Serving the Needs of Others Through Ham Radio—a Personal Story

Editor’s Note: At OnAllBands, we love personal stories about what fuels people’s interest in ham radio. Even better when the story comes from one of the DX Engineering team—the folks who handle your calls when you’re looking for the right gear for your station. Today’s blog post was written by Troy Blair, KE8DRR, DX Engineering customer/technical support specialist. Look for more articles from Troy in the days ahead.

Having spent my adult life in public safety, I had been a user of radios for over 30 years. During that time, I had the blessing of being deployed to serve the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and many other states after large-scale disasters struck. Although each mission had its own unique challenges, communications beyond what I now know as “simplex” was a common struggle that was interwoven into each mission.

Whether it was the ability to communicate with Higher Headquarters, supply chain parties, other mission incident command posts, or simply our families back home, it was always a struggle. Not only was it a struggle that affected us, but the inability to get messages where they needed to go affected every aspect of the mission. I remember at one point being able to talk with the Salvation Army to have them get a message back home. At that time, I had no concept of what they did with my message.

Fast forward to my post-retirement life. A friend approached me about ham radio. Knowing my background, he pushed the emergency services side of the hobby. I spent a couple of years only using handheld and mobile 2m/70cm radios working with my local Amateur Radio Emergency Services® (ARES) group. We drilled with the local Emergency Management Agency and worked a dozen or so events in public service each year, and I was enjoying the hobby. Then another friend invited me to come learn about Civil Air Patrol (CAP).

It was CAP that introduced me to the world of HF operations. CAP has a very large but simple network of Air Force-issued HF stations. They routinely hold nets and use HF in fixed base, mobile, and portable configurations. I found it to be a struggle at times but loved the challenge of getting the message through under any circumstances, so I began to investigate amateur HF operations, eventually upgrading to a General Class license.

I now understood how the Salvation Army got my message back to my family. All of a sudden, amateur radio now had a real-life purpose and had truly affected me. And I didn’t even comprehend it at the time. Amateur radio really could make a difference in the lives of real people like me, so I jumped into the deep end of HF amateur radio.

I built a modest HF station in my shack and also joined the Air Force Military Auxiliary Radio System. Once it was operational, I found there were tons of opportunities for traffic nets, hurricane nets, emergency service nets, and a net for just about anything else you could want to be involved in. And just like that, I could use my amateur radio hobby to affect the lives of someone who needed it.

From there, I began investigating portable and mobile HF operations—opportunities like Field Day, NVIS Day, Parks on the Air, and the myriad of other events out there. I could go on forever, but I will leave those topics for another day and another article. 


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