Armed Forces Day Crossband Test

I had a fairly successful day participating in the Armed Forces Day Crossband Test. To recap, I am currently at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for a brief period of time supporting a National Guard exercise. Normally when I go around to different Army units and assist in their exercises I fly. But I decided to take my Toyota Tundra on this trip and re-installed my HF rig. I have never preiously particpated in the Armed Forces Day Crossband Test and have always wanted to…. this was my chance.

The AFD Crossband Test has two components to it. The first is to receive a message from the Secretary of Defense which is transmitted in various digital modes from different military stations during the day. The second part of the Test is to make contact with the military stations with the military stations operating in their band and the amateurs in their band (hence the term “Crossband”).

For the Secretary of Defense message I hooked my Rigblaster Plug & Play to my IC-706MKIIG and brought my laptop into the truck (which has fldigi installed). The Rigblaster worked like a charm and I was able to copy the SECDEF’s message from WAR (at The Pentagon), AAZ (Fort Huachuca, AZ), and AIR-2 (New York). All these transmissions were in RTTY, which fldigi was able to read without issue. Now I need to print out copies of the messages I copied (which are the same, except the header information which reflects what station was transmitting the message) and send them in to the corresponding station. In return, I believe, I’ll receive a certificate from the SECDEF (suitable for framing, I’m sure).

The crossband contacts caused me to take a crash course in split frequency operations for my IC-706MKIIG. Fortunately I had my Nifty “Cliff Notes” version of the manual and was able to figure it out pretty quick. Although the actual execution took a bit of time to get down. First, obviously, I had to hear the station calling. MARS HQ publishes ahead of time a list of each station and the frequency that they will transmit from. I built a spreadsheet that allowed me to sort by frequency which made it easier to search for the transmitting station. The searching was done in the IC-706MKIIG’s VFO A. Once I found the station, I had to listen for them to announce the amateur frequency they were listening to… which most stations did periodically. Once I got their listening frequency, I flipped over to VFO B, dialed up the frequency, tuned the Tarheel screwdriver antenna, flipped back to VFO A, then hit the Split function, and waited for a chance to call. In the end, I was successful in contacting five different stations: WAR (at The Pentagon), NWKJ (located on the USS Yorktown, Charleston, SC), NMN0CQQ (located on the USS Midway, San Diego, CA), AAZ (good ol’ Fort Huachuca, AZ), and NWVC (a Navy MARS station in Indiana). For these contacts I get to send in my QSL card and hope for a response.

None of this was exotic DX but it was fun and exciting… and a bit challenging trying to do it all from inside my Toyota Tundra. I hope I am able to particpate again next year.
















Hold The Cheese Jokes

The road trip to Wisconsin went off without an issue. Despite the poor weather the night before, the skies generally cleared in the morning and I encountered only a few drops of rain during the first hour or so. By noon, the skies were blue and pleasant. The route was straightforward; I-35N, then I-90E.

I enjoyed using my mobile HF rig on the trip, mostly listening to pass the time but also having a few QSOs. There is a regional 40M net that occurs around 1100 AM (Central) that often has an NCS, Dave, KE0DL, who I talk to from time to time on the local repeater. I was able to check into the net and say hello to Dave. Then I made my way up to 17M and the band was hot with European DX for the rest of my trip: Hungary, Bosnia, Russia, Belgium, and Kaliningrad (a new one for me… I think). I was able to bust the pileups even with out adding the “mobile” to the end of my call.

This Saturday is the Armed Forces Day Crossband Test. The purpose of the event is to “give Amateur Radio operators and Short Wave Listeners (SWL) an opportunity to demonstrate their individual technical skills, and to receive recognition from the appropriate military radio station for their proven expertise.” Cooperation between civilian radio enthusiats and the military can trace its roots back to the Washington’s Birthday Amateur Relay Message back in Februrary 1916 in which a message was originated from the Army’s Rock Island Arsenal and was then passed over amateur relays around the country. Prior to and after WWII, the relationship between civilian amateurs and the military evolved to events more similar to what we see today with the Army Day and Navy Day messages from their respective service secretaries.

I have never participated in the Armed Forces Day Crossband Test but am hoping to this Saturday. I am going to try and copy the Secretary of Defense’s message via one of the digital modes. Once the message is copies, I can send in a copy (via mail) in order to receive a certificate. I think it will be fun to participate in this event – we will see how it goes.

On The Road Again

When I left for Korea, I had to pull out the HF installation on my truck… as the truck was staying in Kansas and I was not. Pulling out the rig and tuner was easy. The Tarheel antenna was also fairly simple. A disconnect at the base and then I coiled up the feedline and the cable that powers the screwdriver so they would be mostly out of the elements.

I returned back to Kansas last June but did not reinstall my HF setup in the truck. My only real modification was swapping out my VHF/UHF antenna with a fold-over. The new house afords me the opportunity to park in the garage(!) but rather than unscrewing the antenna every time I enter the garage, now I just have to pull it down. Works great.

My assignment here in Kansas has me traveling quite a bit and this week I am headed up to Wisconsin. I have only driven through Wisconsin once so instead of flying, I am going to make the 9 hour drive. This had me thinking that if I am on the road for 9 hours, I need my HF rig. So today I put the radio back in and reattached the Tarheel antenna.

Everything was set – I fired up the rig and heard the Turbo Tunner beep that it was on and ready. I hit the 706’s tuner button but the screwdriver failed to turn. Troubleshooting time. I took the base of the antenna down to the bench. Then I dug out the original rocker switch that came with the Tarheel. I hooked it up to the bench power supply and then hit the switch. Nothing. After a bit of jiggeling and wiggeling, the screwdriver engaged. I guess the almost two year siesta had taken a bit of a toll.

After a test drive today, it appears as if the mobile HF rig is working FB!… one QSO with North Carolina and another with Massachusetts. So look for me (AD7MI-9) as I make my way to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin and maybe I will catch you on 20M.

LTC Harvey M. Dick: Aug 9, 1927 – Jan 28, 2012

I am a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. To be honest, I am not exactly sure what possessed me to pick that school to attend. It was about as far away from my home in California as I could get. It represented the epitome of military discipline and Southern culture – both completely alien to me. But in August of 1987, I arrived at The Citadel and managed to survive the ordeal, emerging in May of 1991 with both the highly coveted Citadel Ring and a bachelors degree.

During my four years at The Citadel, there was one gentleman who stood out larger than life… and that was Lieutenant Colonel Harvey M. Dick, Assistant Commandant of Cadets. His primary responsibility was to oversee the discipline of the Corps of Cadets, a task he carried out firmly and fairly. He had a booming, slightly higher pitched voice that carried a great distance. He had the tenancy to refer to any cadet who was doing something wrong as a “Delbert Dumbass”.

The Citadel is not an easy place. Beyond the academic rigors and outside the classroom the rules of conduct and appearance were strict. Free time very limited. Failure to comply with the rules resulted in swift punishment that was realized through the awarding of “Tours” or “Confinements”. A Tour was one-hour, at a specially designated time (mainly during the weekend), were a cadet walks back and forth across the barracks with an M-14 rifle in silence. A Confinement was an hour spent at your desk studying. Both Tours and Confinements were performed in uniform with brass belt buckle and black low-quarter shoes shined to a brightness known as “blitzed”. Until a cadet had finished serving the required Tours or Confinements he (and I say he because while I was there it was all-male) was restricted to campus (a dry campus containing little entertainment). While on restriction, a cadet had to sign in on the hour, every hour during non-class days from Reveille to Taps (assuming they were not actually walking Tours or sitting Confinements at the time). If, for some reason, a cadet failed to report on time…. the punishments increased.

To be fair – there were no surprises as to what a cadet could or could not do. So when LTC Dick meted out punishment, it never really came as unexpected. LTC Dick believed that if you did the crime, you do the time and that you’d be a better man for it. If you really believed that there had been a miscarriage of justice, you could go to LTC Dick’s office, plead your case, and beg for mercy. If your argument was unique, original, or really compelling he may have let you slide. Otherwise you were told to “About Face” and hit the highway.

Despite his role as the senior disciplinarian, he was beloved by the entire Corps of Cadets. At football games (which was mandatory attendance for all cadets (in uniform too)) a cheer often went up where half the cadets yelled “HARVEY” and then the other half would yell “DICK”…. over and over until he would stand up and everyone would cheer. Another football favorite was when the band played the theme from Hawaii Five-O and LTC Dick would come down to the sideline and stand on a surf board that was held aloft by the male cheerleaders. He was really the only senior officer we ever saw who actually displayed any sense of humor.

From a discipline standpoint, I did okay. I never got a Tour but did sit a number of Confinements. I successfully avoided any major trouble and with that managed to avoid LTC Dick. Until May about five days before graduation……

To make a long story short, back in March I had brought a bottle of whiskey into the barracks and had placed it in an unused set of drawers in my room which I shared with another senior. The room was designed to fit four, but there were only two of us – we were seniors and got the extra space for that reason. Possession of alcohol on campus had just been changed from a punishment of 120 Tours to expulsion just three or four months earlier. Here is the kicker – I forgot about the bottle. We had made it to May, finals complete and preperations made for walking across the stage to get our diplomas. At the end of the year the cadet company commander and TAC officer (an active duty Captain) conduct an inventory of all the furniture in each room. I was out with my fellow seniors in downtown Charleston drinking beer when the TAC officer discovered the whiskey bottle in the drawer. Upon my return to campus I was informed what had happened and told that I was restricted to campus until further notice. My heart dropped through the floor. Five days before graduation. My parents and realtives were coming out from California. Punishment for possession of alcohol was expulsion. The TAC officer came and talked to me to tell me there would be a Diciplinary Board that would meet to review my violation of the rules. At this point, I did not know where to turn. A classmate recommended I go see LTC Dick. I went to his house and he brought me in and sat me down. He listened to my story, never blinking, stairing straight through me. He told me to go back to my room and wait for my TAC officer to tell me what would be my fate.

They let me off the hook. I was told that had I “lawyered up”, finding the bottle would have been considered “illegal search and seizure”. Knowing that all of us cadets have no expected right to privacy (I had taken a Constitutional Law class afterall), I knew they had just given me a pass. But I can tell you that for my few remaining days at The Citadel, I walked on pins and needles… amazed when I was handed my diploma but a better man for the lesson I learned.

In hindsight, I believe LTC Dick knew that I was going to graduate when I went to see him. He rightly let me stew in not knowing my future for a few additional and painful hours to let the lesson sink in.

LTC Dick gave up his role as assistant commandant in 1993 but continued to remain deeply involved in The Citadel up until his death this past Saturday. In my association with the military since my days at The Citadel, I can’t think of an officer that I have had a higher degree of respect and esteem for. I hope Saint Peter remembered to shine up his halo before LTC Dick arrived… or ol’ Saint Pete will be walking Tours!

Huntington acquires trove of Lincoln, Civil War telegrams, codes

…. The cardboard-covered telegraphic ledgers of up to 400 pages had been stowed away by Thomas Eckert (1825-1910), a pioneering telegraph operator who ran the U.S. military’s telegraph office at the War Department in Washington, D.C., from 1863 to 1867. The collection also includes ledgers from 1862, when Eckert served as telegraph chief for Gen. George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac

In February 1862, two months before sharing command with Grant at the Battle of Shiloh, an important and extremely bloody Union victory in Tennessee, Gen. Don Carlos Buell sent a telegram from his headquarters in Louisville, Ky., to unknown recipients code-named Andes and Ocean, complaining of “constant intrigue to displace army officers” under his command, “which I beg you to defeat … until I tell you there is just cause. I learn that Col. Hazin is one of the purposed victims. His removal would be gross injustice and a serious loss.”

After the concluding signature, “Alvard” — Buell’s code name — appear three additional words: “Good for Alvard,” a nod of approval by a telegraph operator putting in his own two cents. Tsapina said she also has found instances in which telegraph operators tacked on insider investment tips to one another, based on how the battlefield news they were transmitting might affect the market price of cotton or gold.

Read the full article here

Autumn = amateur radio time

Out here in Kansas, on the eastern edge of the prarie, the leaves are turning and the first frost is upon us. The time is NOW to get the hamshack in order.

(1) My VHF/UHF antenna and Davis weather station NEEDS to get mounted up on the chimney. I have the mounting brackets – thin aluminium straps that circumnavigate the chiminey. However, the roof at the new QTH is basically three stories high and the roof itself is pretty steep. Too steep for me. The solution? I am trying to get a local roofing company to give me an estimate for the job.

(2) The HF antenna. In the course of sorting through all the hamshack flotsam, I’ve started to identify “stuff” I can part with. Already I’ve said goodbye to some old MFJ TNCs, the Kenwood TS-930S, and my old TinyTrak (thank you Craigslist!). There’s more to part with and I’m still in the process of identfying them (… like an ICOM PCR-1000, TenTec RX-320, and a D-STAR DV Dongle for starters). More importantly (and back on topic), I unearthed two in-the-package wire antennas. The first is an 80M OCF dipole from RadioWavz and the second is a G5RV+ from RadioWorks. Now I need to dust off the CSV19 Pneumatic Antenna Launcher and let the tennis balls fly.

(3) Once I have my antenna situation under control, I can take the hamshack innards to the next level.

Questions to ponder:

Do I retain the hardcopy collection of QST magazines I’ve been carting around since 2005ish? Starting for the late 40’s, it is a solid collection up to 2000. It takes up a great deal of space and I have the same issues on CD. I’d like to find the collection a new (local) home, if possible.

My new job has me on the road – it would be great to take some gear on the road with me. What to take? Needs to have a small footprint. Sounds like a job for the KX1. What to use for an antenna?

Ham radio and my year in Korea

Here is a a re-cap of my amateur radio activities during my past twelve months in Korea:

(1) DX – I enjoyed working a good bit of DX, enjoying most QSOs with stateside contacts as well as Pacific exotics. The greatest limitation I had was my operation location and resulting inability to ideally situate an HF antenna. Living in the barracks (the ultimate in CC&R) restricted any type of permanent antenna installation, further limiting my options. I solely used a Buddipole (which after many additional accessory purchases, became two Buddipoles). Despite the antennas being positioned next to a three story building, I was able to make contacts to North America, South America, Europe, and even Africa. I credit this to improved band conditions over the past months and also the Buddipole… it’s a keeper.

(2) EchoIRLP node – I brought my embedded EchoIRLP node to Korea and interfaced it with a Kenwood VHF/UHF rig. Again, with my poor location and inability, I could not have an antenna installed outdoors. Instead, I kept the Kenwood rig at its minimum wattage setting and used a roll-up J-Pole made from ladder line. With my HT also set on minimum power, I was able to make effective use of the EchoIRLP node. My primary contacts via the node were with the XYL back in Kansas. She has a mobile VHF rig, to include APRS. I could check to see when she was on the road for her morning or afternoon commutes, connect through my EchoIRLP node here in Korea to our EchoIRLP node back in Kansas. With the XYL’s rig set to the frequency of the Kansas node, I could frequently ride along with the XYL and harmonics as they moved about. Additionally, the Echolink capability of the embedded node allowed me to regularly talk to my dad, KD6EUG, while he connected to my node via an app on his cell phone. Another great enjoyment was the ability to monitor the different IRLP reflectors and sometimes participate in ongoing nets. I am sold on the flexability of the embedded EchoIRLP node and will take it with me again when I get deployed for a long duration.

(3) D-STAR – starting with a D-STAR Dongle, I moved to a DV Access Point and got an ICOM D-STAR HT. I enjoyed playing with D-STAR and the ease of having the Access Point as well as the IC-92AD ( made using D-STAR pretty straight forward. There is no aruging that the audio quality for D-STARS is poor. The complicated nature of setting up a rig at home for the XYL would also make D-STAR a poor choice to replace the EchoIRLP node. However, I enjoyed having the flexibility of having the ability of getting on D-STAR.

(4) Linux – all my radio operations here were supported by using the Ubuntu distrobution of Linux. After toying with CQRlog, I have settled on fldigi as my primary interface to my HF rig.

(5) APRS – although my APRS operations here were limited to the internet (Korea has virtually no APRS traffic), I used xastir ( to show where my operating location was and also advertised my EchoIRLP node.

(6) WX station – never happen. I could not find a good location to place the collector, so it is still in the box. More importantly, wgoohat I didn’t get the opportunity to learn was how to interface a weather station to the APRS application xastir.

(7) Stars & Stripes article – I was able to discuss my amateur radio experiences with a reporter from Stars & Stripes.

WWII: american hams come to the aid of the US Army Signal Corps

Jeff Davis, KE9V, recently posted a link to a YouTube video which is an RCA public service announcement from WWII encouraging military-aged males who are also radio hams to join the Army (or Navy) and use their radio skills in service of their country. It is a great piece of film and well worth watching.

The accepted wisdom is that the great patriotic groundswell of support to the US entry into WWII also included large numbers of hams, who rushed to fill the ranks of the US military – answering the call to apply their technical and operating skills to support the military’s wartime radio communications requirements. The reality of what happen is a bit different.

In 1941, the US had approximately 58,000 licensed hams. As the Army looked forward to swelling its ranks in preparation for the upcoming conflict, the Signal Corps surveyed all the licensed hams and discovered that the majority of hams were ineligible for service. The survey results showed that most hams were too old for service, married, or had a physical condition that prevented them from joining.

The situation in 1941 differed greatly from WWI were the average age of the radio amateur coincided with draft age. In WWI, the vast majority of hams served in the military (with most enlisting in the Navy). During the inter-war years between WWI and WWII, the age of the radio amateur slowly rose – beyond that of the draftee.

For those hams that were qualified for wartime service during WWII, entering the Signal Corps and using the radio skills presented another challenge. The military relied on the potential recruit to self-identify their technical skills. And even if the recruit actively attempted to get placed in the Signal Corps, they often ended up in other positions that failed to make the full use of their radio skills. Like any large bureaucracy, the system was flawed and slow to adapt. Of the 58,000 hams, 12,000 found their way into uniform – a little over 20%.

I have nothing but the highest respect for those who have served their country and I am certain there were hams who tried serve and found they were ineligible. When I originally researched this segment of amateur radio history, I was very surprised to find out only 20% of hams served in WWII. It is interesting how the passage of time warps how we perceive the past. It would be nice to think that the WWII ham community served a critical role in bolstering our wartime communications, but the reality is different. On the positive side, many non-hams who served in WWII dealing with radio communications gravitated towards ham radio after the war and helped swell the ranks of licensed amateurs.

Does the US Military issue Amateur Radio Licenses?

Yes, they do! At least over here in South Korea.

Before arriving to Korea last year, I began researching the licensing procedures. I have known fellow soldiers who have served over here in Korea and were able to get an HL callsign and get on the air. By reviewing an old Army regulation that was specific to Korea, I saw that there was a process where a soldier could submit a memorandum requesting to be issued an HL9 prefixed callsign. The soldier is required to already possess an FCC amateur license. However, a problem emerged. No one knew who to submit the request to. There are a number of American hams over here, most who work in some aspect for the US military. These individuals generally do not qualify for an HL9 callsign and therefore the general knowledge of how to go about applying for these HL9 licenses was lost. The process to apply for a standard South Korean amateur radio license is straight forward and is what I did. I was subsequently issued the callsign HL2/AD7MI, with the “2” in HL2 signifying the geographical area where I am stationed. The callsign got me on the air, but I soon learned the difficulties in using such an unwieldy callsign (“Hotel Lima Two Stroke Alpha Delta Seven Mike India” is a mouthful).

The good news – an Air Force ham, who is stationed down at the US military headquarters in Seoul, kept plugging away at the HL9 issue and was successful in not only getting issued an HL9 callsign but also was able to define the process for the rest of us. Finally having an organization identified to submit my request to, I was issued my new callsign: HL9MI. I am looking forward to getting on the air and breaking it in.

As far as I know, Korea is the only place where the US military issues callsigns. Back after WWII, it was a common practice but it was discontinued in Japan and Germany once their amateur radio programs stood back up with their civilian governments. Amateur radio licenses for US military in Germany is issued through the US military (at least that is how it worked in 2002), but that program is run by the German government. Even in Iraq, licenses were initially issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority before the responsibility was transferred to the Iraqi civilian government. The Afghan government is responsible for the issuing of callsigns for NATO military serving in Afghanistan. It is interesting that here in Korea, 60 years after the civilian government of South Korea stood up, there is still an active provision for the US military to issue amateur radio callsigns.

Spy Radio: AN/PRC-64

Richard Fisher, KI6SN, had a post back in August 2009 that talked about an interesting transceiver that was in use by the military in the 1960s and 1970s: the AN/PRC-64. The radio is crystal controlled, limited to four channels between 2.2 to 6.0 MHz, has a max output of 5W for CW and 1W for AM PHONE. Its distinguishing factor is the rigs small form factor: 9.8 x 5.1 x 4.7 in.

What really makes this a spy rig is its ability to be paired with another device: the AN/GRA-71. The AN/GRA-71 is a burst encoder. The encoder allows the transmission of CW messages of speeds up to 300 wpm… some serious QRQ.

A government evaluation report on the radio concluded, based on tests conducted in Vietnam supporting Special Forces teams, that the radio had an effective range while operating in CW mode of between 40 and 300 miles. I imagine with both the power output and frequency range (and assuming the use of a field expedient wire antenna) the radios were not normally used for long haul communications… probably more like a range of not more than 75 miles.