Why the RTO Course Exists and A Course Review From The Volunteer State

“I’m not interested in a hobby- I just want my stuff to work.”

This is, far and away, the most common comment I get when people reach out to me for help or come to class. They’ve read all the stuff, bought books, read the forums, and maybe punched that ham ticket a time or two but its still not clicking. Talking to Joe Fudd complain about the local eatery on a repeater or hearing signal report exchanges over HF on the weekends starts to seem like little to no value for the investment of equipment. And for their buddies, whom they’ve told that this stuff is important but don’t really see the value to start with, well, they tend to tune out. Unfortunately many of the “Have Another Meal (HAM)” clubs offer absolutely zero help, often being a retirement community of anti-social types with about as much personality as the dead standing oak I’m looking at while I write this. Not all, but more often than not. Its enough to turn away those on the fence but looking to learn.

There’s a steep learning curve to all of this. And not only that, it’s a hard topic to grasp when you’re not even sure where to start. It goes back to the comment above- folks just want their stuff to work, for their own objective, in the best way possible. This blog exists in part as a way to fill that gap. Cut through the BS and resolve those questions. The class exists to make it work live and in person. Take what’s off the shelf and create ad-hoc networks, with whatever you might have. We work based on my experience doing it in the real world in improvised environments, both building them and intercepting the ones the Taliban had built. It’s one thing to talk about theory, it’s quite another to demonstrate exactly what we were doing and then do it as a group. We can create a perspective on the tactical value behind the working knowledge gained rather than buying a bunch of stuff, shoving it in the ground, a bag, or an ammo can and calling it a day. But the people only doing that don’t come to my classes or generally anyone else’s. And that’s fine. This class is about operator skill over any piece of equipment, plain and simple.

I frequently make the analogy to handgunning- its akin to buying a pistol and then never going to the range or taking any classes with it, while saying “I know how to use it when the time comes”. Pistols have a deceptively steep learning curve and it’s a highly perishable skill. Reality will bite you at some point. Tactical communications are exactly the same. And just like pistol proficiency under duress, effectively communicating without any sort of operator training is probably not happening. Other things like knowing how to effectively set up a TOC and efficiently pass traffic, or even how many people your group really needs to be effective and why, rapidly take shape in a way that gets little to no attention elsewhere in prepper circles.

I had the honor of teaching a very tight knit, well prepared and well-trained group of folks in Tennessee over the weekend who’ve had classes with many of the best known and accomplished names in the training industry, including Thunder Ranch and Suarez International. What they have to say:

I just wanted to say a quick thanks for coming and teaching the class this weekend and that I really got a lot out of it. Hopefully we will be able to take more classes in the future as this is by far one of the best ones I have ever taken.

I hope you had a safe trip home yesterday. Take care.


From an author and fellow blogger I had the privilege of meeting in the class:

This weekend I was privileged to be able to participate in Brushbeater’s RTO class and I have to say it was well worth the money. A very relaxed atmosphere and easy, class driven pace almost hides the fact that you get a ton of knowledge and experience driven your way.

In addition to class time where we learned about different types of radio equipment and the operation of it, we also got to spend some time with hands on activities where we scratch built antennas from commonly available materials. Think the comms version of Macgyver. It’s amazing what you can do with bamboo, paracord, and wire.

One of my favorite parts of the class was the practice sessions where we took what we learned and what we built into the hills and woods and ran scenarios where we had to communicate using what we had. Transmitting reports and information and learning how to do it efficiently was especially useful. Plus we got to feed the ticks and mosquitoes (taking care of the local wildlife is an important social responsibility, you know).

A HUGE thanks to the guys who put all this together. Our location was top notch and our hosts were no less impressive. Most of all, a massive “Thank You” to NCScout for taking the time to put the class on and listen to our antics for a whole weekend. Hopefully we didn’t scar him for life.

Who knows, you might just read about some of what I learned in an upcoming book.

You can check this and other courses out here:


Rabbit Out

The course is designed to take what’s complicated and make it simple while creating a starting point for you and yours, no matter what your skill level is, whether you’re a beginner looking for the relevance, a guy who did the ham-cram and still ain’t sure why, a career electrical engineer or anywhere in between. The class is about what you can do with what you have, how to improvise what you don’t and adapt to wring the most out of it. What’s most impressive and continues to amaze me every class is the quality of students I get. That has nothing to do with me, that speaks volumes about you. There’s amazing people out there seeking good training and diversifying their skill sets; people who don’t live online, keep a low profile and would rather accomplish goals in reality while tolerating absolutely no nonsense. Y’all out there know the gravity of the situation and take it seriously. And that’s what motivates me.

We’ve got some open enrollment dates coming up, some upcoming dates out west to be announced very soon, and regional travel for private groups is always an option. It is an honor and a blessing to be able to train with you, and not one I take lightly.

God bless, and we’ll see you out there.

23 thoughts on “Why the RTO Course Exists and A Course Review From The Volunteer State

  1. Virgil

    This describes me exactly. I have my Ham ticket but most of that stuff doesn’t interest me. I would prefer to get out with a group of people, go to the woods, and just “make it work”. Doing all this alone is annoying, and finding like minded people is difficult. Thank you for the article

  2. Tac

    Hey on your August 11/12th class, what all do you need to bring, is it overnight in the field? Do we need gear etc? I couldn’t get enough folks in our group to bring you to us, so a few of us are interested in coming to you. Let me know of the details.

    Thanks God Bless, JC Knott

    1. Y’all are welcome to camp on site. Email me for more details.

      As for gear in class- I don’t require anyone to bring anything other than a notebook, pen, and comfortable shoes. If they want to get some hands on with their own equipment, they’re more than welcome to though.

    2. JC, Good to see you still around. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of Brushbeaters classes; but from what I read on this blog you will not be disappointed.


  3. Brian

    You mention ‘intercepting the ones the Taliban had built’.

    That would make for an interesting future article and I am sure there is something to be learnt from their efforts. Lets face it they have given a lot of capable people the run around for a long time so they must be doing a few things right !

  4. Charlie

    NC Scout, I’d like to ask questions about magnetic mount antennas for my Wrangler Hard top.
    Do you have a place to post questions? Thanks

  5. I for one am itching to get to a class, when my busy work schedule allows. I have experienced the pain that is the local Ham club, where I have had to endure passive aggression from the younger (i.e. 30’s-50’s) group of guys because it seems like an athletic guy in his 30’s is a threat to them. It’s a purely territorial thing, and has gone so far as fellows asking me why I’m at “their” Field Day since I’m not a member of their club (I was invited, thanks, but I won’t be coming back next year). Those kinds of attitudes do not help draw in new people, and many Hams who are running 500-1500W truly don’t understand just how unsustainable that station is WTSHTF. I agree that there is little value seen in much of the rag chew on local repeaters, and even less on 59 reports from DX that you can barely hear above the static crashes. That being said, there are good people out there if you can find them. My local repeater has a totally non-advertised group that sneaks onto it late a night to practice EMCOMMS, and also has a simplex 2m net set up similarly, to test ranges and traffic handling abilities if/when the repeater network goes down. I’d highly recommend new and old Hams alike to get active with the various traffic passing nets, especially if they offer on air training for passing traffic. Nets are active both on HF and VHF/UHF. That’s a dip of the toe in the waters of what I suspect your classes teach, but it should be a primer to get people ready for what the RTO class will cover. It is also not the only way to get involved. AMRRON is another, and I suggest them to anyone interested in grid down communications, traffic handling, and general preparedness topics. Start at AMRRON.com but don’t stop looking for their content there. Their stuff is all over the Internet, so I suggest a deep dive as you will find relevant YouTube videos, articles on traffic handling formats, digital modes, go bags, etc. Anyone interested may also want to look up the sadly defunct Partisan Radio Podcast, and for news commentary with a touch of comms information, Radio Free Redoubt. Once you have read up on them, consider joining AMRRON and download their SOI. Then get on their nets. I believe their digital comms information probably offers more to the aspiring team RTO than the voice nets, but sometimes voice is all you have (portable, anyone?) until you get your gear truly lined out, and then you should be capable of digital comms from the field. Also, as I’ve recommended before, this Field Day get your kit on, hike into the woods, and set up a station of your own. The traffic handling is minimal as it is a contest and everyone is “59” but the upside is it’s good training for real world, when conditions suck, weather sucks (it always rains on Field Day), and the guy at the other end is frantically relaying his message to you.

    1. That first bit sounds awfully familiar to me.

      For everyone reading this, don’t take the message as “all ham clubs” are bad- THEY’RE NOT! It’s simply an observation among the majority of folks in class, that their first stop has been the local club, and they’ve been given the cold shoulder in one way or another. And sometimes it could very well be that Joe Prepper shows up wanting to talk about doomsday-oriented stuff a little too much and a little too often (I’ve seen that too). Not everyone is into that, and not everyone cares about half-accurate books on EMP and “what we need to be doing!” Take it all for what it’s worth, and if they don’t suit you, its very easy to form your own.

      All that said, American Partisan [americanpartisan.org] which I’m a contributing editor to, will be having multimedia presentations in the future on a variety of topics, commo basics being one.

      1. Fact. Familiar here as well…

        While I’ve done my fair share of griping; like any other area of interest, there’s a large cross-sample of the greater population involved, with the kaleidoscope of personalities to match. Generally speaking, though, clubs ain’t for me…

  6. NCScout, I’m still impatiently waiting for you to give a class up here in Northern Idaho, I would run for that, and I hate running. 🙂

    As the meme states “Just shut up and take my money!”

  7. Daniel

    Excellent as usual and speaks directly to me. I got my Tech in March (rather easy), General in April (a bit more difficult), and Extra in May (a bitch) and I don’t know jack – after intense study for the tests I went from knowing nothing to knowing very little. I failed utterly in my attempt to lay the groundwork to get you to my location, so back to figuring out how to get to you. My local club is friendly enough but only one of them is interested in portable – the rest are into uberstations with antenna farms in concrete.


  8. Charlie

    Will a magnetic mount antenna work if attached to a piece of metal glued to the fiberglass top.
    I don’t know if it would be grounded or not.

    1. Yeah it’ll work, it just won’t work great. Putting the magnetic base on the lip between the hood and the windshield would work a bit better. The metal serves as the reflector, also known as a groundplane.

  9. Brent

    I’m tracking with you 150%. I got my license because I realized how vital communications are and I knew I needed to learn, since I knew nothing. I was less than impressed both times I tested, tech and general, with the local club guys there and continue to be anytime I monitor the local repeater. Like you said, I’m sure it’s not across the board, but don’t feel like spending my time going to club meetings and figuring out who is like minded. More than likely a futile effort.

    95% of everything I’ve learned is from this blog and a handful of YouTube guys. Thank you very much and hope to train and learn from you sometime in the future. One question I’ve wanted to ask you, I also have a Toughbook CF-19 for digital comms and programming. I have two batteries and a cigarette lighter plug power supply for 12 volt. What other ways can I employ for off grid powering of the Toughbook?
    Thanks NCScout!

    1. Thank you for reading!

      I run a 19 also- two things I’d add. First, clip a few torroids on the power cable to the 12v plug. It generates a ton of noise. The other thing is get a decent sized fold up solar panel. There’s a lot of really good ones out there for not a lot of money.

      1. Brent

        Roger that and thanks. One other question, do you anticipate having RTO classes in the February to say April range of next year? I’m in Ohio and unfortunately I don’t think I can get enough time off anytime this year. But early next year will be a different story. Thanks in advance

      2. Lord willing, we will, along with quite a few other classes that I’m putting together, aside from the ones listed on the training page.

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