One of the best things about running this blog, without a doubt, has been the interaction I’ve had with so many good folks. Communications are that area that makes or breaks a unit at the tactical level and unfortunately, those same tactical communications have been the most misunderstood or neglected area of knowledge in the arsenal of most. Many seem to think either it’s a one and done kinda thing or the skills are supposed to just come to you when they dig that case of Baofengs up during the inevitable crisis. It won’t. And the Ham crowd is definitely not above problems either- there’s a world of difference between tactical communications and what’s done in amateur radio- although it’s the only viable way to practice the necessary skills. Then again that’s why my RTO Course has been the incredible success it is, thus far. This letter from a reader really captures the mindset of many though, and with his permission I’m posting it.
I’ve been following you for a while and applaud your efforts at instructing folks on communications. I’ve had an interest in ham radio since 1959 and been licensed since 1975. Main interests have been 160 and 6. 5BDXCC and almost 300 grid squares confirmed on 6 from this QTH. Enough about me.
My gunny friends know about my radio activities and consider me a subject matter expert. That means I know more than they do! The big problem I see are is lazy approach to commo. They want to buy a top of the line xcvr [transceiver] and plug/play with the magic antenna that does every thing for them. I tried to make one of those but I couldn’t find enough wire that contained >50% Unobtainium. I stress that in order to communicate when SHTF, you must become active and somewhat proficient now. If your AI/AO is rf-dead now, someone you won’t like will notice it when it becomes radioactive during bad times. Make sure that your station is part of the normal landscape. This is about the time their eyes start to glaze over. A friend recently established a GMRS network for local comms, but doesn’t take the time to study for his ham license. He’s an Airbus Captain with Navy flying experience so there’s no questioning his technical ability.
Getting people to be honest about their realistic AI/AO is a big problem. How much can you influence, much less control? Can you actually defend and control your 1 acre lot? You don’t need 20M for that!
I consider my technical and operating skills to be proficient, nothing more. A few years back I wondered how many of the population of General, Advanced, and Extra Class hams could make contacts over a three day span with CA, GA, and ME from their location in GA. They would be provided a Kenwood 520, a straight key and 150’ of wire and sufficient coax. Commercial power would be available and all necessary hand tools provided. I think we’d be shocked at how few could do it.
People actually think there is a radio that allows for unlimited range and can be man-packed AND is just plug and play. They don’t like the idea of a $40,000 satellite phone. That’s a harsh reality. A Yaesu backpack radio would work well, but the skill requirement goes up quite a bit.
The recent article about a G5RV or its derivative was interesting. [Link to that here] Where would the uninitiated find door-knob caps? I prefer to keep my comm thoughts centered on 80-40-10 and 2. Let’s also consider the wealth of CB equipment in closets. That and a dipole strung vertically would probably cover more territory than we will be able to control.
I’m giving some thought to a pair of 135’ dipoles connected at 90 degrees and fed with 450 ohm ladder line. Probably use a Nye-Viking tuner. I’ve read about this on 75/80 for broad-banding and wonder if this would work to reduce nulls.
I hadn’t given much thought to the public safety infrastructure and its ability to function as the canary in a coal mine. [Link to that here] Great observation. I wonder how many departments could revert quickly to their 150/460 systems?
Keep up the good work. Let’s hope this is all for practice and never needed.
Spot on observations. And if you find yourself or your group with that hole in your training, I can help with that. There’s two dates for the RTO Course this spring and one in the Redoubt. 2019 is already showing signs of instability ahead. Are you ready?