What Does Charlie Mean in the Military? – 5 Meaning

Blog Written by JOHN COTTON / Fact-checked by LOGAN MILLER

what does charlie mean in the military

For years, organizations have been using special alphabets to convey messages that only members of the respected organization know. In the case of the U.S. military, they utilize the NATO phonetic alphabet.

This ensures the safety and clarity of the information when conveyed over radio or other forms of communication technology. But what does Charlie mean in the military?

The term “Charlie” is written in the letter C and is used for military code words, special missions, military time, and more.

Let’s explore the Charlie military meaning, its applications, and other phonetic alphabets in the military in this blog article.

Common Uses of “Charlie” in the Military


In this article, we’ll discuss what is Charlie slang for, the meaning of Charlie, as well as that of all phonetic alphabets.

1. Charlie as radiotelephone communication


The NATO phonetic alphabet uses letters that  represent specific words.

For example, the letter A is represented by the word Alpha, B is represented by Bravo, C is for Charlie, D is for Delta, E is for Echo, and so on.

This is to avoid confusion and ensure that any information is transferred and received accurately, especially in radio communications.

There are times when the broadcast signal is bad or there is too much noise on the battlefield — so it is important that both parties have fast responses through clear, and accurate messages.

The NATO phonetic alphabet was used as the universal phonetic alphabet in 1956. Since then, it was translated into other languages to be used in other aspects besides in the military.

2. Charlie as a soviet navy submarine class


Charlie can also be used to address a class of nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers operated by the Soviet Navy. These “strike cruisers”, as in Soviet terminology, were on duty from the late 1960s until the early 1990s.

The Charlie class was designed to provide long-range, anti-ship, and anti-submarine capabilities, as well as to serve as a platform for launching cruise missiles.

These submarines were developed by the Soviet Union under the “Project 670 Skats” program. They are classified as “Charlie-class” by NATO.

3. Lima Charlie as a radio response


What does it mean when a soldier says “Lima Charlie”? For a commanding officer, it means “loud and clear.”

For a radio operator, lima charlie meaning is a response that the message was understood well or if the radio is working properly.

It can also be used as a military slang for the enemy or code words. In the military phonetic alphabet, Lima is L, and Charlie is C.

Other common code words from the military phonetic alphabet

  • Mikes mean Minutes
  • Tango Yankee means Thank You
  • Charlie Mike means Continue Mission
  • Whiskey Charlie means Water Closet
  • 11 Bravo means Army Infantry

4. Charlie used as a military slang for Vietnamese soldiers

Throughout the Vietnam War, there was a communist group called Viet Cong. Viet Nam Cong San is the official name of the Vietcong force.

The Charlie in the Vietnam War meaning came from this communist group. The Vietcong soldiers were referred to by the U.S. Army as Viet Cong or VC. In the NATO phonetic alphabet, V stands for Victor, and C is for Charlie.

This was an effort to identify Viet Cong communist forces faster. That’s the reason why the U.S. Army set a Vietnam War nickname for soldiers.

If there weren’t a codeword, or a Vietnam slang for soldiers in Vietnam, soldiers would have to spell out “Viet Cong” in full. By using Charlie in Vietnam or Vietnam Charlie instead, soldiers could save valuable time on the radio while maintaining the clarity of the message.

5. Charlie as the 5 force protection levels (FPCON)


5 force protection levels were used for U.S. military installations in bases and operations.

  • Level 1- FPCON Normal: the lowest of the force protection levels regarding danger or security risk. There is little or normal activity.
  • Level 2- FPCON ALPHA: there is a minor threat, but the safety of the military base security is not compromised.
  • Level 3- FPCON BRAVO: there is a foreseeable terrorist activity threat and tighter security checks. It may not directly attack any area or military installations.
  • Level 4- FPCON CHARLIE: this level indicates the possible danger and threat to the military base. There may be an increasing terrorist attack on the military base or operation.
  • Level 5- FPCON DELTA: this is the most extreme force protection level. It is reserved for situations that are beyond level 4. At this level, the military base or operation is the target of an active terrorist attack.

The NATO Alphabet


As we mentioned earlier, the U.S Army uses the NATO phonetic alphabet, or the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, as the standardized system of phonetic communication used in radio, telephone, and military communications.

There are 26 letters in the alphabet, each represents a codeword. The alphabet is as follows:

NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Benefits of Understanding the NATO Phonetic Alphabet


The following are some benefits of comprehending the military lingo alphabet and its definition:

  • Clear Communication

The military phonetic alphabet offers a uniform way of transmitting letters and numbers. It is established to remove confusion brought on by accents, language barriers, and noise in the background.

  • Professionalism

Using and comprehending the military phonetic alphabet can indicate a high degree of professionalism and skill in professions that need clear communication in the military.

The military phonetic alphabet is used not just in the military. Other sectors that use the alphabet are aviation, financial institutions, security services, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between Viet Cong vs North Vietnamese Army?

The Viet Cong was a military and political group in Vietnam. They battled alongside the North Vietnamese Army over South Vietnam and the U.S. Army.

The North Vietnamese Army was one of North Vietnam’s recognized armed forces. The NVA had proper uniforms, training, and equipment ready to fight large formations.

Meanwhile, the Viet Cong was a guerrilla force that operated in South Vietnam and was made up of South Vietnamese communist sympathizers. The Viet Cong was supported by North Vietnam, but it operated independently of the NVA.

What does the name Charley mean?

Charley is a German name that means free man or free woman. It can also mean a warrior.

Were there Vietnam child soldiers that fought during Vietnam War?

Yes. Degar tribe children fought as guerrilla soldiers in the Vietnam War. The Degar Tribe was a victim of colonialism and the Vietnam War.

Who were the Viet Cong veterans and what part did they participate in the Vietnam War?

The communist guerrilla group known as the Viet Cong revolted against the Vietnamese government in South Vietnam and its American allies throughout the Vietnam War.

They played a significant role in the war. The Viet Cong communist group used guerilla warfare strategies and attacked civilians, the military, and the government in South Vietnam.

Today, Viet Cong veterans are celebrated as heroes and honored with medals by the Communist government of Vietnam.

What does Charlie Mike in the military mean?

Charlie Mike means to continue the mission. It is used in Navy SEALs and other military branches.

Who is Charlie in the military?

Charlie in the Army refers to the nickname that the U.S. Army used for the Viet Cong members that fought in the Vietnam War.


Hope you learn more about your question: “what does Charlie mean in the military?” and why Vietnamese were called Charlie in the past.

But “Charlie” can be understood in more senses than just that. It’s the letter C in the NATO alphabet, a class of Soviet submarines, a radio response, and more.

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