Saturday, June 21, 2014

Field Day

A phrase to strike fear (well, dread)  in the hearts of the staunchest Marine, Amateur Radio Field Day is a much more pleasant experience*. Held the last weekend of June every year, technically Field Day runs from Saturday morning through to Sunday morning, but many, if not most, clubs only operate on Saturday.

From the American Radio Relay League's press release:
ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations.
Field Day is a picnic, a campout, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and, most of all, FUN!
It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some will treat it as a contest, other groups use the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the organizations that Amateur Radio might serve in an emergency, as well as the general public. For many clubs, ARRL Field Day is one of the highlights of their annual calendar.
The contest part is simply to contact as many other stations as possible and to learn to operate our radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions.
We use these same skills when we help with events such as marathons and bike-a-thons; fund-raisers such as walka-thons; celebrations such as parades; and exhibits at fairs, malls and museums — these are all large, preplanned, non-emergency activities.
But despite the development of very complex, modern communications systems — or maybe because they ARE so complex — ham radio has been called into action again and again to provide communications in crises when it really matters. Amateur Radio people (also called “hams”) are well known for our communications support in real disaster and post-disaster situations.
I sometimes call it the "no-contest contest" because the only prizes are braggin' rights for getting a large amount of points for your category. And, perhaps, because everyone who plays wins. One (or one's club) gets extra points for operating "off mains", outside, for public contacts -- especially for having the press and/or elected officials show up -- and for running a "Get On The Air", or GOTA, station, where new or non-hams can use a radio to communicate with someone.

From a general public viewpoint, the fact that everything we practice on Field Day is directly applicable to the public service aspects of ham radio is probably paramount. (Well, except maybe the BBQ/potluck...)

Despite being a curmudgeonly introvert, I rather enjoy the day.  This will be the first Field Day I've been to in two years; two years ago I was not able to get the day off, and last year our the Drang Clan Alaska Cruise and Reunion sailed on Field Day.  (I suppose I could have tried my handheld for a few Marine Mobile contacts, but I wasn't sure there would have been a point...)

If you'd like to check it out, the ARRL has a Field Day Station Locator at the link; if you're in South King County, WA, my own club is going to be at 
841 S 308th
Federal Way, WA
There are 51 stations listed on the ARRL's map for Washington State, most of them west of the Cascades.  There are probably some that are not listed. There are a 1383 stations listed for the US and Canada, so there is probably one not too far from you.  (Unless you're surfing the net via satellite from the International Space Station, in which case there's a good chance you're a ham and planning to operate from orbit.  How many points for Moon Bounce...?)

Links to some related stories:
*Added military pun, seen at Bill Quick's emergency preps forum: "It's a party, but not a GI Party!"

1 comment:

LibertyNews said...

Thanks for the reminder! I've been inactive too long.