Sunday, June 23, 2002

Being Prepared to Serve: CQ, CQ Field Day!

You might remember from my intro when I began this blog, that my little anchor hold is adorned with "a few antennas." This weekend is Field Day (1800 utc Saturday to 1800 utc Sunday), when the amateur radio community all over the country finds out if they really are ready to serve.

The premise is: Can you get on the air and stay on the air? No commercial power, no permanently established antennas. After all, in an actual emergency the power's likely to be out and the antennas returned to the scrap aluminum they came from.

Radio amateurs have been celebrating Field Day every June since 1933, as a combination emergency preparedness exercise, contest (which groups are best, measured by contact counts), public relations opportunity, and an excuse for a good party. Yesterday I spent 5 hours at the Milwaukee Repeater Club's field day site, explaining the chaotic-looking encampment to passers-by at the welcome awning, and listening to other fellow radio amateurs working hard to get on the air, stay on the air, and make as many clean contacts as possible so our contest score is respectable. The generators chug away, Janet makes the rounds with the cold water bottles, some guy yells a medium expletive when a wire antenna in the trees breaks, and finds the slingshot and fishline and spool of wire to fix it ---ASAP and stat, of course. I was supposed to go back this morning for a period of on-air time, but I overdid in the sunshine yesterday, so I'm at home, cold compresses on red body parts, listening to the action. And knowing that our local group has learned how to be prepared to serve in the way we are uniquely able to serve.

Another fluke of the radio amateur's world:

Among telegraphers and radio operators, male licensed radio operators are Old Men, OM's, whether they are 5 years old or 105; and female licensed radio operators are Young Ladies, YL's, whether they are 96 or only 6. So it makes me smile to know that, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission, I will never grow old.

karen marie, operator of amateur radio station N9GNG.

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