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W7VNJ in the local Media
Newspaper / Print Media
Field Day, 2010
Casper hamming it up since 1938
Saturday, July 10, 2010 9:52 AM MDT
Ham Radio operators reach out and touch someone
by Elysia Conner
The sun set June 26, but some of the Casper Amateur Radio Club (CARC) members manned radios long into the night. From noon that day until noon the next, the group of operators found out how many others they could contact all over the country during the internationally famous Field Day.
“It’s wonderful out here at night,” Jay Martin said.
In vehicles and campers in the field adjacent to Kelly Walsh High School’s stadium, they conversed with others from Alaska to Southern Florida. Using a man lift, they could elevate radio antennae for better signals.
CARC is a service-oriented group, Martin said. “Amateur” in this case means that the operators help the community without financial compensation as opposed to commercial radio.
This oldest incorporated amateur radio club in the state has been affiliated with the National Association for Amateur Radio since 1938.
“Do you copy?” a voice came in over the radio after a brief introduction from San Francisco.
“Roger, loud and clear, Three Alpha from Wyoming,” Martin replied.
The voice from San Francisco thanked him and each went on to contact more operators.
Working under the call sign W7VNJ, CARC’s purpose is learning, promoting awareness and sharing the joy of ham radio.
No one is sure why it’s called ham radio. Club members said it may have been the name of a call station or maybe initials of early operators’ names. It may be because they talk and “ham it up,” according to Tate Belden. But they all know it’s not only fun but also a valuable service.
“Ham radio works when nothing else does,” Martin said. “What we’re doing now is honing our skills. It’s a giant practice day.”
If phones and other forms of emergency communications go down or aren’t accessible, ham radio can save the day. One example is when a club member picked up a distress signal sent from a handheld radio on the mountain. He helped emergency vehicles locate a hiker having a heart attack within 100 feet, saving his life.
Why ham radio
According to Belden , those with walkie-talkies or CB radios soon find limitations, leading them to explore how to improve signals. Many club members discovered amateur radio as a result. Everyone in the club has a different story.
Belden’s grandfather, a radioman in World War II in the South Pacific, sparked his interest.
Eight-year-old Devin Cruse got hooked early in life too, after spending time in CARC with her father, Josh Cruse. She’s studying to get her license and talked to people from many states during Field Day.
“It’s more than just talking to people on the radio,” she said. “It’s also something that can help the community, like if someone is having a stroke and they don’t have a cell phone. If someone with a radio is nearby, they can call 911.”
Warren Appel learned the ropes from his father, and it didn’t take long for his wife, Tiffany, to catch the bug during their courtship. While taking a turn logging as he contacted others, she said, “It’s like walkie-talkies but you can talk to people all over the world. That’s my easy explanation.”
Ham radio now can be integrated with the internet, which can locate any ham radio in a given area. Belvin and Cruse are into integrating radio with computers, while Martin is more “old school,” he said.
Bruce McDonald has seen a lot of changes in the approximately 60 years he’s been into radio. In high school he and a friend built a transmitter from scratch, he said. On Field Day, he tracked a handheld radio moving nearby, watching the computer screen as the owner, likely from Texas based on the call name, entered I-25 and traveled at 78 miles per hour heading south. The site reveals the type of radio, call number and other relevant information, McDonald said.
About 500 stations were being tracked around the world, from cruise ships to airplanes and “anything you can imagine,” he said. He once talked to someone in an old Curtiss-Wright biplane, he added, laughing.
“Amateur radio is such a diverse avocation,” McDonald said “There is no way you can be exposed to it in one day.”
There are 300-400 Natrona County amateur radio operators of one sort or another, according to CARC president Mike Coley. According to www.hamdata.com, 733,995 U.S. call signs exist in the United States.
“There is so much to do in ham radio,” Coley said. “Everyone does their own thing and we cross paths sometimes.”
“I’ve met an awful lot of really nice people through this,” McDonald said, “and made some good friends.”
How to join
Field Day was a busy day, according to Cruse. When a signal from Wyoming pops up, everyone wants to talk, resulting in what is called a “pileup,” he said.
Though it’s over until next year, the club participates in many events and contests year-round. The CARC provides communication for the Casper Marathon and helped with the recent Pony Express reenactment.
“You can get started in this hobby for very little money, or spend as much as you want,” Belvin said.
Anyone interested in any of the many facets of amateur radio is welcome to join by coming to a meeting or contacting club officers through the informative website at www.casperarc.net. Members provide training from beginning through advanced operations and help with amateur radio license testing.
The CARC meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Wednesday each month at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at the Hall of Justice, 201 N. David St.
Field Day, 2009
If you don't have the DivX codec, you can download it for free from here.
Broadcast Radio Spots
Produced and initially aired by Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting Summer 2008.
Released under a Creative Commons License
Presentation for 2008 Wyoming EMA conference
- W7VNJ - click on each slide to progress to the next. Sorry, it worked at the conference!