Communications Equipment Operators

Communications Equipment Operators

The ability to relay information between air, sea, and ground forces is critical in the military. The military has sophisticated communications systems that use a variety of technologies and telecommunications equipment such as radios, telephones, antennas, satellites, and complex security and network devices. Communications equipment operators use these systems to transmit, receive, and decode messages at military locations throughout the world.

Job Details:

What They Do:

Communications equipment operators in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Transmit, receive, and log messages according to military procedures
  • Encode and decode classified messages
  • Operate different types of telephone switchboards, satellite communications terminals, and network switches
  • Set up and operate communications equipment and security equipment
  • Monitor and respond to emergency calls

Civilian Counterparts:

Civilian communications equipment operators work in airports, harbors, police stations, fire stations, telephone companies, telegraph companies, and many businesses. They may also work aboard ships. Their duties are similar to those of military communications equipment operators. They may be called radio operators, telephone operators, communication center operators, or switchboard operators, depending on their specialty.

Work Environment:

Communications equipment operators may work either indoors or outdoors, depending on the specialty. They may be assigned to ships, aircraft, land bases, or mobile field units.


The military has about 40,000 communications equipment operators. Each year, the services need new operators due to changes in personnel and the demands of the field. After job training, they prepare and send messages under supervision. With experience, they work more independently. In time, they may become supervisors of communications centers.