be useful. Experiment with it and you may find a use for it.

Generally speaking, all players will be chatting on Side. If you plan to speak a lot within your fireteam (or squad, depending on how the mission is put together), use the Group chat. If you're a vehicle crewman and plan to talk to your crew, use the Vehicle chat when possible. Simple things like that help to reduce text comm chatter.

The other two channels - Command and Commander - are not used by ShackTac, but can be used effectively by any group that relies exclusively on the in-game VON for their voice communications.

Common Words & Phrases and Their Meanings

These are some of the most common words & phrases you'll hear used in our gaming. Many of these terms will see further explanation and definition throughout the guide in various places, but these should get you started and familiar with the core concepts. Note that there are additional terms mentioned elsewhere in the guide for more specific situations, but these are the most common ones that everyone must be familiar with.

General

Team Movement & Control

Personal Status

Fire Control

Warnings

Vehicles

Aircraft

Communication

Contact Reports

Components of a Contact Report

Contact reports are intended to be a way for any member of the platoon to concisely communicate important information about the enemy in a standard way.

Being able to concisely report enemy locations is a critical communication skill to have. The sooner we know about enemy positions, and the faster it is passed to the entire squad, the better our survivability will be and the more effective we will be at reacting to threats.

A contact report consists of several key elements that must be presented in a specific order for it to be effective. They are as follows.

1. Alert

Typically the word 'Contact!'. This should be the first thing out of your mouth when you spot the enemy. Saying this gives everyone a heads-up that something important is about to be passed over the radio, and that they need to start scanning the area for more enemy as well as think about where they can move for cover and concealment.

2. Orient

This immediately follows your alert. "Orient" is simply a few words to get people looking in the general direction of the enemy.

There are several types of orientation methods available.

3. Describe

What did you see? Was it an enemy patrol, tank, or a little old lady out for a stroll? Say it in as few words as possible while being very clear.

Examples: "Enemy patrol", "APC", "machinegun nest".

4. Expound

If time and the situation allow for it, give more information. This can include things like:

For instance, if you spot a patrol that is walking through a patch of woods, step #3 would be "enemy patrol", whereas step #4 would clarify that with "in the treeline, bearing 325".

 

Note that with contact reports, getting the key information out for everyone to react to is more important than the ordering of the information. As long as people know where to look, what they're looking for, and how far away the contact is, you will have given a successful report.

Contact Report Examples

When making a contact report over the radio, one must remember that the level of detail used should be proportionate to the amount of time you have to give it and the urgency of the threat. If there is an enemy squad far away that does not see you or pose a threat to you, take the time to clearly describe where it is. If on the other hand there is an enemy squad on the other side of a small rise 50 meters away, and it's heading in the direction of your element, you'll want to be as brief and fast as possible so that everyone has time to react and get prepared for contact.

Bad Contact Reports

Here's an example of a very poor radio transmission of a contact report:

Uh, guys... I see enemy infantry. Uhh... they're over there, by that tree. No, uhh... the other tree." (Note that the squad is in a forest at the time of this transmission)

It's pretty clear that this is not the way to do things - too much time is spent waffling around, no significant detail is given, and generally nothing productive has been said aside from the fact that there are enemies "somewhere". No kidding!

Proper Contact Reports

A more proper contact report would be as follows. Note that this is an intra-squad report - reports across squads will be covered later.

Note also that if the squad fireteams are dispersed, it may be necessary to identify yourself prior to sending the contact report. Simply preface it with your callsign (this is Charlie One) prior to starting the report, or close with that information (...from Charlie One's position).

Contact front! Enemy infantry in the open, bearing 210, three hundred meters!"

Once the element leader (squad or fireteam leader) hears the contact report, he will give an engagement command if necessary. This typically only happens when the element is in a stealth or hold-fire mode.

Here are some examples of engagement commands in response to a contact report:

"Copy that, get to cover and stand by to take them out."

"Bravo, hold fire. If you have a suppressed weapon, stand by to engage."

"Charlie One, open fire, they see us!"

Further Examples

More example contact reports, color-coded for clarity

ALERT ORIENT DESCRIBE EXPOUND

"Contact, North-West, sniper, in the second story window of the brown-roofed white-walled building at the crossroads."

"Contact, bearing zero eight five, T-72, hull down behind the rise 200 meters to our front, looking the other way. "

"Contact left! Machinegun bunker, dug into the palms across the river due West, middle cluster, 400 meters."

Notes & Tips on Reporting Contacts

SITREPs, CASREPs, & ACE Reports

The SITREP

The situation report, or SITREP, is a quick way for a leader to get information on his troops. It is intended to be a very concise and quick way for an entire element to report their status to their leader.

SITREPs can be asked for at the fireteam, squad, and platoon level. Calling for a SITREP as a leader is as simple as saying "(element you are asking for), sitrep!" or "(element you are asking for), report in!". "Status report" is also acceptable.

Examples of how this call can be made are as follows.

Sitreps are generally asked for during lulls in the action, at the close of an engagement, or when a higher-level leader asks for them. If a leader wants the status of a specific member or element, he will ask them directly.

When a sitrep is asked for, the elements involved respond in numerical or alphabetical order - for example, squads report in order from Alpha to Bravo and finally Charlie, while fireteams report in as 1st, 2nd, and then 3rd.

It is important that leaders do not constantly ride the asses of their junior leaders regarding sitreps. Waiting for a lull in the action helps to ensure that the need to report in does not compromise the leadership of the junior leader, or distract him from the combat task he's directing.

When being asked for a situation report, a junior leader can reply with "Stand by", "Busy" or a variation thereof to let the senior leader know that he must deal with the situation at hand before he can report in detail.

SITREPs are not intended to be incredibly in-depth, unless necessary. When a leader wants a more detailed report, they typically ask for an ACE report, as described next.

The "ACE" Report

(Not to be confused with the mod "Advanced Combat Environment".)

An ACE report is a quick report given to the next-higher element leader regarding your element's status. When giving an ACE report, players only include the important parts.

Elements of an ACE Report

When giving an ACE report as an individual, ammo is your personal ammo, casualties is your personal medical state, and equipment refers to any special equipment you were given for the mission.

As a squad leader, ACE reports from your fireteam leaders are compiled to form the sitrep that you give to the platoon commander.

The CASREP

The casualty report, or CASREP, is a quick and focused report that is designed so that a leader can quickly find out how many casualties have been taken. Junior leaders report this information as wounded or killed, in the same format as in the ACE report.

CASREPs are used when a leader only needs to know casualties, and is not concerned with ammo or equipment as described in the ACE report above.