Virginia Defense Force members assigned to the Warrenton-based Echo Company, 11th Signal Battalion, 1st Regiment, participate in the American Radio Relay League Field Day June 25, 2022, in Leesburg, Va. . Operating as the Virginia Defense Force Radio Group, an ARRL-affiliated club, and hosted by the Loudoun Amateur Radio Group, participation in Field Day allowed the VDF to continue to build on its existing radio skills and expand its relationship with amateur radio. organizations.
Field Day provided an excellent training opportunity for VDF personnel, explained Warrant Officer 1 (Virginia) Kevin Maxson, Echo Company Commander. He said that although normal training opportunities are with other elements of the 11th Signal Battalion, attending the field day provides a much wider range of stations to try out and contact.
Amateur radio can be an invaluable emergency communication resource in extreme weather situations when traditional systems are unavailable.
“Amateur radio is a technical hobby in which people get a license from the federal government to operate their own private radio station for non-commercial purposes,” explained Mike White, president of LARG and call sign N4PDY. “The main purpose is to provide emergency communications when needed, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, when normal communication channels are exhausted. Amateur radio is very flexible and adaptable, and we can operate in almost any conditions.With favorable atmospheric conditions, we can speak anywhere in the world.
White also said that ham radio is a hobby that people do for fun, and it’s also an educational activity where people can learn about electronics. He said the terms amateur radio and amateur radio are interchangeable and that there are more than 800,000 amateur radio operators across the country.
While the LARG holds monthly meetings and is also engaged in public service activities where it provides communications assistance at events, once a year it meets with other amateur radio groups across the countries to do an exercise to practice operating in extreme weather conditions, to include running their radio systems on auxiliary power.
VDF staff deployed their mobile communication platform for the event. The MCP is a 7 1/2 foot by 16 foot trailer equipped with several radio systems for voice and data communications. Using an MCP, VDF members are able to communicate over a variety of radio spectrums with emergency response and public safety organizations as well as amateur radio operators.
The MCP was also open to visitors to help them learn more about the VDF and its capabilities. The VDF also hosted 13 Scouts who used MCP equipment on amateur radio frequencies to earn their Radio Merit Badge.
According to the National Association of Amateur Radio website, there are three types of license classes for amateur radio operations: Technician, General, and Additional Amateur. The Technician Class License is the entry-level license of choice for most new radio operators, the General Class License grants certain operating privileges on all amateur radio bands and modes of operation, and the Amateur Extra class license conveys all available US amateur radio operating privileges. on all bands and all modes.
The ARRL site explains that amateur radio, also known as ham radio, can be used to talk across town, around the world, or even in space, all without the internet or cell phone and can “be a lifeline in case of need”. Amateur radio operates on designated “radio bands” authorized by the FCC as a companion to other bands of the radio spectrum allocated for government, military, and commercial radio uses used by aircraft, ships, firefighters, and communications of the police.
The VDF currently has about 20 percent of its members holding one of the three licenses. Licensed members may wear a tab on their uniform indicating the type of amateur license they hold. VDF membership allows graduates to improve and prepare for the next level.
To obtain the technician’s license, one must pass an exam totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. After obtaining the technician license, an operator can obtain the general class license by passing a 35-question exam. Obtaining the Amateur Extra license requires passing an extensive 50-question exam.
The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Virginia Code as an all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it serves as an integrated force multiplier in all National Guard operations. The VDF reports to the Virginia Adjutant General as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs, as well as the Virginia Army National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard. Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to work by authorization from the Governor of Virginia.
Learn more about VDF communication capabilities at https://ngpa.us/20548.