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Why I am a Ham Radio Operator

Most often, Ham Operators get involved in amateur radio for one of two reasons... as a hobby or as a community service. Most often, the hobbyside grows into public service and some who begin for public service learn to enjoy it as a hobby. On rare occasions, a job may require you to get your FCC Amateur license for work and those people may or may not use their license for hobby or community service. My purpose for getting my FCC license was strictly for community service. Maybe some day when I can afford it, I will become more active on the hobby side. (I can barely afford the community service equipment right now).

My first connection with Ham Radio was when I was an 18 year old soldier stationed in South Korea. When I arrived in Korea, I noticed there were only 4 types of land features... villages, rice paddies, mountains, and small clumps of hilly forest. As a leg Infantry man, this did not look like the best place to walk long distances carrying 75 pounds of equipment! While in the reception station waiting for my assignment, a Sergeant Major walked in and asked if any one had experience driving 4 wheel drive vehicles or construction equipment and I found my self standing on my chair waving both hands. He picked me and two others out of the crowd and we were assigned to Division Headquarters to be drivers. We began a 6 day crash course about UHF/VHF radio communications (UHF - ultra high frequency, VHF - very high frequency) and were processed for top secret security clearances. When my clearance came through, I was given a 2 day crash course in military communications security (COMSEC). I was assigned as a staff driver/radio operator for a division level general's staff officer and I was sitting in my jeep waiting while the officer was in a tactical meeting one day when I noticed another jeep that had the biggest and the most mobile antennas I had ever seen on a small tactical vehicle, so I wandered over to talk to the driver. He was an Air Force radio man and his job was forward air traffic control. Basically his jeep was a self propelled, high powered radio station that was used as an air traffic control tower at the front lines and spotted targets for any air craft in the area. He and his Lieutenant relayed target coordinates to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Army jets, bombers, and helicopters and kept them from running into each other on the front lines. I was impressed because the entire back half of the jeep was radio systems and he was happy to explain it all to me. Then he asked what my home phone number was as he fired up a small generator. From his jeep near the DMZ of Korea, he connected to a MARS unit in the southern tip of South Korea (MARS - Military Amateur Radio System). That operator connected to a civilian ham operator in my home state of Hawaii but it turned out he was on a different island than my parents, so he connected to another MARS unit in Pearl Harbor who in turn made a radio to telephone link to my home phone number. Within minutes, I was talking on a radio in a jeep in Korea with my parents who where on the phone in their home in Kaneohe, Hawaii! OK... I was impressed for sure now. With this powerful, advanced military technology (so I thought) combined with volunteer ham radio operators, my voice went through 3 ham stations into my parents phone and theirs back to me ( we had to remember to say "over" every time we finished talking ) in September 1975. As it turned out, the technology was not really so advanced... ham radio had been around for a long, long time but the equipment in the jeep was some top-of-the-line stuff in 1975 and the various ham operators helping make the connection (as volunteers) were using some high quality base station equipment. I decided then that I was going to be a ham operator some day but as it turned out, 2 things got in my way. The testing was very difficult back then in the '70's ( you had to know morse code also) and over time, I lost interest in everything besides booze and drugs. A short chain of events brought me into active ham service in 2004. I have always been public service oriented and have done everything from volunteering for various non-profit agencies to being a volunteer fire fighter in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. During good weather, I ride a motorcycle but during the long Wisconsin winters, I travel in a steel and glass cage known as a car. Being service oriented, I have always had 2 CB radios in my car... one on channel 19 and one on channel 9 and always did what I could to help people find their way or get road-side assistance. The winter of 2003-2004 was unusually active on 9 and 19 in my area because of a lot of road construction and the renumbering/renaming of several major routes in north east Wisconsin (lot of cars in the ditch and lot of lost truck drivers). This led me to get involved with REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communication Teams) who tries to monitor 9 and 19 all the time to provide public service to travelers. Through REACT, I became aware that it was much easier to get a Ham license these days and I took the leap and got my technicians license. Once licensed, I took training as a storm spotter and got involved with Waupaca County ARES/RACES/SkyWarn (Amateur Radio Emergency Services / Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services / National Weather Service Storm Spotters).

I don't talk much on the radio right now except during official ARES/RACES/SkyWarn nets but I monitor all of the ARES/RACES frequencies and public emergency frequencies (CB, FRS, GMRS) in my area as much as I can. I would like to become more active in time but for now I am limited by the equipment I have. My mobile unit is a decent unit but is limited to 2 meter and 440 wavelengths. In the future, I would like to get better equipment so I can provide better service to the public. Radio-telephone patch, cross band relay, packet radio and Internet tunneling are some of the things I would like to get into. If you are a seasoned ham that keeps tripping over excess equipment in the shack and would like to donate something you are tired of or if you are just someone that stumbled across this page and are still here that wants to make a small donation to my public service cause, it would certainly be appreciated and I would be happy to list you in my Honor Roll. With what little I have, I am doing the best I can to provide support when I can (see My Service Record) Ham radios are costly and they require additional equipment to better provide public service including spare battery packs and an assortment of antennas and connecting cables. Different antennas are used for different purposes and some are portable, some are "fixed" (permanent mount at a building), and some are "jump" (used to set up where a temporary site is needed). It is always good to have "back-up" equipment too... stuff that can be used to continue the mission in the event your primary equipment fails. In time, I would also like to get involved in the two major computer - radio interfaces known as "tunneling" (sending radio transmissions through the Internet) and "packet radio" (sending computer files through radio). If you would like to make a cash or equipment donation, below is my address. I would be happy to pay for shipping if I believe I can make good use of equipment you want to donate or if my ARES/RACES unit or REACT unit can put it to good use. Donations to me personally would not be tax deductible, however, ARES/RACES and REACT are 501c organizations.

Charles Clark
315 East Main Street
Weyauwega, WI 54983
W9SBU@WaupacaCountyARES.org

My "wish list": A better car! Ideal would be a Police Interceptor. Good base station* to cover all ham bands. 2.4Ghz linux or windows laptop with 2G memory, 80G HD, 56K, wirless and EDVO for packet and tunneling. A selection of good antennas. * MARS capable of course! My "dream" units: Storm Spotting: Police Interceptor - good dual band 2 meter/440 transiever. APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System), Hard wired weather station. HF transiever. Disaster Services: A 4WD step or box van (new or used - a retired ambulance or service truck might work) packed with: AC generator with good filtering system. Multiple cross band capable base/mobile radios. Fast laptop computer for packet and tunneling. Small satellite dish. Portable directional antennas. High quality antenna for each band or several multi-band antennas. Better car. Right now I drive an old (2003) Saturn L200 with over 260,000 miles on it. It need a lot of work on it and at this point is not worth the cost of needed repairs including complete suspension rebuild and complete exhaust system. It's not really that good for storm spotting. Because I have a number of college loans, I can not get a newer car financed so, a used or new Crown Victoria is on my wish list. A Police Interceptor would be ideal. It is big enough to serve me well at my regular job and it is a substantial car for storm spotting. When storm spotting, the day may come that I have to cut through a median or ditch or field to escape. Police Interceptors are specially designed for this. I would never make it out in my Saturn. Also, Interceptors come standard with heavy duty electrical systems to handle the extra radios, laptop, and weather gauges I would eventually want to install. If you have a gently used Interceptor or you are a dealer who stumbled on this page and can take $200 a month payments on in-house financing, I need an good car. :-)

 

United States Weather Group

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