Preface: Any communication at all is better than no communication, and if it works, it's not wrong. Don't take this guide to indicate a flaw in your teamwork unless there's a flaw in your teamwork. If it's not broken, don't fix it.
OPEN YOUR SUCK: Battlefield Communication
Communication one of the three most important factors in combat. The mantra "Shoot, Move, Communicate" has been used to help the infantryman remember the basics of his performance in combat for years. So long as he's shooting at the enemy with well aimed shots or general suppressing fire, but not forgetting to advance or move from source of cover to source of cover all while informing his comrades of the situation from his perspective, he's got a decent chance. There are plenty of other drills to perform, reactions to enemy contact, unexpected meeting, ambush and the like. They all conform to this most basic of models. Shoot the enemy. Move up with your team, from source of cover to source of cover. Communicate with your team.
It's this model that allows team members to achieve a basic level of interchangeability.
It should be obvious, then, that standardization of terms becomes more important with this emphasis on communication. Speaking to one's teammates increases your chances of performing well as a team, but not if you're saying things that your team will not understand under stress. The simple solution is to use phrases and terms that are generally agreed upon by your team, with a focus on brevity and ability to convey information.
What follows is a very brief guide to simple battlefield communication.
Contact is a term used to describe the presence of an enemy. It doesn't necessarily indicate hostile interaction, rather the mere existence of enemy forces. When spotting an enemy, the word contact could be used to gain the attention of team prior to issuance of further information regarding the enemy. This is referred to as an ADDRAC.
ALERT, DIRECTION, DESCRIPTION, RANGE, ASSIGNMENT, CONTROL
Alert: When issuing an ADDRAC to your crew, the first step is to alert them. In order to do this, most units will state the element's name. This is akin to a preparatory command, a statement that implies commands of execution are to follow immediately. "CREW", "TEAM" or something along those lines would suffice. If the command is only for a specific individual, stating the individual's name or position will work. If the crew in question hasn't worked together, or you're working with unfamiliar individuals, stating the crew position might be the better option.
It is also acceptable to simply use the word "CONTACT".
Direction: Ensure that the team you're alerting knows the direction of your contact. In most situations, a very simple direction indication is enough, and simplicity is your best friend in any loud, noisy, confusing situation. A few Captains recently began using "Port" and "Starboard" naval terminology to indicate the direction of their opponents. This is fine, so long as the crew understands the commands. When working with unfamiliars, it may be better to just give them a right or a left. For future reference: PORT and LEFT have the same amount of letters in their name.
Description: A brief description of the enemy's disposition. Are they behind cover? If so, the Gunner should probably hold fire. Deep in a cloud? Relay that information. If the enemy is simply floating about in the open, the phrase "IN THE OPEN" is highly appropriate, and will tickle the pleasure center of the brain for most experienced gunners. A description of what sort of enemy vessel has been spotted is helpful as well, especially when the Captain doesn't have immediate eyes on.
"ENEMY SQUID IN THE OPEN!"
Range: A helpful, but often overlooked aspect of calling out enemy contact is range to target. By estimating the range to target and knowing the capabilities of your mounted weapon systems, the Captain can prevent negligent weapons discharges before they occur. Ineffective fires can reveal friendly positions before an opportunity to strike has been seized, which could have catastrophic results. Additionally, bear in mind that the maximum range of your weapon system is NOT NECESSARY the maximum EFFECTIVE range of your weapon system. Practicing long range and short range operations with your crew can help you determine your capabilities.
Assignment: Inform the members of your crew of what needs to be accomplished, and with what equipment. Often, this will simply require communication with the Gunner to determine weapon employment, but it's also incredibly helpful to advise Engineers of further combat action. Utilizing helium to climb above an enemy vessel in order to rain hell from above is a fine tactical decision, but bear in mind that having an engineer on that balloon as it takes damage is also advantageous. In short, let your crew know what to do.
"GUNNER TO FRONT!"
"GUNNER, RIGHT SIDE, MOUNT!"
"DECKHAND, LEFT SIDE, FLAME!"
Control: Another lesser utilized aspect of crew communication. After the target has been designated, the best course of action may not be to open fire and charge. When left to their own devices, however, a gunner will often drill several rounds into the side of a Galleon that has yet to spot you, just as he's moving broadside past your general area. Furthermore, certain ammo types may be required to assist you in successfully executing a plan of action. This is where fire control comes in. Inform the gunner of exactly what you need in order to win the engagement. Give targeting priorities if you have any, request ammunition changes, or simply let the gunner know WHEN firing is appropriate.
"ON MY COMMAND"
"FIRE AT WILL"
"BURST AMMO, TARGET DECK GUNS"
Sample: "CONTACT, DIRECT FRONT, ENEMY SQUID IN THE OPEN, 1000 METERS, GUNNER TO FRONT, FIRE AT WILL"
The ADDRAC can obviously be shortened, and even should, in our case. When dealing with a team of fresh boots, the final assignment and control piece could be invaluable (no point in giving your position away with a blast of flamer fire from 1 klick out). Assignment refers to giving the members of your team a task and ensuring they know what equipment to complete that task with. "GUNNER, ENGAGE WITH HELLHOUND". Control relates to the control of your fires. For instance, say that Gunner isn't very effective on that Hellhound just now, he's blasting away at the hull, you're taking damage and would very much like the enemy's balloon to go the hell away. "GUNNER, ENGAGE WITH HELLHOUND, TARGET BALLOON" would achieve your aim.
In many (if not all) units, this process is shortened and utilized as the precursor to an immediate action (IA) drill. Upon contact with the enemy, the man to spot enemy forces will communicate his contact and the direction of the enemy, whereupon a drill will be executed depending on the situation.
Sample: "CONTACT RIGHT!" *All members of the team repeat the contact, ensuring everyone is on the same page*
Leader of the team takes control.
For far-contact type situations, where the enemy is at extreme range, the team might choose to call enemy contacts utilizing the "Clock" system. Directions are called in numbers, like on the face of a clock, with the ship at the center. The fore of the ship is always 12 o'clock, and the rear of the ship is always 6 o'clock. This allows for long range target acquisition, with a more exact azimuth than can otherwise be provided. "RIGHT" indicates the right side of the ship, but what if the enemy is unspotted, the spotting scope isn't quite living up to it's name and the enemy is sitting at 4 o'clock? Specifics can help.
No plan survives first contact. While the basic framework of your plan may hold steady, the details will always die a horrible death at the first sign of combat. It's logical, then, that the crew will need to communicate a bad situation to their Captain from time to time. It's also obvious that these communications are probably going to be a bit more heated, a bit less controlled, and therefore occasionally riddled with bad advice.
The pilot has an interesting job, at this point. Take in information from the crew while filtering out that bad advice, formulating strategy, and executing maneuvers against the enemy. With the introduction of standardized terminology, this job becomes slightly easier.
Gunner: The most common issue for a gunner to communicate will be in regard to the left and right firing azimuth of a weapon. When the pilot executes a manuever that drags the gunner's sights away from a target ship, expect to immediately hear some verbal chaos. Such unhelpful phrases as "TURN LEFT" and "TURN RIGHT", stated with undue urgency and wild abandon, can easily sway the inexperienced Captain into abandoning maneuvers against the enemy and bringing the main gun back to bear in a potentially bad situation.
A gunner should train to observe and report a situation, not to advise regarding ship movements except in the most dire of circumstances (horrible pilot, no actual pilot, necessary sarcasm). By stating "NEED RIGHT AZIMUTH" or the shorter "NEED RIGHT", the gunner can open a line of communication to the Captain, who will either comply and bring the gun to bear, or state "STANDBY". "STANDBY" indicates to the crew that actions are being taken with an underlying purpose. The task of the gunner will now be to shut up and look for an opportunity.
The gunner may, on occasion, need to inform the Captain that his current weapon system is not within range of an enemy combatant. In cases like these, the maximum effective range of the weapon is referred to as "MAX EFF".
"OUT OF MAX EFF"
As before, this should not be followed by a frantic request to close distance. Relaying information is enough.
Engineer: Communication regarding the status of vital components on-deck can be priceless information during combat. It must be understood that the engineer will not always be able to immediately begin working on stated components, as others may be damaged. Communicating which components are down and which are being worked on can make the process go a bit more smoothly.
"BLIMP DOWN, ON HULL"
"ROGER, MOVING TO BLIMP"
Furthermore, the engineer ought to pass on information regarding buff status of certain components; Namely, the turning and thrust engines. A good Captain has trained for a long time with a particular turning radius, and knows exactly when that radius will begin to change due to the use of specialty items (moonshine, the claw). Buffing one turning engine will throw him off and upset him quite a bit. You might get several lashings.
A Final Note:
Remember that when you're communicating with each other during combat, you'll be shouting through a noisy, chaotic environment. It's easy to mistake one word for another, or even fail to hear words altogether (selective audition). Anything worth saying once is worth repeating twice. Relay all orders and responses that you doubt were well heard and understood. Shoot, move, communicate. This has been an incredibly brief and basic guide to effective battlefield communication. Remember: Standardize terms with your crews, and ensure that the meanings of your brevity codes are well understood. In combat, you don't rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training.