Local radio amateurs participate in national competition | City and State


Crouching under the wooden canopy of the western shelter of the Ouiatenon reserve, an amateur radio operator reads his group’s call sign over and over again on Saturday afternoon.

“New whiskey, Romeo echo golf,” said the operator into a small microphone. These code words represent “W9REG”, the call sign of the Tippecanoe Amateur Radio Association.

Last weekend, starting Saturday at 2 p.m. and ending Sunday 24 hours later, W9REG held its annual Field Day in concert with the National Association for Amateur Radio. Field day acts as a celebration of amateur radio as well as an emergency practice.

Don Dusza, the club’s president, said the event also acts as an informal competition between various groups across the United States. One of the operators will put the group’s signal on a certain frequency and repeat their call sign over and over again until another group picks up on it.

Once contact is established, they exchange information and record a point.

“This particular exercise is much shorter, we are only exchanging information,” said Dusza. “In normal high frequency communications, you can sit and talk with (the other operator) for 10, 15 minutes, which is called a ‘ragchew’.”

Dusza pointed to a thick cable line 25 feet above his head, running from the top of a nearby tree to the branch of another tree 30 feet away. The cable serves as an antenna for the group’s amateur radio configuration.

How did he get the cable up so high? Threading it with fishing line, hooking it to an arrow, and pulling it up there with a recurve bow.

“I actually lost an arrow in that tree last night,” Dusza said.

Dusza said he had been passionate about electronics and radio since high school. He graduated from Purdue in 1990 with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology and currently works as a Linux Systems Administrator. He said the club invites anyone interested in radio to come and see how things work.

Earle Nay, the club manager, said he has been interested in radio since he was 7 years old. He said ham radio operation is useful in emergency situations because of its accessibility when other power systems are unavailable.

“We have to join with the emergency services to ensure communications because when cellphones are down, communication is difficult,” Nay said. “We can run from batteries, directly from a generator – which is currently on standby under that blue tarp – but the idea is to run off the grid as if the grid is not there.”

Dusza referred to the wake of the destruction of Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico in 2017 as an example of when ham radio operation can become essential.

“Their infrastructure was down, no cell service, little to no phone service,” Dusza said. “Due to the fact that we are transmitting in the air and these are electromagnetic waves that cannot be stopped, we are able to communicate. “

Outside of field days, the group meets on the second Wednesday of each month at Imagination Station in Lafayette.

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