This past weekend, amateur radio celebrated its most important day of the year: Field Day. Organized by the American Radio Relay League, it brings together approximately 35,000 amateur radio enthusiasts in the most popular live event in the United States and Canada.
While there is a lot that can happen on Field Day, Benton Jackson simplifies it into four F’s: fun, food, friends, and frequencies.
“It can be a lot,” Jackson said. This year, he estimated that 40 licensees from the Maple Grove Radio Club, of which he is president, would be on hand to help build and broadcast from five stations from 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 26 to 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 27. . , at the Chester Bird American Legion in Golden Valley. Members of the public are encouraged to come and watch the festivities, ask questions and even have their voices heard on air if they are feeling so daring.
“The event is scored and we get extra points if we get people who haven’t been on the air,” he said.
Ultimately, the club and the Legion hope the event and others like it create greater public awareness of a very public service.
Towers to the moon
Jackson has been interested in amateur radio for five years, first because he needed a license to operate racing drones. What particularly appeals to him is the variety of ways in which one can achieve the hobby’s goal: to connect people around the world.
“Our hobby is to get in touch with each other in any way we can,” he said. “We can bounce off the rehearsal towers, bounce off the ionosphere, and we can even bounce a signal off the moon.”
The try-until-something-works approach is a hallmark of an amateur radio hobbyist and instills a sense of duty in every licensee if traditional communication systems fail, perhaps in national emergency.
“Amateur radio is a lot of things, but one of the most important is a back-up communication system,” Jackson said. “We can be very creative, so if all other communication fails, we can come up with something very quickly. “
Field Day, which has taken place every four full weekends in June since 1933, has been primarily an emergency preparedness exercise. Registered teams build stations completely off-grid, which means no access to commercial electricity, telephone lines or a network. The purpose of the exercise is to challenge amateurs to successfully broadcast in “abnormal situations under less than optimal conditions”.
“It’s just generators, batteries and radios,” Jackson said. To prepare, participants of the Maple Grove Radio Club began settling in Golden Valley two days before they could start speaking on the microphone.
The teams then get in touch with whom they can, in all possible ways: by voice command, sending coded data, and even by dots and dashes in Morse code.
A new partnership, a service of the State
Fashions, connections, and other stylistic efforts earn team points, but Jackson doesn’t see Field Day as a contest.
“That’s not what it is,” he said. He hoped that events like Field Day would give amateur radio greater visibility to the general public and perhaps spark the interest of future amateurs of all ages.
The day was also an opportunity to officially launch a partnership between the radio club and the Chester Bird Legion. In one year, the two groups formed the station’s radio club, made up of 12 licensees who were also veterans.
Closures caused by COVID-19 had prompted the Legion to take an interest in emergency preparedness, which led its members to the Jackson club.
Legion Commander Craig Hartman said at the time of the closures there was no Legion radio club established in the state.
“I work as a water patrol SD with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and have worked with our Critical Response Communication units on numerous occasions,” Hartman said. “One of their lieutenants, Joe Sherohman, is a member of our Legion post. I asked him if any of his radio members would be interested in forming a TALARC chapter.
Hartman said after a lot of paperwork, fundraising and countless meetings, the Legion was officially listed, with the call sign KOCBP.
“We are delighted to be able to provide this emergency service to the citizens of Hennepin County,” said Hartman.
Hartman admits he only pushed the idea; he credits Jackson and Tim Arimond, another club member, with the work of creating the new unit.
Jackson is happy to do so. He estimates that he devotes a few days of work to this hobby each month, whether it’s volunteering at events or “chewing a rag” which means having extended conversations with people. on air. The license took him in a much different direction than he might have expected when he got it in 2016 to fly a few drones.
“It’s so much fun, I barely touched drones,” he said.
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