What Does Actual Mean in Military? (Answered with Details)

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

what does actual mean in military

Military communication terms can confuse ordinary people, so if you’re wondering ‘what does actual mean in military?’, you’re not alone.

“Actual” is one of these common military terms used when communicating via radio. Read on to know its meaning and use.

Actual Meaning in Military

As part of radio conversations, actual, a military term, is used to indicate the officer-in-charge, leader of the unit or platoon, commanding officer, or other leader roles.

When a leader calls and uses the word actual as part of his introduction or callsign, he’s making sure the people on the other line know the chain of command. It also ensures lower-ranking personnel properly address the leader from the other side of the call.

Actual Definition


If you don’t have family or friends serving in the military, the closest you’ll ever hear call signs are in movies. When they say the military radio term like “Roger” and “Over” in movies, you know soldiers in combat are trying to communicate with their troops.

These terms are procedure words (prowords for short), often mistaken as callsigns.

The actual military callsigns aren’t callsigns, either. They’re prowords.

You’ll typically connect with the radio operator when you call a unit via military radio. Suppose the one who answers includes the word “actual” when stating his/her unit, user, and individual callsigns.

In that case, you’re talking to the commander on the line (and not just any radio operator).

“Actual” is used in the following ways:

  • You call a unit, and the RTO (radio/telephone operator answers), but you can’t leave a message. You ask the operator, “Hey, RTO is your actual available to talk?”
  • Someone calls troops in combat, identifies himself as the actual via radio, and leaves instructions to follow.
  • Two lower-ranking individuals are debating over the radio about something. A third person serves as tie-breaker and tells them, “This is Charlie Actual, enough with the bickering!”

Example: When someone says, “Bravo Six Actual, this is Charlie 1, come in, over,” it means that the RTO is asking to speak to the commander of the unit (with the call sign Bravo Six) instead of talking to just any member of the unit.

What Does It Mean When Military Says Actual?


Synonyms of actual, used in the context of a military setting, include “real one” and “notably.”

When military members hear the term “actual” when answering a call via the radio, they’ll instantly understand that the person speaking is the unit leader or commander and will show respect throughout the conversation.

On the other side of the coin, when a member of the military needs to talk to the commander or unit leader, they call via radio and request the group’s “actual.”

Why Do Pilots Say Actual?

Pilots usually communicate with the controller for safety and navigation. But for some instances, such as emergencies or tasks that require a higher-up’s approval, the pilot may request to speak to the “actual” or commander.


What does actual mean in military? Now that you knowthe answer to that question. With that, you can understand the context whenever you hear it being used in movies or video games. Of course, if you’re serving in the military, call signs actual, and other terms are already part of your day-to-day life.

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