Ham Radio – Alive & Well In America’s Heartland

For me the past few days have been busy with amateur radio activity of one kind or another. I spent some time last weekend fine tuning my horizontal loop antenna; spreading it out the loop a bit and raising it higher. I am still impressed by the antenna’s performance and look forward to using it for the remaining year I am here in Kansas.

I delivered my presentation on the history of Army hams operating abroad (WWII to OIF) and my own experiences operating amateur radio and MARS while recently serving over in Iraq to three different Kansas City area clubs this week (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday). In April, I gave the presentation to three other clubs – two in Missouri and one in Kansas. Overall, what impressed me the most concerning the club meetings I visited was the diversity and vibrancy of amateur radio in the Kansas City area. It is not just a bunch of OMs or converted CBers or EMCOMM devotees.

Last night I attended a meeting at the Johnson County Amateur Radio Club in Overland Park, KS. Not only was the meeting well attended (and we are talking about a Friday night before a major holiday weekend) but their were not only a number of YLs but also four teen-aged hams… one of which was Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM, who is the ARRL’s Youth Editor and was featured prominently at last weeks Hamvention in Dayton on the ARRL weblog. Duncan had just concluded a years service to the club as its vice-president. This club also meets twice a month and has a 10M weekly net in addition to its 2M net.

On Tuesday I attended the meeting of the Heart of America Radio Club. The club conducts its operations out of the Red Cross headquarters in Kansas City. They had not only a wonderful club station on the top floor of the building with a impressive antenna farm on the roof but also operated 1 of the 12 Red Cross national communications support vehicles. The vehicle is a modified Ford Excursion with so many antennas on it I couldn’t count. It provides one stop shopping for any communication requirement from providing internet, VOIP phone, long-haul HF comms, phone patching, video, and an on-board cross-band repeater, as well as a generator that can power a medium-sized command post.

Thursday night I was out at the Jayhawk Amateur Radio Society meeting. Another vibrant club with a large turnout… in part due to the coffee and delicious cake offered up during the meeting’s intermission but also the true shared interest in amateur radio. The Jayhawkers gave me a super cool coffee mug with their logo on it at the conclusion of the meeting which will now become the official mug of my ham shack.

Bottom line (… and quickly becoming an often heard refrain), ham radio is alive and well.