The third review for the incredible weekend and experience comes by the way of AmRRON Corps member and AmRRON Dark Labs project developer, Sprocket. He is quite a capable and incredibly knowledgeable radioman in his own right, as well as a man I’m proud to say I’ve met and will be working with in the future. His thoughts on the course:
I attended NC Scout’s recent RTO Basic class in Montana. This class is advertised as teaching basic team/squad level communications in a field level environment, it absolutely achieves it’s goals there. It is stated that it is not an amateur radio class. That is mostly correct, although it does cover some common topics and answers the “why should I bother to get my amateur radio license” question. Not directly, but if your paying attention the answer is there.
The class started off laying down some important radio concepts and how they fit into the team/squad dynamic. Then proceeded to go into creating a SOI ( Signals Operating Instructions ), taking in to account the capabilities of equipment available, that we used for the class. This SOI contained a PACE plan for frequencies, tactical call signs, authentication schemes; both over the air and in person, and code words. All of this was used extensively in the class.
Once the SOI was defined and filled in, we moved on to basic traffic handling and report formats. Then we split up into groups and went outside for hands on, transmitting the different report formats between groups. We had several HAMS in class as well as a few who had never used a radio before. All were given a chance to practice sending and receiving, and NC Scout encouraged and instructed all.
After lunch we went over line of sight and beyond line of site, again. This time the focus was on repeaters, what they are, how they work, and how to use them. VHF/UHF antennas were next up. We covered various types and their use, and some formulas for building wire antennas from commonly found materials. Then it was back to hands on, building jungle antennas. Then back outside to hook them up and hear them work, illustrating the gain over the stock antennas on our HTs. After that, back in again to cover Yagis, Moxon, and short vertical dipoles.
After an aside about Digital mode HTs (DMR, DPMR, P25, NXDN, etc…), we dove straight into HF. We went over skip-zone and how to get around that for regional communications using NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave). Then on to building another antenna, this time a 40m dipole, which we hooked up to a variety of transceivers and tried it out. Band conditions were horrible but we did see quite a bit of traffic using FT8Call on 40m. We were unable to make any contacts due to the laptop clock being off a bit, but the traffic was there, the antenna worked.
Day 2 started at 09:00 hrs. We dove right into Operations orders (OPORD) and what go into them. Touched a bit on CCIRs and PIRs (Commanders Critical Intel Requirements and Priority Intel Requirements) and then dove into what it takes to setup a CP/TOC (Command Post/Tactical Operations Center). There is quite a bit involved in supporting teams in the field and if you haven’t done it before, there is a lot you don’t even know you don’t know. Once this was covered it was time to put it all in action.
We split into a patrol team and the TOC team. After a quick radio check in the classroom, the patrol team went out to observe OPFOR and send back reports. Here is where the SOI and PACE plan for frequencies showed how important good planning is. The TOC team was in a metal building and as soon as the patrol team started out, we lost communication with them on VHF, our primary (P) frequency. We switched to the alternate (A) frequency on UHF and were back in business. That really drove home the need for planning and for having frequency agile equipment.
After observing the OPFOR and sending SALUTE, SALT, and other reports to the TOC, and having them confirmed, we switched roles and did it again. Everybody got to participate and send and receive traffic. Once this exercise was completed, we went back into the building for an after action report (AAR) for the exercise and the class in general.
No matter your experience level, there is something in this class for you. NC Scout’s depth and breadth of experience and expertise in the subject matter, combined with his easy going manner and excellent teaching skills made this class absolutely enjoyable to attend.
If you think you are going to be able to do all this without any training when it really matters, you are sorely mistaken. You can’t afford not to take this class, and you have to practice, practice, and practice.
I will be attending the Advanced RTO class as soon as possible and will make it a point to take the lessons learned here and implement them in our group. Thank you NC Scout for an excellent class.
Again, I’d like to offer a generous thanks to everyone who both attended and made the course happen. The training and fellowship made the class worth it in many more ways than one. We will be offering it again in the spring, Lord willing.
We’ll see you out there.