Monday, August 28, 2017

Exercise Vital Connection Support

Last week 20 - 24 Aug I had the privilege to deploy with Region 8 Army MARS (AMARS) in order to help provide communications in a simulated cyberspace denied environment. The experience gained was invaluable.

Besides passing traffic I had a blast helping the National Guard learn HF tactics, techniques and procedures which is part of the AMARS mandate. The Armed Forces does not grow HF operators anymore so these guys and gals are picking it up as they go along. They are enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with.

The Rocky Mountain Ham club really came through with the best operating position we could have asked for. They basically let AMARS take two of the four positions. It helps that all of the MARS members on site were also AUXCOMM trained. I went to the first AUXCOMM course offered in Colorado and Lynn is signed up for the next course.

At the end of the exercise we (Region 8 MARS) were recognized as the people that could get a message through when no one else could. It is the most fun I have had in Amateur Radio in a long time.

I was on a hill in order to check if we had enough room for the broadband dipole

securing the center section

I gravitated toward the high spots of the area

Morning brief

CO-DOT safety brief

Some of the players

more of the players

Between the van and the Jeep is a portable vertical and my SOTA station using an ended off of the Jeep

Rocky Mountain Ham; AUXCOMM VAN

Classroom training/seminars before start-ex

One of the vans rented by a military unit

The NVIS company representative was supporting MARS and everyone else with a lot of capabilities

close up of the NVIS unit

The HOT WASH brief

National Guard antennas had to be high enough to get over the hills

First Responders in play

Guard Unit

CH47 from Buckley AFB stopped by

In the airframe waiting to fly


View from the front

and the back

two of the four positions in the AUXCOMM van

The other two

One of the two big screen TVs, printer/scanner/fax chargers etc

After returning home my work was gearing up for support to Hurricane Harvey. Growing up on the East Coast I have always enjoyed maintaining situational awareness of hurricanes as they head inland. This started with a hurricane tracking map for coastal NC that was given to me by the local AM/FM radio station in the 70s.

I enjoyed listening to updates via shortwave and plot the information on the map. It was also a time when the family came together to wait out the storm, flooding and power outages. I guess I think of it fondly as a family event but there was real danger involved. For me it was just a good time.

After work on Friday I went into that mode again monitoring just about everything I could.

Harvey makes landfall

Local video and news feeds

I know from Katrina that this storms devastation will most likely accure in the days to come. It is good to know that our government, National Guard and civilian companies have learned from Katrina and are much better at dealing with disasters without relying on Title 10 forces.

It is good to operate from home after a week in the van

Incidentally, the vertical antenna I had while deployed was a wolf river coils portable vertical. I had trouble tuning it on some frequencies but I believe that was because I was very close to the van and under the broadband dipole. In other words I did not bring enough COAX. Lesson Learned.


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