LEESBURG, Va. –
Members of the Virginia Defense Force assigned to the Warrenton-based Echo Company, 11th Signal Battalion, 1st Regiment took part in the American Radio Relay League Field Day June 25, 2022, in Leesburg, Virginia. Operating as the Virginia Defense Force Radio Group, an ARRL-affiliated club, and hosted by Loudoun Amateur Radio Group, taking part in Field Day provided an opportunity for the VDF to continue to build on their existing radio skills and expand their relationships with amateur radio organizations.
Field Day provided an excellent training opportunity for VDF personnel, explained Warrant Officer 1 (Va.) Kevin Maxson, commander of Echo Company. He said that while normal training opportunities are with other elements in the 11th Signal Battalion, taking part in Field Day provides a much wider range of stations to try and contact.
Amateur radio can be an invaluable emergency communications resource in severe weather situations when tradition systems are unavailable.
“Ham radio is a technical hobby in which people earn a license from the federal government to operate their own private radio station for non-commercial purposes,” explained Mike White, president of LARG and call sign N4PDY. “The primary purpose is to provide emergency communications in times of need like earthquakes or hurricanes when normal communications channels are out. Ham radio is very flexible and adaptable, and we can operate under almost any conditions. With favorable atmospheric conditions, we can talk anywhere in the world.”
White also said ham radio is a hobby people do for fun, and it is also an educational activity where people can learn about electronics. He said the terms ham radio and amateur radio are interchangeable, and there are more than 800,000 ham operators across the nation.
While the LARG has monthly meetings and is also engaged in public service activities where they provide communications assistance at events, once a year they gather with other amateur radio groups across the country to have a drill to practice how they would operate in severe weather situations, to include running their radio systems on auxiliary power.
VDF personnel deployed their mobile communication platform for the event. The MCP is a 7 1/2 feet by 16 feet trailer equipped with multiple radio systems for voice and data communications. Using an MCP, members of the VDF are able to communicate across a variety of radio spectrums with emergency response and public safety organizations as well as amateur radio operators.
The MCP was also open to visitors to help them learn more about the VDF and its capabilities. The VDF also hosted 13 Boy Scouts who used equipment in the MCP on ham radio frequencies to earn their Radio Merit Badge.
According to the National Association of Amateur Radio web site, there are three types of license classes for amateur radio operations: Technician, General and Amateur Extra. The Technician class license is the entry-level license of choice for most new radio operators, the General class license grants some operating privileges on all amateur radio bands and all operating modes, and the Amateur Extra class license conveys all available U.S. Amateur Radio operating privileges on all bands and all modes.
The ARRL site explains that amateur radio, also known as ham radio, can be used to talk across town, around the world, or even into space, all without the Internet or cell phones and can “be a lifeline during times of need.” Amateur radio operates on designated “radio bands” as authorized by the FCC as a companion to other bands of radio spectrum allocated for government, military and commercial radio uses employed by aircraft, ship, fire and police communications.
The VDF currently has about 20 percent of its members holding one of the three licenses. Members who have a license can wear a tab on their uniform indicating the type of amateur license they hold. Membership in the VDF helps license holders to improve their skills and help them prepare for the higher level license.
To earn the Technician license requires passing one examination totaling 35 questions on radio theory, regulations and operating practices. After earning the Technician license, an operator can earn the General class license rafter passing passing a 35 question examination. Earning the Amateur Extra license requires passing a thorough 50 question examination.
The VDF is authorized by Title 44 of the Code of the Virginia as the all-volunteer reserve of the Virginia National Guard, and it serves as a force multiplier integrated into all Guard domestic operations. The VDF reports to the Adjutant General of Virginia as part of the Virginia Department of Military Affairs along with the Virginia Army National Guard and Virginia Air National Guard. Members of the VDF volunteer their time for training and are only paid when called to duty by an authorization from the Governor of Virginia.
Read more about VDF communication capabilities at https://ngpa.us/20548