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On Saturday, June 23, this year’s Field Day, sponsored by the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club in Pepperell began with big plates of sunny fried eggs and sizzling ham at 6:30 a.m. at Pepperell’s Charlotte’s Cafe. While most folks were still sleeping on this humid June morning, six intrepid ham operators devoured breakfast and discussed their plans for the morning’s setup and the event.

With forks in hand, the early breakfasters were Bob Reif and Larry Swezey (along with wife Cynthia) from Groton, James Hein and Stan Pozerski from Pepperell, Bruce Blaine from Harvard, and from Lowell, Roland Guilment, the vice president of the Nashoba Valley Amateur RadioClub and the event organizer.

The 48-hour all-day and all-night event was held at the Heald Street Orchard in Pepperell, a former apple orchard which is now a protected conservation area. Roland said, “Many of us prepared weeks ahead to make sure that no matter the weather, everything goes as smoothly as possible. Using only emergency power supplies, ham operators around the country participate in this two-day field event. Last year more than 35,000 amateur radio operators across the United States joined in this event and what stands out in my mind about this massive effort is how deligent every operator is that we maintain the ability to be of help in the time of crisis.”

Field Day was established decades ago as an opportunity for local radio clubs to show off amateur radio and how effectively their stations can be reconstituted to support emergency communications. These Field Day activities serve also as a contest among club stations and a source of camaraderie among each club’s participants. It’s the premier event of the year for the very active Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club and this year’s activity was exceptionally successful — more than 60 visitors and participants — with operators who ranged from 8 years old to well into their 70s. There were five stations on the air, about 1,400 contacts with stations all over the U.S. and Canada.

The stations were a Morse code long-distance station (aka CW or Carrier Wave,) a similar station for voice (aka SSB or Single Side Band,) and another for computer-to-computer texting (aka Digital,) a local (100-200 miles) VHF/UHF station, and an independent long-distance station (aka GOTA or Get On The Air) for guests and newcomers. While the four long-distance stations were capable of worldwide communication, the intent of Field Day is for North American contacts. The club made contacts with every state except Hawaii and Alaska, Puerto Rico, and every Canadian Province except Manitoba and the Northern Territories and even contacts with Scotland and Columbia were made.

A knot-tying class was one of the educational activities that took place on the site and turned out to be very useful as mother nature ruffled her cloudy skies during Saturday’s late afternoon wind event, with some of member of the group becoming human anchors for the tents as the fierce winds began to pull up stakes and tents started to take flight The knots were useful for securing the tents for the duration of the wind event. During all the excitement we still had stations on the air making contacts.

Ham radio operators are an important part of emergency management and their ability to communicate when all other forms of communication are down, can actually make the difference between life and death. Ham operators link the essential services during during the 2006 Hawaiian earthquake, hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita in 2005, the blackout in the Northeast in 2003, the shuttle Columbia recovery effort in 2003, the disasters of 9/11 and most recently the October blizzard of 2011.

The reason why ham operators can communicate when no one else can is that they are each fully independent and can operate and communicate even when all other communication infrastructures are down. By utilizing certain frequencies, ams can talk to each other around the globe and are recognized as an important resource by national relief organizations.

For information about joining this active, worthwhile group of hams, contact Roland Guilmet, Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club, nrlg@arrl.net. The club is www.n1nc.org . Information for amateur radio can be found at www.arrl.org, www.hello-radio.org.

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