Tribune-Courier features editor
Almost 100 years ago, in 1914, The American Radio Relay League, ARRL, was founded. They now claim more than 156,000 members, also known as Ham Radio enthusiasts.
This past weekend the ARRL hosted their annual Field Day event. The nationwide event is conducted for a 24 hour period. According to the ARRL website the object is to “To work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands (excluding the 60, 30, 17, and 12- meter bands) and in doing so to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions.”
“It’s really just to prepare us for emergency conditions.” explained Whipple Walker, who holds a Amateur Radio Technician license and is part of the Marshall county Rescue Squad. “For instance, during the ice storm cell phone towers were down and you couldn’t reach anyone who was outside the town you were in. We had to set up and communicate with Frankfort, share information and tell them our needs.”
Marshall County has a mobile command center and this year along with previous years they began set up around 7:00 a.m. at Mike Miller Park. Strings, wires and antennas were shot through trees and strung from light poles. As the event kicked off at 1:00 p.m. Mary Husfield, who holds her Amateur Radio General license, was logging into the computer and digitally sending out calls trying to make contacts.
“There’s so much QRM, you send out a call and try to reach someone and you get 3 other contacts coming after you. Everyone is just so eager,” Husfield explained.
Everyone loves the competition, therefore each command center nationwide is trying to maximize the amount of contacts made. Last year Marshall County placed in the top ten for their class and made around 300 contacts. There are also multiple ways to earn bonus points, whether it be using a different frequency or having a state official stop by.
“It’s rather addicting,” Melissa Combs, Director of Marshall County Emergency Management, explained. Each new contact made from a section lights up on the map.”This is my second year participating in the event and last year each time I would see a new section light up it was push me to keep trying no matter how tired I was.” Combs said. This year the first three contacts made were Canada, Ohio and Florida.
As the event came to an end the group ended with 119 digital contacts, 23 phone contacts and many bonus points and GOTA or get on the air, contacts. They won’t know how they placed compared to other centers for a few months, but are happy with their results overall.
“It’s a great learning experience. We made improvements this year and will make more for the next.” Walker said.
If you are interested in becoming a Ham Radio enthusiast, the group meets every second Friday at the Marshall County Rescue Squad building. You can also read more about the organization at www.arrl.org.
“Whether you want to talk to people on the radio, or you’re a techie, or you just want to figure out how to get bonus points for the event, there’s a spot for everyone.” Walker said, “It’s just amazing how it connects everyone.”