The phrase "Gold Eagle 6" doesn't draw a lot of attention in everyday conversations unless you're part of the Army Contracting Command and see it at the bottom of a note.

Maj. Gen. Camille M. Nichols, ACC commanding general, uses the "Gold Eagle 6" call sign on her internal communications with the workforce as a way of identifying herself and of her pride
in the command.

"I decided to use a call sign when I was assigned to the Expeditionary Contracting Command - a tactical unit - (and for me) the first time in 22 years," said Nichols, ECC's former commander. "I wanted us, ECC, to be proud of being a military, tactical unit. I also wanted folks to know the note was a personal one from me to them.

"I used this approach again in the CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) Contracting Command for the same reasons. Now that I am in the ACC, I wanted us to be proud of our identity - the
gold eagle - as well as let folks know the note is from me, not the staff."

Call signs vary from command to command but the numeric designations assigned to positions remain the same.

"Each major unit usually has a communications SOP (standard operating procedure) that outlines the call sign matrix, so they can vary from unit to unit," said Command Sgt. Maj. John L. Murray ACC command sergeant major.

Gold Eagle is the fixed call sign, or verbal designation for ACC, so as the ACC command sergeant major, Murray's call sign is "Gold Eagle 7." The public affairs officer is "Gold Eagle 37."

"Black Sword" is the fixed call sign for the Expeditionary Contracting Command so ECC Commanding General Brig. Gen. Ted Harrison is "Black Sword 6" while Command Sgt. Maj. Angel Clark-Davis is "Black Sword 7."

The Mission and Installation Contracting Command's MICC 6 and MICC 7 are Brig. Gen. Kirk F. Vollmecke, MICC commanding general and Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney J. Rhoades, MICC command sergeant major.

According to Mikhael Weitzel, ACC historian, the use of call signs originated with the use of the telegraph.

"Nineteenth century telegraph stations needed unique identifiers because there was only one telegraph line linking all railroad stations. Thus, a unique call sign was needed to address a specific station or operator," Weitzel said.

"The call sign was usually a two-letter code," he said. "This pattern continued in radio telegraphy operation; radio companies used two-letter identifiers for coastal stations and ship-borne radios.

"In 1912, an international standard was adopted to be used to identify a country, and the rest of the call sign an individual station in that country," he said.

"When radio telegraphy and later wireless operations were developed during and after World War I, the use of call signs became routine," Weitzel said. "Signal doctrine included the development of signal plans and orders. By 1925, the signal plans were studied in detail including the assignment of radio call signs and wave lengths."

The call signs quickly established the identity of subunits and leaders, reduced the length of transmissions and eliminated some of the confusion often caused by the ever-changing signal operation instructions, he said.

Nichols' call sign identifies the figure on the ACC distinctive unit insignia and the 6 designates her as the commanding general. Today, while many commanders use "6" to designate their leadership role, Weitzel said the practice of using "6" didn't begin until World War II.

"There is no official origin of the '6' designation, but it is believed that its origin dates back to World War II when the regimental combat team was the lowest level radio nets were pushed
down to," Weitzel said. "The regimental commander was usually a colonel, O-6, and he would be the '6' on the radio. Being a former communications guy myself, I find this origin the most
credible."

Call signs tend to refer to different aspects of a units' lineage, distinctive unit insignia and in some instances, battles.

During World War II, Gen. George S. Patton's call sign was "Lucky Forward." "Lucky" represents the Third U.S. Army and "Forward" for his position as the unit's commanding general. Gen.
Douglas McArthur simply went as "Bataan."

Page last updated Thu October 25th, 2012 at 16:31