Context: Identifying Commo Needs For Former Action Guys

I get a TON of emails a day- many more than I can usually get to- but this one stood out to me due to not just what it was asking but the context. I knew immediately from the writer’s language that he was a former trigger puller, and had the exact same questions I had when I got out.

Just what are the civilian equivalents to this commo gear I was issued?

Its not an easy question and the answer is muddy- hell, its taken me years to get it right and I’m still working on it. There’s no easy answer and definitely no one-size-fits-all, but then again I learned later on there was no such thing while I was in either.

Hey Brother – getting my comms game back in shape and found some really great info on your site! Great stuff!

So civilian radios are a bit different than the cinder blocks we used to carry in our rucks. I’d like to replicate a mobile setup (in ruck) that would have some additional range – more than team handsets (grms and other UHF/VHF). I’m still boning up my knowledge, but saw a seemingly good setup on Dan Morgan’s site (KX3). What is a good (rugged if possible – or the ability to) RTO setup that will give good intra-team comms and have decent range to communicate back to a base station (TOC) that is ruck-able? What is you’re dream RTO setup? Rechargable batteries would be ideal. Moderate to expensive radios is ok. Any direction you can give me would be greatly appreciated. You’re site is a treasure! thanks for sharing!


Hey Brother!
Thanks for the very kind words. Anything you need, just ask.
Your starting at the same point I did when I got out- looking for civi-side answers to the equipment I had when I was in. And…the Brushbeater blog is those answers, for the most part.
Think of the handhelds (Baofeng?) in kind of the same role as an MBTIR or 152. With the right antenna, they can do pretty well. VHF is better in rural environments, UHF in urban. You’ll need two things for more range- antenna height and more power. For more power, you’re gonna want a mobile *or* build a better antenna you can hang in the trees. That’s what we do with the various antennas we build in the RTO Course. You can easily run one out of a ruck. Pick up a Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) Battery. I use the 7AH ones. One you pick up a couple of those you can rig them to the power wires using Anderson Power Poles.
Now onto HF- whole other animal. Check out my old posts on NVIS. The role of HF is for regional communications. Don’t expect to get reliable local commo with HF because that’s not really how it works. When Dan wrote his post on the KX3, it was the only one on the market of its type but these days there’s a lot better out there, especially in the durability department. They are NOT durable by any stretch of the word. The CTX-10 is much better (and smaller). Both are on the expensive end of things and you’ll need a General Amateur radio license to actually get on the air with it.
As for my ‘ideal’ ruck setup, I actually go pretty light and it depends on what I’m doing. For <10 miles, I’m using a Quansheng UV-R50, data cable, Android device (or toughbook for digital data bursts) and a Yagi antenna aimed back at whatever operating element is handling communications support for the operation. Interteam commo can be run through the same. (Check out my post on American Partisan called ‘no encryption no problem’] That keeps my equipment light and tight, and I can carry a couple of spares and not notice it. If I’m moving further than 10 miles, I’m carrying my CTX-10 as well.
Also keep in mind communications in unconventional warfare is a lot different than conventional/big Army stuff. For clandestine operations you’re going to be using commo windows, or a designated time the team is transmitting/receiving information. I wrote a post a long time ago about it and I cover it in detail in class. A small battery can last a long time when used the way I teach it. Its an adjustment in mindset for sure. Last, keep in mind that as much as you get from reading you’ll get 10x as much from coming to class- we do it all hands on, and you’re going to come away with a lot more than you planned on getting.
God bless,
NC Scout

11 thoughts on “Context: Identifying Commo Needs For Former Action Guys

  1. Pingback: Brushbeater: Identifying Commo Needs For Former Action Guys | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  2. Homer

    This is absolutely true….”Last, keep in mind that as much as you get from reading you’ll get 10x as much from coming to class- we do it all hands on, and you’re going to come away with a lot more than you planned on getting”………some things are best learned hands on in person. These RTO classes are some of the beat money you will spend and worth traveling for.

  3. John McEwing

    A few things to add to NC Scouts comments.
    1) His RTO classes are great, and I highly recommend them. As a side note: One of the antenna’s that a student builds at the RTO 101 class, I built one for my neighbor in town. She monitors 2-meter frequencies like; police, fire, the two local repeaters of importance, the comm frequencies of our little group, etc. on 2-meters. The antenna was put in her attic and it is outstanding at TXing & RXing.
    2) The CTX-10 is a super radio. It can TX up to 10-watts, has an internal tuner, sips battery juice, and for the most part a sealed radio which is nice if you are caught in a rain shower. also listens to its customers. With that written it does have some drawbacks like; only covers 10 to 80-meters and does not come with a mic. Yupper you must buy a mic for the unit which is another $75- or so.
    3) I use a Yaesu 817nd as my ruck radio. It covers all bands from UHF to 160-meters. The top wattage is 5-watts which is not as good as ten, obviously; However, that has never stopped me. During the last 13 Colonies contest I was able to make QSO’s with 15 out of the 16 possible stations situated from Georgia to Massachusetts and as far east as Great Britain. This radio costs $300-$350- cheaper than the CTX-10. So, take a gander at this ruck radio too.
    4) Your radio is only as good as your antenna (s). So many folks go cheap there and really miss out on what their radio can accomplish.
    5) Whatever you choose to use, USE IT! Perfect practice makes perfect. “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice mages perfect.” Lombardi.

  4. Morpheus

    I was original requester. NC Scout, thanks again for sending me the info. I figured this would save me some time establishing a baseline and I can pivot from there. Appreciate the feedback from other readers!

  5. Hank

    Brushbeater, ARRL book “Low Power Communication” mentions in Chapter Nine that the military employed a “drag wire” to provide a counterpoise for 1/4 length vertical HF antennas. Would you comment on that? Thanks, Hank

    1. It’s just a wire running along the ground parallel to the antenna wire. You’d ‘drag’ it out under the antenna. The reasons you might want to do this is if you’ve got poor soil (won’t reflect or absorbs too much RF) or your antenna is too low to the ground. The wire creates a new reflector for your signal.

      1. Ah! Ok. It’s still a counterpoise, just rigged slightly different. Remember from class when I drew the dipole diagram? That drag wire counterpoise is essentially the ‘cold’ end of the dipole.

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