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Explaining the RTO Military MOS 94E

RTO Military Service Members – You’ve probably seen them in war movies, especially if the ones you’ve seen are about conflicts that pre-date the Gulf War, but what is the RTO military meaning?

Well, the RTO military acronym stands for a radiotelephone operator. Here, we’re talking about what a military RTO did, why the position no longer exists, and what a modern-day RTO military service member is.

What is an RTO?

In the US Army, the radiotelephone operators, or RTOs would carry what’s called a PRC-10 radio on their backs during the Vietnam War era in order to communicate. They used big bulky radios and walkie-talkies that you see in war movies set in the past before cell phones and tablets existed.

The radiotelephone that an RTO military service member used was the AN/PRC-10. It weighed about 22 pounds and operated on frequencies between 38.0 and 54.8 MHz. Instead of using transistors or integrated circuits, it was known as a superheterodyne FM receiver and transmitter meaning it used vacuum tubes.

The AN/PRC-10 took batteries and could either be mounted on a vehicle or carried on one’s back.

Back in the day, training to become an RTO military service member lasted only about six weeks following basic military training. The main skill necessary to be a successful RTO was knowing how to operate a radio under pressure.

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It was a dangerous job though because RTOs were often enemy targets since enemies knew that if they took out the unit’s communication link, they had a better chance of overall defeat.

Army RTOs were responsible for communication between the small combat units and their headquarters and were an essential piece of the puzzle. However, RTO as a MOS was discontinued as technology became more and more advanced which made these clunky radios all but obsolete.

Now, RTO military personnel are known as Radio and Communications Security Repairers within the US Army.

Radio and Communications Security Repairer (94E)

As we move from past to present, here, we’re talking about the modern version of an RTO military service member – the Radio and Communications Security (COMSEC) Repairer.

A COMSEC Repairer in the Army is just as essential as the RTOs were to the units of the pre-Gulf War periods. Without communication links functioning properly, it can put everyone at extreme risk.

Many people who are interested in mathematics, electronics, and who have a strong attention to detail do well in this MOS and the duties involved in the job are often challenging and rewarding at the same time.

COMSEC Repairers are responsible for repairing and maintaining communications security equipment within the US Army such as receivers, transmitters, and cryptographic tools. It’s also up to COMSEC Repairers to ascertain the level of damage that has occurred to a piece of equipment.

For example, it’s up to them to decide whether the damaged equipment should be securely disposed of, exchanged, or sent to undergo higher-level repairs.

They’ll also perform inspections and maintenance checks on tools like power generators or vehicles that are used alongside any of the COMSEC equipment that their MOS makes them responsible for.

Training to Become an Army COMSEC Repairer

Training for COMSEC Repairers in the Army is a lot more extensive today than the training the RTO military service members received. If you recall, RTOs only trained for six weeks after Basic Military Training.

On the contrary, COMSEC Repairers attend what’s called Advanced Individual Training (AIT) for 25 weeks after their Basic Military Training which takes place at Fort Gordon in Georgia.

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Training at AIT consists of learning skills half the time in the classroom and the other half out in the field. At AIT, candidates learn mechanical, electronic, and electrical principles; proper maintenance and inspection procedures; line installation and wiring techniques; and the policies and procedures regarding communication security.

Am I Qualified to Become an Army COMSEC Repairer?

There are certain qualifications to meet in order to pursue a career as an Army COMSEC Repairer. To be eligible, you must:

  • Earn a score of at least 102 on the electronics (EL) section of the ASVAB
  • Qualify for a security clearance from the Department of Defense

The reason for these two main requirements is perhaps obvious. Firstly, COMSEC Repairers need to be knowledgeable about electronics and have a good understanding of how the tools they’ll be using in the job operate. It’ll be a huge help to have this background knowledge from the get-go.

And next, since you’ll be working with potentially sensitive information while dealing with the communications equipment, COMSEC Repairers are required to undergo an extensive military background check to receive a security clearance from the Department of Defense.

These military background checks are designed to ensure that you don’t have a criminal history, your financial record is clean, and that you’re an upstanding citizen with the best interests of the United States at heart.

Additionally, to serve in the Army as a COMSEC Repairer (AKA a modern-day RTO military service member) you must be a citizen of the United States, have normal, color vision (meaning no color blindness), and have successfully completed at least one year of high school algebra and general science.

Benefits of Becoming a Modern-Day RTO Military Service Member

If you’re interested in the electronics of communication and the way radios and other communication tools work, working as a COMSEC Repairer in the Army could be the MOS for you.

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But beyond just enjoying your job and using your skills and interests for a good cause, there are many other benefits of becoming the new version of an RTO military service member.

First of all, you don’t have to carry a heavy radio on your back. It may seem silly but in addition to all the other heavy items that come with you on deployment, it’s an extra weight you’ll be happy to be rid of.

On top of this somewhat minor benefit, the benefits of joining the US Army, in general, are huge. With educational benefits for not only you but your spouse and children too, you could potentially get a Bachelor’s degree without paying a dime.

It’s a great opportunity to increase your skills without going backward financially. The educational benefits that come with the GI Bill are a major reason why people join the US military.

Another benefit of becoming a COMSEC Repairer is that there are civilian job equivalents out there which means that once you become a veteran, you’ll still have opportunities for work in your field of interest.

For example, you may be able to work as a civilian radio mechanic, a radio dispatcher, or even in cryptography if your career in the Army led you more down the crypto path versus traditional radio transmission path.

Other benefits of serving in the US Army as a COMSEC Repairer include:

  • Medical insurance
  • Retirement benefits
  • Vacation time
  • Special pay and bonuses
  • Housing allowance
  • Food allowance

Overall, serving as an RTO military service member is not what it used to be. Now, the technology is smaller and the duties have changed which is why RTOs are now known as COMSEC Repairers.

For anyone interested in radios, electronics, mechanics, and cryptography, you may want to look into a career as a COMSEC Repairer in the US Army. Be sure to talk to your local Army recruiter to find out more.

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