Take two sets of identically shaped and colored Legos, then challenge two radio amateurs to give each other precise instructions to join all the pieces in exactly the same way to win a prize.
It was one of the two days of activity organized by Shirley Larsen (callsign AD7HL) of Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club over the last weekend in June.
Shirley and her Air Force Commander husband William Larsen (AD7HK) got their amateur radio license in Hawaii 47 years ago and arranges the BARC ladies in “role calls” twice a month to test batteries, skills and accuracy to get to at a given point in time report and frequency. In practical terms, Shirley and William have lived all over the world, often in places where direct communication was not possible, and using amateur radios to keep them in touch, she said.
In order to increase radio use, around 60 BARC members took part in the nationwide amateur exercise Field Day, which has been held annually since 1933. They brought their RVs, campers, tents and most importantly their antennas and radios to test and hone their skills by bouncing signals from Mount Logan's repeaters from a beautifully pastoral location on Bear Lake at the Kearl Residence in Fish Haven, Idaho to let.
The main objective during the 24 hour field day was to capture as many callsigns as possible from other operators across the country. At the start of Field Day, BARC Treasurer Kevin Reeve (N7RXE) with 31 years of experience as a ham operator was bustling around the premises as his staff reported contacts from 14 other jurisdictions including British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, north and north Wisconsin in the East.
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In addition to the challenge posed by the day's less than stellar atmospheric conditions, power sources were limited to batteries, solar panels, and generators. BARC members see the day's power restrictions as an emergency opportunity where amateurs can be called in because normal communications may be completely down or temporarily disrupted.
Explaining the almost confusing ways that amateur radio operators can use their equipment to send and receive signals, Club President Ted McArthur (AC7II) reiterated the language that has been his daily language since 1976 when he received his license: he mentioned Morse Code , Zoom and Skype for twice-yearly “Red Tag” scenarios to test operator skills; Winlink sends emails and attachments over the air; Astronauts usually have an amateur license before going into space; BARC member Theo Thomson is the mainstay of the Mount Logan Stake emergency communications system; and many annual races and community events rely heavily on the support of BARC behind the scenes.
These races include the Bear 100 and LoToJa, where BARC members do not put themselves or their equipment to bed until all participants have been counted. In some cases, racers will have dropped out before the end point of the challenge and are considered lost until BARC trackers carefully tracked them to their home and then listed them again in the “Found” column.
Sheriff's offices, hospitals, first responders, various government agencies and church groups, among others, rely on amateur-amateur-amateur groups like BARC to intervene in both routine and emergency situations to help when regular communication is the order of the day Cannot fill the gap, overloaded or overloaded is not sufficiently agile.
McArthur's continued interest means that “I usually don't go anywhere without a radio.” As a teenager, aged 8 or 9, his uncle introduced McArthur to the world of amateur radios and he now has gear and more radios in every vehicle he owns than he could quickly identify when asked for a total. He recalled that club member Eldon Kearl (K70GM) had reported nine accidents in Logan Canyon over the years using a radio that had no cell service. McArthur once spoke to an amateur radio operator in Tanzania and recommended examining an amateur radio license in order to make new friends at home and abroad and to serve the community.