New Addition to the CCV
The Club’s Command and Control Vehicle (CCV) was recently outfitted with some much needed shelving thanks to the efforts of AL0U Art and AL7J Kyle. The shelves are very stout – built with 2″ aluminum angle from KL7CC’s shop and fiberboard. The shelves span the driver side and rear walls just
above the windows in the radio room. The 2″ angle provides a sturdy “lip” so that loose items can’t fall off. The underside of the shelves provide space to mount the VHF/UHF transceivers and other paraphernalia currently taking up space on the operating table.
The next CCV project is to mount the two ACOM amplifiers, which are currently sitting on the floor, in the coat closet on the passenger side of the CCV. We need volunteers who are comfortable with building an equipment rack, routing electrical wiring and some general carpentry. Anyone interested should call Kyle Sandel, AL7J
Ham Radio in Alaska
Steve Lockwood – English – MSU-Northern
While on academic leave in Anchorage, I watched the Iditarod ceremonial start in March 2004. (The race actually starts a few days later, the location depending on snow conditions.) Conspicuous near the start line was a van belonging to an Alaska ham radio group. Since the Hobby Corner story on ham radio ran in the Fall 2003 Montana Professor, we have received a number of positive responses to it, so I contacted Jim Wiley and Dan O’Barr of the Alaska groups for explanations of the van and of their involvement in the race. Here are their (slightly edited) answers.
The Anchorage Amateur Radio Club, Inc. is the owner of the Communications and Command Vehicle (CCV) that you photographed. It is operated by the local ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) group. The vehicle was purchased used about 3 years ago, and had been extensively modified for it’s present use. The vehicle has installed (or pending installation of) a number of different radio systems, including 6 separate Amateur Radio operating positions, covering HF, VHF, UHF, Satellite, and other modes. It also includes a number of application-specific radios for other services, such as VHF marine, VHF aircraft, public safety agencies such as the Alaska State Troopers and Anchorage Municipal Police and Fire departments, plus local utility companies, municipal multi-service trunking radio network, GMRS/FRS radio, and even a CB radio set! The rig can operate either completely self contained, or it sometimes tows a trailer that includes a 40-foot telescoping mast and “beam” antenna and a 12 KW diesel generator set.
The vehicle is designed so that it can serve as a command and control center for public service events and during emergencies and natural disasters. It has already served in real emergencies, such as a search for missing children, and in several wide area training exercises like disaster drills and other municipal/federal events. In fact, the main reason we use it during events such as the Iditarod race is so that our personnel can gain experience with using the various systems in real-world situations. We also use it for various Amateur-Radio-only events, such as the annual “Field Day” exercise, and other contests. We also use it for events like “Boy and Girl Scout on the air,” and local events such as the Mayor’s Marathon and the local Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. We also have plans to use it on a fairly regular basis to visit local middle schools and high schools to demonstrate Amateur Radio to science and engineering students.
The CCV was specifically designed to work with not only Amateur Radio support functions, but to facilitate intercommunication between agencies that normally do not interact with each other, except in times of emergency. For example, at a forest fire or earthquake, we can use the CCV to facilitate communications between the Police, Utilities, Search and Rescue aircraft, and local government officials. In this sort of situation, Amateur Radio provides a common link to handle messages, and interconnects with “served agency” systems as needed.
The “hams” (as Amateur Radio enthusiasts are sometimes referred to) come from all walks of life. We have professional engineers, educators, housewives, retired couples, office workers, truck drivers, military personnel, airline pilots, doctors, students, mechanics, government employees, kids in their teens, adults in their 80’s, and even a few unique folk who defy easy description–in other words, just plain folk. There are roughly 250 members of the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club (AARC). Our current president is Jim Larsen, call sign AL7FS. Jim is a retired engineer, formerly with a large telecommunications company. The ARES group is headed up by Phil Mannie, call sign KL0QW, who is employed at a local TV station. There are typically between 15 and 50 Amateur Radio types involved with one of these events. The Iditarod Race typically has about 20 or 30 “hams” involved in the start, and in some years another couple of dozen supporting checkpoints on the trail between the start and finish lines. AARC is not the only group involved, either. Much valuable help is provided by the Matanuska Amateur Radio Association (MARA) and Dan O’Barr, call sign KL7DR, their president. Dan and Gordon Hartlieb, call sign AL1W, have been serving as coordinators of the Amateur Radio support for Iditarod 2004.
Once out on the trail, Amateur Radio support takes on a somewhat different look. For the first couple of hundred miles, we have mountain top repeater systems that relay messages from checkpoints back to Anchorage (media HQ) or Wasilla (Iditarod HQ) as needed. However, the mushers and checkpoints soon get out of range of these short range systems, and “hams” are required to use other means. In some years, we have used HF (High Frequency) radio to bounce signals off the upper atmosphere and talk back to Anchorage, in other years we have successfully utilized one or more of the special ham-radio orbiting Earth satellites to relay text messages (something like e-mail, but not over the internet). Typical messages include information about which musher was where, what time he arrived and/or departed, how many dogs remained on his team, and any other pertinent information. We have also used various “commercial” (non-Amateur Radio) means to relay messages in some instances, particularly when one of the race sponsors was hoping to showcase a particular technology. However, these same commercial technologies have occasionally been less than successful (to put it politely), and good old Amateur Radio has had to save the day.
During the actual race, “ham” radio messages are relayed over hundreds of miles, sometimes through several different stations before they arrive at their destination. There is no charge for this message service, as indeed Amateur Radio operators are prohibited by law from being compensated for any of their services that involve use of their license. As in other similar exercises, Amateur Radio operators look on the Iditarod race as a chance to practice their communication skills against the day they will be needed in an emergency. However, we also don’t want to ignore the other main reason we have so much Amateur Radio participation in the Iditarod: it’s FUN! For many, the thrill of being able to be “on the scene” and provide real usefulness at the same time is the main reason they volunteer.
For more information, I suggest you contact Dan O’Barr directly–he will almost certainly have more details, particularly about life on the trail, and perhaps some photographs of last year’s event you can use.
For more information about Amateur Radio in general, visit the national Amateur Radio organization (the American Radio Relay League) web site at <http://www.arrl.org>.
Jim Wiley, KL7CC
Dan O’Barr added the following announcement which he sent about the 29 volunteers who handled communications at the 2004 Iditarod Re-start.
It is with the deepest of heart-felt gratitude and satisfaction that I report on the communications support that The Matanuska Amateur Radio Association gave to the Re-start of The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. In any great endeavor great sacrifices are made and The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is no exception. It’s been said that the Mushers and their teams run the race, but the volunteers make the race happen. My best estimate of the time volunteered by the 29 communicators for the Re-start of this great event is 334 hours. Of these volunteers 26 are licensed Amateur Radio Operators.
The amount of effort that it takes to make this event happen is staggering. I don’t think the 334 hours given by the Communication Volunteers tells much more than a fraction of the story. This year it was exacerbated by the fact that the decision to move to Willow from Wasilla was made less than a week before. We had some communicators who could not make it, and some who showed up at the last minute. All in all, I think it came together rather well.
One of the greatest assets we had this year was the Communications and Command Vehicle (CCV) provided by The Anchorage Amateur Radio Club (AARC) and Anchorage’s Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). I can’t even guess the value of this wonderful resource or the two other extremely valuable resources that these two organizations provided. The other two resources we used for communications are the wide area voice repeater (WL7CVG) located on Mount Susitna and the digital repeater (Eagle Node) located on Site Summit. Then there are the two dozen or so personal hand-held and mobile radios and 4 or 5 computers used by this group.
2004 Iditarod Re-start Comms Volunteers
Dan O’Barr, KL7DR
We’re grateful to Jim & Dan for the information. We hope their stories will inspire others to write us about personal experiences that parallel any we showcase.
[The Montana Professor 15.2, Spring 2005 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]