So what’s with the funky Unit names?
Our naming convention arose out of both need and desire; need, because (for instance) there are 24 “Lincoln Counties” in the United States, and desire, because we wanted to be able to closely enough identify a Unit’s location at a glance, but also to allow Units to “personalize” a bit, all while keeping potential radio traffic more distinct in the event that sharing frequency space is necessary.
Therefore, we crafted a method that allows for this in a way that satisfied our goals and helps our membership to learn the military (NATO Phonetic) alphabet.
The system we employ is at first cumbersome, and takes some getting used to. It also doesn’t drill a Unit’s location down beyond state level. This is purposeful, as it meets our security needs. All Unit Designators are known to National and are matched to their corresponding Unit within our Charter database; beyond that, there is little reason anyone would need to know a Unit’s precise location by designator alone.
But what does it all mean?
This is an actual Unit Designator for a (presently non-existent) Unit in Kansas.
The first number in a Unit Designator indicates the REGION. This corresponds with our Regional Command Map, and will always be a single-digit, one through six (we have six regions).
The second number is always two digits, numbered 01 (all single-digits include the zero, and are properly spoken as “zero one”) through 50. This indicates, in alphabetical order, the STATE in which the Unit is chartered.
This is the SECTOR of the state in question, determined by National and identified as such on the specific map for that state (as it appears on the individual state page). Sector specifics are somewhat fluid, which is necessary to accommodate unpredictable growth in any particular area. For instance, the Chicago metropolitan area could be sector CHARLIE, but as Units are created on a “granular” basis in neighborhoods, it’s possible that more than 25 Units will eventually occupy that space. When it becomes obvious that an existing sector is nearing that point, National will break the area into different sectors, adding sectors as necessary (but never changing the sector designation for already-established Units). Like telephone area codes, sectors will usually be contiguous and will rarely overlap, but it can happen. The SECTOR system allows National to “nudge” the map as necessary when growth is greater than an area would ordinarily be able to accommodate “logically”.
This is the actual UNIT itself. Units are always assigned the REGION, STATE, and SECTOR based upon where the center point of their Area of Operation falls, followed by an alpha designation beginning with Bravo and proceeding with Charlie, Delta, Echo, etc. The naming of Units continues with all alpha characters being used, up to and including Zulu, for a total of 25 possible Units to a sector.
You’ll notice that we don’t start UNIT DESIGNATIONS (or, for that matter, SECTOR DESIGNATIONS) with “Alpha”. In fact Alpha is not used at all in most states. The reason for this is that ALPHA indicates a STATE CORPS. There are presently six states in the country that operate by the State Corps method. Each State Corps is represented by an ALPHA Designator. 303Alpha is our State Corps in Arizona. States served by a State Corps may also be broken into sectors as necessary, which would also be identified by an alpha–not ALPHA–designation (Bravo, Charlie, etc.). State Corps Garrisons in these sectors would still carry the ALPHA Corps Designation, which would be preceded by the sector designation in the same way other states’ Local Units are.
The final number which follows the primary designator represents an actual member within the Unit itself, or a commanding officer as explained below. This number will not usually appear with the Unit Designator, but can and does, especially when radio traffic or other needs arise where an individual member must be recognized. We require that all Units assign a number (beginning with ten) to their members as they are accepted into the organization. This number stays with that member throughout their tenure in the group and will never change, except as noted below. This, again, makes it easier to identify individual members when issuing radio traffic. We also require that all Units reserve 1 and 2 for the Unit Commander and second-in-command, respectively. These individual command designators rotate to whoever holds these positions at the time (though the Unit Commander and second-in-command retain their original member number for use at such point that they no longer hold the command positions, but remain in the group). This means that 216SierraBravo1 is always the Unit Commander for 216SierraBravo, whereas 216SierraBravo24 would indicate a non-commanding member of the Unit. State Corps’ also number their members in this way, so their traffic is easy to identify as well. 303Alpha1 is the commander of the Arizona State Corps, for instance.
Typically, this last number won’t be used when indicating the Unit by designator. The actual UNIT DESIGNATOR would simply be 216SierraBravo.
Learning our naming convention isn’t usually necessary, but understanding the basis of it (and being able to decipher it) can certainly be helpful, especially in heavy radio traffic situations.