DVIDS – News – Amateur Radio Club Offers Fun Hobby and Emergency Abilities

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By ANGIE THORNE
Guardian staff editor

FORT POLK, Louisiana – How much do you know about radio waves? If you’re like most people, it’s probably not a lot.
Most people experience these frequencies from music and talk shows played through their car speakers and, as technology has developed, through Wi-Fi and Internet connections. This one-sided interaction means most people don’t understand the science behind radio communication (unless you’re a Fort Polk soldier).
This is something that the West Central Louisiana Amateur Radio Club is trying to change one person at a time.
Randy Day, president of WCLARC, said his club is an organization of amateur radio operators who promote amateur radio technology as a hobby and provide emergency communications in the event of a disaster.
Day is a retired Operations Group Signal Planner currently working with Raytheon at Fort Polk as an Integrated Defense Systems Engineer. Raytheon develops a variety of army air defense missile systems.
WCLARC is affiliated with the national chapter of amateur radio, called the American Radio Relay League. One of the main objectives of the organization is to safeguard the radio frequencies officially used by amateurs of amateur radio.
“The League is fighting to keep these dedicated frequencies for amateurs because just about everything today works on radio frequencies such as Wi-Fi. Even your washer and dryer can work wirelessly,” Day said.
Robert Partigianoni, WCLARC events coordinator and former president, is a retired army medic. He explained how the amateur radio operators received the frequencies they use today. He said that in the early 1900s, when radio history was young, “professional” broadcasters thought they had the perfect frequency for radio. So when “amateurs” wanted to talk to each other without interfering with professional broadcasts, they were given the lower frequencies on the scale.
“The officials said to put the amateurs on the low frequencies of the group because they thought that these frequencies were unnecessary and that the people who use them are just ‘amateurs anyway’,” he said. .
The “makers” did not know how important these frequencies and amateurs would become in the future.
Anyone can become a licensed amateur radio operator (amateur radio). Day has made it clear that you don’t have to be a member of his club to be an operator, but that you have to pass a Federal Communications Commission test.
Day said one of the features his club provides is the ability to pass this FCC test. “Before, you had to go to an FCC office and sit down with a federal employee to take the test. What they have done over the years is adjust this procedure to allow certified volunteers – through the Volunteer Examiner Certification Program – to administer tests. So someone like me or another certified member of our club can take exams on behalf of the FCC and then submit those documents. This is one of the main functions of our club, ”he said.
The club makes presentations in schools.
“I’m trying to discuss the importance of this technology and explain the inner workings of radio. It’s great to show kids that this technology isn’t complicated. Anyone can learn how to do it. A few diodes and resistors, a speaker, a battery and a wire and you have an FM radio. It is science in action. We try to share and promote our knowledge, not only with the children, but also with the community in general, ”said Day.
In addition, the club holds two community events per year – one in summer and one in winter – where the club shows the public what amateur radio is. “We call them rural days. We install ourselves with generator or solar energy and invite the public to come and see what we are doing. The event has a dual purpose in that it also trains us in an emergency, ”Day said.
Partigianoni said that during these events the club moved to places where they did not function normally.
“There are no antennas to use. Instead, we pull over in our mobile trailer and set up a bunch of wire antennas. We even have a tower that can emit a beam if we need to talk further. After setup, we see how many contacts we can make in a 24 hour period and where they are. We keep a journal. Normally, we can contact about 47 states and 15-20 countries.
This means that if it was an emergency we would have communication skills and could make contact almost anywhere, ”he said.
Day said the club and its members have agreed with the Town of Leesville and the Parish of Vernon that if communications fail in the event of a large-scale disaster, they will provide a communications backbone through their service program. amateur radio emergency (ARES). Although many members of WCLARC are members of ARES, it is not mandatory to be part of this organization.
“Instead, people are volunteering to do it and our club members are just part of that effort. This provides local, long distance, interstate and out of state communications over a nationwide network, ”Day said.
Partigianoni declared being a member of ARES, you must take courses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“These are the courses that tell us how an amateur radio group or any other group interfaces with the federal government. These courses are important. There are some emergency operations centers that you can’t get into unless you’ve taken one of these FEMA courses that cover operations safety and more, ”Partigianoni said.
“In an emergency, we work directly with the sheriff’s office, as well as with Fort Polk. Day said several members of the Fort Polk EOC are also members of the club.
“They are licensed as amateur radio operators in an emergency that interrupts communications over a wide area,” he said. “In fact, we have a lot of members affiliated with the military; whether they’re veterans or retirees, I would say our membership is roughly 75% veterans.
The club has other ties to Fort Polk. When Hurricane Rita hit the area in 2005, Leesville and Fort Polk lost their main communications systems for a few days and it was Partigianoni who suggested an amateur radio option as a back-up system in case something went wrong. as it would happen again.
“Now Fort Polk has the necessary setup with radio and antennas, people licensed and certified to operate the system, and part of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) with their own call sign,” he said. he declares.
Partigianoni helps Fort Polk maintain its radio system.
“I go to the EOC every six weeks to check their radio equipment and make sure it is in good working order. I’m doing a radio check with Fort Huachuca, Arizona, through the MARS program. This means that we can reach them at any time, including in an emergency, ”he said.
Partigianoni and the club are also assisting units at Fort Polk by resolving communications and radio systems issues on demand. He said he got a call about once a month asking for his help.
“I have helped units solve problems as simple as correcting their antenna height when not contacting soldiers to teach the optimal radio broadcast frequencies and how to find those frequencies to make the connections. they need on the ground or downstream, ”he said.
Finally, if there is interest and a unit requests it, the club has offered to periodically teach an in-office course and take the FCC test to those interested in obtaining their license. amateur radio.
“I think the last class we attended was about seven people,” Partigianoni said. “Over the years we’ve probably certified around 50 people. “
Partigianoni said amateur radio is a rewarding and enjoyable hobby.
“I feel like I’m helping people. I love the communication I have with amateur radio enthusiasts and I love learning about technology. I probably always will. I tell my wife that I will probably die with a little ham (ham radio) in my hand, ”he said.
Day also encourages people to delve into amateur radio.
“Until I got involved in amateur radio, I didn’t know how well the technology behind radio, the Internet, or the way wireless systems work – this common technology we all take for granted. Amateur radio draws that curtain and I understand it now. It is a very good hobby that promotes not only radio, but also an understanding of past, present and future technology. It’s the future of everything, ”he said.
For more information on the West Central Louisiana Radio Club, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wclarc/.

Date taken: 22.02.2019
Date posted: 22.02.2019 09:51
Story ID: 311601
Site: FORT POLK, LA, UNITED STATES

Web Views: 328
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