Signals are used to transmit commands or information when voice communications are difficult, impossible, or when silence must be maintained. Subordinate leaders repeat signals to their units whenever necessary to ensure prompt and correct execution.


The whistle is an excellent signal device for the small unit leader. It provides a fast means of transmitting a message to a large group. However, unless the signal is prearranged and understood, it may be misinterpreted, and there is always the danger that whistle signals from adjacent units may cause confusion. Battlefield noises will reduce the whistle's effectiveness.


Special signals consist of all special methods and devices used to transmit commands or information. The squad leader, operating at night, may use taps on his helmet or rifle butt to signal halt, danger, moveforward, or assemble here. These signals must be understood and rehearsed prior to their use. Various pyrotechnics and smoke signals may be used as signals to attack, withdraw, mark front lines, indicate targets, and cease or shift fire. Before leaders devise others, they should check with their platoon commander to make sure that they are not using a signal which already has a set meaning.


1. DECREASE SPEED. Extend the arm horizontally sideward, palm to the front, and wave arm downward several times, keeping the arm straight. Arm does not move above the horizontal.

2. CHANGE DIRECTION; OR COLUMN (RIGHT OR LEFT). Raise the hand that is on the side toward the new direction across the body, palm to the front; then swing the arm in a horizontal arc, extending arm and hand to point in the new direction.

3. ENEMY IN SIGHT. Hold the rifle horizontally, with the stock in the shoulder, the muzzle pointing in the direction of the enemy. Aim in on the enemy target and be ready to engage him if he detects your presence.

4. RANGE. Extend the arm fully toward the leader or men for whom the signal is intended with fist closed. Open the fist exposing one finger for each 100 meters of range.

5. COMMENCE FIRING. Extend the arm in front of the body, hip high, palm down, and move it through a wide horizontal arc several times.

6. FIRE FASTER. Execute rapidly the signal COMMENCE FIRING.

7. FIRE SLOWER. Execute slowly the signal COMMENCE FIRING.

8. CEASE FIRING. Raise the hand in front of the forehead, palm to the front, and swing the hand and forearm up and down several times in front of the face.

9. ASSEMBLE. Raise the hand vertically to the full extent of the arm, fingers extended and joined, palm to the front, and wave in large horizontal circles with the arm and hand.

10. FORM COLUMN. Raise either arm to the vertical position. Drop the arm to the rear, describing complete circles in a vertical plane parallel to the body. The signal may be used to indicate either a troop or vehicular column.

11. ARE YOU READY? Extend the arm toward the leader for whom the signal is intended, hand raised, fingers extended and joined, then raise the arm slightly above horizontal, palm facing outward.

12. I AM READY. Execute the signal ARE YOU READY.

13. ATTENTION. Extend the arm sideways, slightly above horizontal, palm to the front; wave toward and over the head several times.

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