What Is an Army RTO?

Communication is essential on Army missions.

Maintaining communications is the primary role of the Army radio telephone operator, or RTO. The RTO is a vital link between the unit out in the field and headquarters during a mission.

1 Definition

The RTO is the go-to soldier for communications. Setting up and maintaining a line of communication with headquarters and among soldiers within a patrol unit are his primary duties. Without the RTO, the unit would be on its own and unable to call for air, artillery or backup support.

2 Primary Duties

RTOs must be combat ready.

Aside from communications, the RTO keeps a report log of the unit's activities as members patrol. She must be knowledgeable in the use and care of the radio unit and in setting and waterproofing frequencies. She needs to be familiar with the standard operating instructions that outline procedures and duties. The RTO also sets up field antennas used to establish communications.

3 Additional Functions

The radio telephone operator is cross-trained in combat operations, especially when he's part of a ranger patrol. For example, he may assist in reconnaissance, drawing sketches of an objective to help in planning, and act as a runner for the platoon leader.

4 Training

RTOs receive extensive training in radio operation and care, securing sensitive information and setting up communications in any situation and terrain. The equipment she carries is used for reconnaissance, navigation, calling in support and other functions she must know by heart.

5 Significance

Keeping the unit connected with the main fighting force requires advanced technical knowledge and a cool head in combat. The RTO, by definition, is a core element within a unit and must be well trained and ready for any situation.

Erin Steeley is a full-time writer and freelancer who uses her background in education, sign language and art to create quality articles. She published her first book, "The Soldier and the Storyteller," in 2006. Steeley has a Bachelor of Arts degree in general studies from Pittsburgh State University.