Another Student AAR For The RTO Course

Every class and every opportunity to work with great people is a gigantic blessing as well as a reminder of why I do this. For me, as noted at the end of this AAR, is the quality of student I get in class- to a person I’ve been humbled by the commitment and enthusiasm exhibited.

AAR Brushbeater RTO class 9-10 June 2018

This represents a group AAR, reflecting the opinions of four individuals in the class.

There were eight students, one woman and seven men, most from the southeast, but some from as far as California. One particularly gracious accommodation made by NC Scout and his family, for those who were not local to the area, was to provide a place for people to camp, an indoor shower and toilet, and hot, home cooked meals Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday breakfast and lunch.

Although an amateur radio background is not a requirement, most had technician or general licenses, with a couple of extra class licenses. Students were not expected to bring their own radios, though this was not discouraged; radios were provided for the practical exercises. Although NC Scout devoted some time to higher power rigs and HF, the bulk of the class focused on HT radios.

Class started 0900 Saturday morning with adoption of a Signals Operating Index for the weekend. The class discussed a PACE plan, selecting primary, alternate, and contingency frequencies, and an emergency signal, as well as call signs, challenge & password pairs, numeric challenges, and Search and Rescue Numeric Encryption Groups.

Next, NC Scout discussed radio traffic handling, and then moved into report formats, designed to keep transmissions short and to the point without sacrificing pertinent information. The class learned about initial entry reports, SALUTE and SALT intelligence reports, as well as others important to the prepper community.

Having completed this, the class was divided into two groups, who walked out into the woods, and radioed reports to each other.

Next came a discussion of VHF/UHF for local communication, and the construction of antennas using inexpensive and readily available materials. After each student had built a 292 Jungle VHF antenna, NC Scout took the class out to demonstrate how these makeshift antennas had greater gain than the factory antenna on a hand-held.

After this we talked about directional antennas, antenna polarization, frequency selection, digital radio, and other techniques which can reduce the likelihood of eavesdropping. Some of the most interesting discussion centered around the use of digital radio, including the use of packet (AX-25 & WinLink) with HT radios and digital protocol HT radios.

The final didactic talk addressed HF for regional communication, and the day ended around 1800.

Class resumed Sunday at 0900, and was devoted to a field exercise, based upon a scenario of civil unrest, with the need for a reconnaissance patrol of the property. Class was divided into two groups, with one group patrolling, and the other manning the tactical operations center. The patrol group scouted, and radioed back to the TOC using one of the field expedient antennas from Saturday, and after the patrol was completed, the groups switched roles.

Class ended around 1400 after a debrief. NC Scout welcomed suggestions and criticism, and pointed out that he was constantly updating the class based upon this feedback.

One point that NC Scout emphasized was the primacy of knowledge over equipment – doing things cheaply using better technique. When he talked about specific brands and models, he did this to point out particular features, strengths, or weaknesses.  He explained the pros and cons of the equipment that he owned and why they were important, but never pushed a specific product. The class was much more about learning your own equipment and how to use what you have, rather than what you needed to buy.

For example, the class issue radio was a Baofeng. While NC Scout pointed out some of the disadvantages of this brand, a popular budget/entry level HT, in the exercises we learned to work around its limitations. By building a handmade antenna with <$5 worth of parts and 10 minutes of effort and placing it high, we were able to hit a repeater 25 miles away using a 4-watt $30 Baofeng. No need for a power-hog rig that dims the neighborhood street lights when you hit the push-to-transmit button.

Another point that was made clear was that even high level hams — with extra class licenses and years of experience contesting, chasing DX, passing traffic in nets, participating in ARES, and building antennas and equipment — did not necessarily have the skills that might be needed if our nation entered a period of conflict and unrest. NC Scout taught some of these skills, and pointed the direction for interested students to learn more on their own after they returned home.

A final point was that with the quality and interests of the students, as well as the atmosphere that NC Scout cultivated, some of the most valuable aspects of the weekend were the useful and informative conversations among groups of students and with NC Scout, related to radio communication as well as to general preparedness and even politics. All of us left with new friends and new ideas.

This is the only class of its kind taught anywhere that I’m aware of. There’s two additional open enrollments scheduled:

  • 14-15 July
  • 11-12 August

Email me at [email protected] for more details.

7 thoughts on “Another Student AAR For The RTO Course

  1. Mark

    Folks, I was in the exact class described above and cannot recommend It enough. It’s relaxed enough to make a vacation trip of it, but packed with good info that’s presented in a way as to not intimidate the novice.

    Who am I? Just a guy who wanted to learn more. What do I know? Not much…I have a technicians license and not a lot of know-how to use it. What did I get out of the deal? A working knowledge of how to organize a small group and communicate effectively all the while learning a whole bunch of ways to avoid being located electronically and how someone just might do that.

    Good stuff, for sure. Can’t recommend it enough.

  2. Matt

    Great summary of the course, I’m glad to see this as I envisioned it being more of a HF/NVIS oriented course. Thanks to the reviewer for the good writeup.


    1. The concept is covered and demonstrated. But this class is meant to be the most practical and hands on it possibly can be in a weekend’s time.

  3. You’re killin me, I can’t make it out this year, too many up front expenses moving to the new places in Northern Idaho (preparing for winter and slowly shaping my forest). Could you stand being groped by the TSA to fly up here to teach the course? 😀

  4. Pingback: An Improvised Directional Wire Antenna – brushbeater

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