Hams with a plan...

Category: Training (Page 1 of 2)

Training information

Field Day Lessons Learned

            Thanks again for all who were able to help in this years Field Day event! For those with WINLINK, I did send a few messages from the site so when you get a chance go ahead and check.

  • The ability to build an End Fed Half-Wave on the fly is a great skill to have! W4NRG was able to put one together in about 30 minutes and it was instrumental in all the 40m contacts we made after 2am.
  • A small dipole made by Windcamp, able to handle 100watts performed very well! The Windcamp website has good information about it (https://www.windcamp.cn/productinfo/372468.html) but no link to buy one. They can be purchased on Amazon here: https://a.co/d/0b1yJnl9
  • All our power was provided by batteries, and we all had Anderson PowerPoles so we could easily switch things out and keep operating. There are some knock-off versions that are less expensive, but I recommend staying with the real things: https://powerwerx.com/anderson-power-powerpole-sb-connectors
  • Not all battery chargers are your friend! I was using a 4A charger I purchased through Bioenno and we had no noise, but when a higher output charger was put in service, we experienced a significant amount of noise on 40m (sorry Anthony!). So, prior to field use, it is a good idea to check to see if the charger you may be called on to use (and this includes solar charge controllers) could cause a noise problem and interfere with your ability to effectively operate.
  • Know the power draw of your equipment. We had plenty of extra LiFePo4 batteries to keep us on the air, and we did not worry about a power plan, but in an actual event if we must rely on solar or lower output chargers, the recharge cycle WILL be significantly longer than the discharge cycle of the batteries (as an example; 6 hours of operating and 12 hours to recharge means you need to have at least 3 batteries). There’s a lot more math involved there but you get the idea. The 10AH Nermak LiFePo4 batteries I had for the talk in station and as stand-by I also picked up on Amazon: https://a.co/d/0cDFuvSQ
  • Using a Faraday Cloth can improve a vertical antenna performance. The one I have, I purchased on Amazon: https://a.co/d/0a6FTMUS. This works if the antenna is within a foot of the ground, but I have not done any elaborate testing to see if there is any effect on one mounted to a tripod about 3 feet in the air.
  • The Alpha antennas we were using were 6-80m HF MIL 2.0 FMJ (https://www.alphaantenna.com/product/6-80-meter-hd-fmj-portable-hf-vertical-dipole-antenna/)
  • The other vertical was a Wolf River Coil (https://www.wolfrivercoils.com/index.html)
  • The “Fox” we were using is based on the Byonics MicroFox 15 (https://www.byonics.com/mf) in a waterproof box (https://a.co/d/0au3I74r)

Those were the big take-aways for me. If anyone else has additional lessons learned or suggestions, please let us know!

I am very proud of how we all worked together and each time we setup and do an event I cannot help but be impressed at the knowledge and skills you all bring to the team and your willingness to share that knowledge. 

Thank you all, for what you do to help our community!


Ok, I am not a huge fan of unnecessary acronyms, but Did You Feel It, or DYFI (diff-ee) just seems fun.

So yesterday (October 19th) was the nationwide Earthquake Exercise. To demonstrate the usefulness of WINLINK in such events, the WINLINK Development Team sponsored the Did You Feel It event where Hams were asked to fill out a new template in WinLink Express documenting their experience in an earthquake event. Based on those answers a magnitude estimate was generated and the USGS address was automatically populated.

Rachel and I sent the forms in via Packet and found it quite easy to use.

You can view the nationwide results of all that checked-in and even zoom in to just St. Mary’s County by going to the Live Map here:


Recommended Training

    Here are links to the recommended courses we discussed at the October meeting :

IS-100 – https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-100.c&lang=en

IS-200 – https://training.fema.gov/is/courseoverview.aspx?code=IS-200.c&lang=en

There are plenty of other good training opportunities through FEMA that you may find interesting, so poke around and if you find one you think the group would benefit from let us know. One that I stumbled upon is IS-66 – Preparing the Nation for Space Weather Events. I have not taken it yet but intend to!

CALVEX 2023 After Action Report

  1. Objectives of the Exercise
    • Bring all gear online and convey information from the EOC to ARES/RACES members using:
      • Amateur Radio Repeaters (HAM)
      • General Mobile Radio Service Repeaters (GMRS)
      • Send/Receive Radio Mail Messages over the air (WINLINK VHF Packet)
    • Review Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and interactions with other County Stakeholders during an activation.
  2. Accomplishments
    • Successfully activated a Resource Net and communicated with ARES/RACES members on 147.390 Leonardtown Repeater
    • Updated programming on Icom-910 with UHF/VHF Repeaters in accordance with STMA ARES ICS-205
    • Successfully transmitted and received Radio Mail messages via WINLINK VHF Packet
    • Reviewed Calvert Cliffs Response SOP and witnessed stakeholder actions during an activation.
  3. Areas for Improvement
    • Attempt to contact ARES/RACES members via GMRS unsuccessful due to a faulty microphone connection.
      • Radio was removed from service, bench tested, repaired, and will be returned to service end of September 2023
    • Maintaining situational awareness of events within the EOC is impossible from the COMM Room.
    • Further review of the SOP is needed, and training must be conducted with ARES/RACES members well in advance to ensure a smooth activation/shift change.
    • Resource Net activation script needs to be drafted and practiced by ARES/RACES members.
  4. Summation
    • Overall, this event was a success. Most objectives were met and ares for improvement have been identified.

October Simulated Emergency Test (SET)

Preparations are underway for our participation in the October 2023 SET.

Our draft plan so far:

  • We will establish a Net on the 147.390 repeater when called to activate.
  • We will have three (3) teams deploy to locations within St Mary’s County to verify the location of designated Geodetic Markers
    • Team 1 – North end of the county (Charlotte Hall/Mechanicsville/Sotterly)
    • Team 2 – Central area of the county (Leonardtown/Hollywood/California)
    • Team 3 – South end of the county (Lexington Park/Ridge/Point Lookout)
  • Each Team will have an APRS equipped vehicle beaconing their location as they deploy
  • Upon locating each marker, each team will compose and send to Net Control a ARRL Radiogram via voice stating verification & condition of marker
  • Net Control will gather all the reports and generate an ICS-213 (General Message) form in WINLINK Express summarizing the status of all markers
  • Net Control will transmit via WINLINK (ARDOP on HF) to a relay station in Charles County who will forward on to the Section Emergency Coordinator

We still need to identify the specific markers to be going after and we need to do some experimenting with a relay station in Charles County, but I think this is a solid plan and exercises all the techniques we have been practicing.

Fox Hunt @ Newtowne Neck Park

            A huge thank you to all that were able to make it out to Newtowne Neck Park yesterday! We learned a thing or two about how far a 15 milliwatt 2m FM Transmitter will really go! After hiding the ‘Fox’ down one of the trails a little ways, the group set out to find it with a variety of HT’s and antenna combinations. At the end of the day the homemade Styrofoam box that Jim {KB1YZ} made was the winner in locating the ‘Fox’! Congratulations Jim and great job on coming up with the most unique setup!

            I setup the KM4ACK End-Fed Half-Wave antenna we are going to be doing as a workshop to show how it deploys and works and Chris W4NRG setup his Wolf-River Coil and activated the park (twice actually – once on 20m and then again on 40m).

            I know there were some who were disappointed in not being able to attend this past Saturday, but fear not! We’ll look at doing more of these type of events in the near future!

After Action Report – April 29th Drill Net

At 0900L on 29 April 2023, a Net was started by KB2SKP acting as NCS for the purpose of practicing the passing of messages using the ARRL Radiogram format and NTS best practices. KB1YZ, KC3RWE, AC3CU, W3OST, N3AK, AC3FE each generated, passed, and received one message via voice. Three messages (from AC3CU, KB1YZ, and KC3RWE) were also sent via WINLINK to the tactical callsign STMAEC.

The following questions were brought up:

  • Does the ‘X-Ray’ in the text count in the CHECK?
    • Yes it does
  • What should the sending station say when complete with a section?
    • For our purposes we will use the word ‘OVER’
  • Where should we write the SIGNATURE?
    • There is not a ‘box’ for the SIG so it should be written under the body of the message and above the “Recv’d” box.
  • Is it necessary to say the box title for the boxes in the Preamble?
    • No it is not; enough of a pause should be employed by the sender and the actual entry or value should be enough so as to make it clear which block is being populated. However if there is doubt on the part of the receiver or the sender is more comfortable saying them it is permissible.
  • How do you include a decimal point such as 1.5″ of rain reported?
    • The decimal point is said as “decimal” and written as a capital ‘R’ on the Radiogram form. For the rain report above it would be:
      • Spoken: Figures One Decimal Fiver Inches Of Rain
      • Written: 1R5 Inches Of Rain

Overall the exercise went very well and the net was closed at 1016L.

« Older posts