Lesson 16 – Arm & Hand Signals

    This is another language for the military – just like sign language for the deaf and brail for the blind – there is one method, learn it. It allows personnel to communicate regardless of spoken language barriers. It is essential in maintaining noise and light discipline. When you are moving and don’t want to be detected, stealth is essential. Once contact is made, yell loudly to communicate – it has a psychological effect on your opponent.

    There are many more arm and hand signals, these are the basic ones required for MILSIM. In a squad everyone should remain within visual sight of each other. When you see a signal, repeat it so everyone in the squad knows what’s going on.

    1. Attention – arm straight up and waiving from side to side. This means, “Hey, look at me I have something to tell you.”

    2. Assemble on me – arm straight up and moving in a circular pattern. This means, “Move to my location I have something to tell you.”

    3. Increase speed or rush – fist pumping up and down. This means, “Move faster!”. Normally this is used when crossing a danger area or to have someone catch up.

    4. Enemy in sight – weapon pointed in direction of enemy. This means, “I see the enemy over there.” Most operational units have adapted this signal and turn the weapon upside down to eliminate any confusion on the message.

    5. Take cover – arm straight out to side and moving up and down. This means, “Get down, take cover.”

    6. Head count – hand tapping the back of head. This means, “I want to make sure we still have everyone, send up a head count.”

    7. Danger area – arm held horizontal with a slashing motion across throat. This means, “I see a danger area.” Remember back to OCOKA – a danger area is when you could be in the enemy’s observation and fields of fire.

    8. Freeze – fist held up and stationary. This means, “Stop moving IMMEDIATELY.” The thing we all look for in tactical operations is movement. This signal is used when you see the enemy and they haven’t spotted you yet. If the whole squad would suddenly take cover, that amount of movement could give your position away. When enemy contact is less likely, it can also be used to indicate HALT.


    The following two hand signals are useful in squad tactics and have been used by students in many classes. They have been adapted from the sign language alphabet.


    1. File formation – sign language for the letter B, hand flat with fingers extended and together. This means, “The terrain or vegetation is narrowing, move into a file formation.”

    2. Wedge formation – sign language for the letter Y, thumb and pinky extended with middle fingers rolled down. This means, “The terrain or vegetation is opening up, move into a wedge formation.”







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