Tag Archives: dxpedition

KH6 – Hawaii Bound

My current assignment at Fort Leavenworth has me traveling quite a bit. My intent has been to bring a rig with me and have some casual QSOs while on the road. My success has been mixed. I would mostly attribute this to either a lack of planning on my part or being in a stuck in a hotel room with zero antenna opportunities.

One of the most inspiring ham radio blogs I ever ran across was the 100 Pound Dxpedition. I enjoyed how Scott, NE1RD, covered his adventures of conducting portable operations… documenting what worked and what did not. His last post on that paticular blog was back in 2007, but I still use the site as a reference. Scott’s praise for the Buddipole led me in using the Buddipole during my recent tour in Korea. Another tip from Scott I am going to try out is using a hardside golf bag case to transport my Buddipole to Hawaii.

Now for a rig… I think the Elecraft KX3 would be ideal for a Hawaii trip. With 10 watts output and an internal battery, I can’t think of better rig to take to the beach. But the wait time for the KX3 is still quite a while. I have both an Elecraft KX1 and a Yaesu FT-817ND. The KX1 would be great due to its small size and ease of use. But it is limited to only CW and I would like to do some PSK in addition to CW.

I pulled out my FT-817 and conducted an inventory:

    - West Mountain Radio RIGblaster Plug n Play connects directly to the DIN socket on the back of the rig.
    - CAT cable that connects from the RIGblaster to the rig’s ACC socket which enables rig control.
    - PowerPole 12v adapter.
    - Palm Paddle.
    - Elecraft T1 Auto-tuner.
    - Nifty manual for the FT-817.



My FT-817 has quite a few of the optional bells and whistles from W4RT:

I also splurged on two recent upgrades:

    - Peg Leg tilt stand – I think this will be helpful as one of my significant dislikes of the FT-817 is the small display which is hard to see.
    - Magnets for the Palm Paddle – this is critically important as the Palm Paddle by itself is not heavy enough. The magnets allow the Palm Paddles to firmly stick to the top of the FT-817.

For PSK, rig control, and logging I have my Dell Mini netbook. I had not used the netbook in a while, so I started it up to see how it was working. I initally purchased it back in 2009 baselined with Ubuntu and have kept Ubuntu installed on it since then. After booting it up. I updated the distribution to 10.04 LTS and installed fldigi. The RIGblaster easily interfaced with the netbook via a USB connection and the headphone/microphone jacks.

I configured fldigi to work with the RIGblaster to include rig control using Hamlib:

    - Audio: PortAudio using the netbook’s hardware soundcard for both Capture and Playback
    - Rig: Hamlib; Device /dev/ttyUSB0; Baud rate 38400; Stopbits 2; PTT via Hamlib command checked

… clicked on the Initialize button and I was good to go.

Setting up the macros on flidigi is pretty straightforward with the default macros only needing slight tweaking for my personal preferemces.

Once I fired everything up all I had to do was switch to 14.070 MHz, switch the mode to DIG, and drop the input level a bit. With the narrow yellow PSK streams cascading down the waterfall, I picked one that was calling CQ and answered. Transmit worked and my home antenna provided a nice low SWR, no need for the tuner. My macros worked and the QSO was concluded successfully. All with 5 watts.

I plugged in the Palm Paddle, switched to 7.115 MHz, listened and heard nothing, then used the paddles to send QRL? a few times. SWR still looked decent. After a few CQ calls, I got an answer followed by a short QSO. Great – both PSK and CW were working FB.

Now the question is: do I want to bring my small Tokyo Hy-Power HL-100B amplifier that will raise the output to 100 watts? If I bring the amp, I will have to bring a power supply and a different tuner. I am thinking I need to be able to use two different configurations:

    (A) Beach and Buddipole: using the barefoot FT-817, running everything on batteries.
    (B) Lanai Portable: used from the hotel room, with amp and assoicated power supply.

Now it is time to go through my Buddipole bags and figure out what I need to pack.

Looks like I will be there during the Hawaii QSO Party!

Radio Adventure in The Pacific


I am researching the possibility of doing a mini-DXpedition to one of the Pacific Islands. The overall intent of the operation is to have an adventure, not to activate “a rare one”. The focus has also been narrowed (at least initially) to US possessions. Going to a US possession will alleviate the need to get special operating licenses and/or permissions. Here are the prefixes for what is out in the Pacific:

KH0 Mariana Islands
KH1 Baker, Howland Islands
KH2 Guam
KH3 Johnston Island
KH4 Midway Island
KH5 Palmyra, Jarvis Islands
KH5/K Kingman Reef
KH6-7 Hawaii
KH7K Kure Island
KH8 American Samoa
KH8 Swains Island
KH9 Wake Island

There are a few of these I can eliminate immediately. KH1: Both Baker and Howland Islands have restricted access. I don’t have the time or energy to devote to get special permits and I am only going to go somewhere that has commercial aviation service. KH2: Guam offers this, but it is definitely not exotic enough of a location. KH3/KH4: Johnston and Midway Islands have restricted access and no commercial aviation service. KH5: Both Palmyra and Jarvis Islands are too complicated to get to. KH5/K: Kingman Reef – no way. KH6-7: Hawaii is in the same category as Guam. KH7K: Kure Island… see Kingman Reef. KH8: Swains Island (which probably has one of the most unique stories) is privately owned with no regular commercial service. KH9: Wake Island is a distant possibility because it still has active military and AMC flights, although I would have to get official permission – which is unlikely (but not impossible).

The best candidates are KH0: Mariana Islands and KH8: American Samoa. The Mariana Islands (with Siapan, Tinian, and Rota as the only islands that I am looking at) are probably the easiest for me to get to. Siapan has direct flights from Seoul and is a tourist destination for Koreans. From Siapan there are regular commercial flights to both Tinian and Rota. Both these islands also have lodging possibilities as well.

American Samoa will take a bit more traveling – no direct flights. But it is definitely possible to get there and lodging is no issue.

So the islands in the running are now:
KH0 Mariana Islands CQ 27 ITU 64
KH8 American Samoa CQ 32 ITU 62
KH9 Wake Island CQ 31 ITU 65

The time for the trip will probably be April and I think I would go for 10 days. Now it is time for more research.

DXpedition to the Land of the Morning Calm


It has been almost two years of having my nose buried in the books. The school work had a significant impact on my time for radio (school as well as the addition of a new harmonic just over a year ago). Other than last year’s field day, I have not been on the air that much.

My next assignment is in South Korea and I hope to have a little bit more time on the air while I am there. The process for getting an amateur radio license for South Korea is pretty straight forward. What I don’t know at this point is what my housing conditions will be like and how that will impact my ability to get an antenna up. Worse case will see me putting up an antenna for temporary/portable operations. Ideally I’ll get a dipole up or maybe even a mini-beam like I had in Iraq. The plan is to also get up an APRS weather station and I will bring along my embedded EchoIRLP node.

If my job allows, I will try and operate a MARS station in Korea. When I was in Korea during the early ’90s, there was a pretty active MARS station down in Seoul, but I have heard that lately MARS activity has diminished a bit in Korea. There is a long history of US servicemen operating on the amateur radio bands while serving in Korea. An interesting story of ham servicemen playing an early role with Korea goes back to the Korean War. Take a look at the March 1951 QST on Pg. 40 for “Hams Aid Korean War Effort” [it is available for download by ARRL members]. Looks like there is also an interesting book called SOS Korea 1950 that I will have to get. During the war and for a while afterwards, South Korea prohibited amateur radio operations. After South Korea came back on the air, they have made it relatively easy for US servicemen to operate.

Now I have to draw up my packing list of what to take. I am limited to the amount of gear I can take with me for my year-long tour, so I need to plan carefully.

YI9PSE: April 2010 operation in Iraq

Here is an interesting announcement from: www.yi9pse.com

YI9PSE is the first DXpedition to Kurdistan.

The YI9PSE team has received the approval and blessing of the Kurdistan Regional Government to conduct the first DXpedition from Kurdistan. The YI9PSE team has been invited to demonstrate amateur radio to the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Interior officials, who will visit and observe the YI9PSE DXpedition team in action.

We hope to have a signal on the air late in the evening of the 2nd, and we must tear down our station on the evening of April 11th. We will have ten day visas issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The Kurdistan Regional Government officials are very excited to learn more about amateur radio and see the first DXpedition from Kurdistan take place. They have reviewed, approved of our plans and blessed our operation.

Thank you,

The YI9PSE DXpedition Team.

-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+

For those not in the know, Kurdistan is the northern portion of Iraq and the Kurds consider themselves an autonomous entity – which is seen as a contentious concept by the rest of Iraq (Turkey and Iran are also not excited about the idea of a “Kurdistan”). While I applaud the team’s effort, I question the judgment of an operation like this. I wish these gentlemen the best of luck and hope they remain safe but I think they are unnecessarily putting themselves in danger (although I would probably go with them if I had the opportunity).

This Weekend…

Joseph Sheehan Bicycle Road Race: Today I helped support a 52.9 mile bicycle race between Leavenworth and Atchison, KS. The weather was miserable. A cold morning to begin with. Then rain… and sleet. Even snow. I was positioned at a intersection that crossed the highway which served as about the 10 mile mark and then 40 mile mark on the route back. 52 cyclist made it to the 10 mile point and not more than 20 went on to finish the race. I couldn’t believe that many of the guys hung with it. Those were some dedicated folks.
There were four of us supporting the race, positioned at key spots along the route (inside our nice, warm vehicles). I was able to have several “lessons learned” for this event. I had a distinct lack of planning and preparation.
(1) I didn’t fully check my rig prior to the event. I was at the event site trying to do a radio check with net control with no results.
(2) When it is time to troubleshoot, you have to use logic. When time is short (because of lack of preparation) and problems come up, you have to keep your head. Troubleshooting a radio system is pretty basic. Start from one end and work to the other. Finding that the antenna feedline isn’t properly connected to the rig should be an easy fix.
(3) Having an HT as backup is good. Knowing how to change the settings on it is critical. One of those Nifty manuals or smart cards does the trick.

That being said, thanks to the quick thinking of the net control I was able to initially talk to him on my HT using a repeater that didn’t require a tone (I’d forgotten how to change the tone setting on my Kenwood TH-D7A). I eventually figured out how to set the tone and was on the repeater with the other folks. Then with a bit more thought and troubleshooting, I discovered my feedline connection to the rig had come loose and with that fixed I was back in business. Part of the problem is that I have a relatively new rig in the truck, the Kenwood TM-D710A. It is a very complicated rig and I have only scratched the surface on how to operate it. I was able to interface it with the Garmin Nuvi 350 thanks to a cable from Argent Data Systems. The cable allows the D710A to pass APRS data to the Nuvi and the Nuvi plots the data as waypoints. It works pretty well.

Big week ahead. I mentioned before that I have some specific graduation requirements for the course I am in at Fort Leavenworth. This week I should be able to complete another of the requirements: speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens. I have put together a presentation concerning my operations of both amateur radio and MARS station while in Iraq and will be giving the presentation to one of the local amateur radio clubs. The presentation, in addition to my operations, covers the history of the US Army and amateur radio while deployed overseas. It has been fascinating researching the operations of previous Army hams from WWII (Germany and Japan), Korea, Vietnam,

Spec/5 Dennis Vernacchia operating MARS Radio Station AB8AY, out of relocated radio station in quonset hut, puts radio-telephone calls through to the states for the troops stationed at LZ Betty and to co-ordinate Operation Vietnam Merry Christmas
Spec/5 Dennis Vernacchia operating MARS Radio Station AB8AY, out of relocated radio station in quonset hut, puts radio-telephone calls through to the states for the troops stationed at LZ Betty and to co-ordinate "Operation Vietnam Merry Christmas"
Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. I also cover the history of amateur radio in Iraq from the early days in the 1920s through the Saddam period and then today. Once I get my slides spiffied up a bit more and add some notes, I will post a link here so those who are interested can take a look. My final requirement is: write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication. My intent is to turn the presentation into an article and then send it to ARRL’s QST. Most of the article is done – I hope to get it completed this week as well.

Strategic Communications

The title of this post is a little misleading. As I mentioned before, I am attending the Army’s Command & General Staff College (CGSC) here at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (… I bet you thought I was out here in Kansas just for the nice weather). One of the new requirements we have as students at is to egage in “Strategic Communication”. Wikipedia defines strategic communications as: communicating a concept, a process, or data that satisfies a long term strategic goal of an organization by allowing facilitation of advanced planning. Our requirements as students to engage in strategic communication does not exactly line up with that definition, but I think it gives you an idea of where the Army is headed. The bottom line is the Army wants to develop officers who are familiar and comfortable in dealing with the media in order to get the Army’s “message” out. In the past the military has been traditionally media shy (understatement), either making heavy use of the “no comment” or deferring to our public relations officers. No more. The Army recognizes this is the new media age and those that get their story out first, in a clear and understandable fashion are likely to better garner public support… both domestic and international. Okay… so back to school. My requirements, as related to strategic communications, are to: (1) participate in an actual media interview (television, print, or radio), (2) speak to a community group, school, or other organized gathering of citizens, (3) write professionally by submitting a letter to the editor, Op-Ed piece, or article for publication, and (4) participate in a reputable blog about their military service.

#4 is pretty easy. I think I can figure out how to blog.

#3 not too hard. I can either repurpose one of my existing papers and send in to a newspaper or I can try to be original and maybe send something in to ARRL.

#2 is a bit harder. What I have decided to do for that is put together a presentation of amateur radio operations by military members who are deployed… kind of a DXpedition in a Combat Zone. I have a lot of information on amateur radio operations by folks in both Afghanistan and Iraq and I can use my own experience as well. Then I have to find an amateur radio club to give the talk to. Ideally I need to have all of this complete by the end of March.

…and #1. That is the hardest, in my opinion. Knowing the challenge of this particular requirement, our instructors are allowing us to get credit if we are able to call and get on a radio talk show. This interpretation makes the requirement a little less severe. Now I have to find a radio talk show to call. There are several here in the Kansas City area that I am scoping out:
KCUR: Up To Date
KMBZ: Shanin & Parks

I also found some great advise on how to be prepared before I call at both NPR and KCUR.

Wish me luck.

Saturday


I am (at long last) catching up on all the QSL cards from my YI9MI operation in Iraq. Lots of cards through the ARRL Incoming Bureau and good deal of direct as well. I was able to answer many of the cards from Iraq – those who acted quickly and sent their card early got them back. I just have not had a lot of time since I have been back to complete the task, but am finally making headway. The biggest issue was the pirate station who was using my callsign (YI9MI) and making CW contacts. The pirate was a very proficient CW op and worked most of Europe and Japan… from what I can see for the QSL cards I am getting. When I was operating from Iraq I’d see a spot for my call on the DX cluster showing a CW freq and quickly discovered my callsign was being pirated. I put a note on QRZ to check my logbook to confirm the contact before sending a QSL card but it looks like many did not.

The next step is to try to figure out how to get all the YI9MI contacts on LOTW. I think I got them all on eQSL, but I need to check.

Home QTH

My travels home was long and slow, but forward progress was consistent. After spending more time than I wanted to in Kuwait, we arrived in the US to McGuire Air Force Base, NJ and were transported over to Fort Dix were we’d remain overnight. Our bus was met by a small group of Vietnam veterans, some in wheelchairs or missing limbs, all greeting us with smiles, hearty handshakes and a “Welcome Home”. The vets goal is that never again should a US soldier arrive home from war without a welcome. I was truly moved by the selflessness of these vets and although I would be completely content if the US never again has to send soldiers into harms way, I would like to return the kindness and fellowship I received that sunny afternoon. The next morning we loaded up on buses and headed to Philadelphia to take a commercial flight to Kansas City. There was a bus ready to pick us up when we arrived to Kansas City, which set the tone for the next two days in which we outprocessed at Fort Riley, KS. We completed a lot of activities in our few hours at Fort Riley: medical screening, records updating, pay adjustments, equipment turn-in, “re-integration” briefings, after action review, as well as an opportunity for me to take my team members to The Little Apple Brewing Company (Manhattan, KS) for my long-delayed promotion party. I was promoted to the rank of Major back in October 2007 and it is Army tradition for the newly promoted to throw a party (i.e. an event with beer). As I was unable to do this properly while in Iraq (US soldiers are not allowed to possess or consume alcoholic beverages in Iraq), I was glad to have the opportunity to carry out the tradition back in the states.

And then the next morning, June 6th, it was over. Our team members said their goodbyes. Some had their vehicles at Fort Riley and were driving to their next destination. Most of us headed back to Kansas City to fly home.

It was good to be home. Wife, daughter, dog, and cat – all together again.

Next on the agenda: move house and household, bag and baggage from Hampton, Virginia (where I had been stationed at Fort Monroe prior to my deployment to Iraq) to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to attend the Army’s Command & Staff College.

Iraq to Be Back on the Air

Iraq to Be Back on the Air Later This Month (Nov 13, 2007) — Diya Sayah, YI1DZ, President of the Iraqi Amateur Radio Society (IARS), announced today that effective November 20, all Amateur Radio activity will be “back to normal” in Iraq. Sayah said, “All Amateur Radio operators in Iraq who carry a valid Iraqi license will be able to use their radios according to regulations of IARU Region 1 and the IARS.” Amateur Radio activity in Iraq was suspended in March of this year, with the suspension affecting both Iraqi citizens as well as any foreigners — including military personnel and contractors — who have been on the air from Iraq. The request to halt all ham radio activity and the issuance of licenses in Iraq originated with a letter from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as part of a new security plan, Sayah said.

The Review, Part 1: The World of Ham Radio, 1901-1950: A Social History

This is a modern telling of Clinton DeSoto’s 1936 classic 200 Meters and Down story through meticulous research of the author, Richard Bartlett, and the amateur radio experiences of the his brother Forrest, W6OWP. Tracing the start of radio from Marconi through the emergence of a thriving hobby in the post WWI years, Bartlett does a wonderful job of taking the reader on a journey through the history of ham radio. It is a more vibrant story than 200 Meters, aided by hindsight and a wealth of primary sources the author pulls from. When he describes the early boy-ham experimenter, I immediately drew a parallel with the boy-”hackers” of the 1980s and 90s. Teenage boys, curious and prone to mischief with knowledge of a new technology unfamiliar to most. Ignorance easily creates fear, and these early boy-hams were often looked at as a danger and a threat.


There is good coverage of the early organizations supporting ham radio to include The Royal Order of the Wouff Hong. I’d always heard about the Wouff Hong and it was fascinating to read about it’s humorous origins.

Bartlett covers many of the highlights of ham radios initial contributions: demonstrating the ability to relay messages across the country, providing a means of communications in support of disaster areas, and sending messages across the globe. It is amazing that amateur radio survived the post-WWI years – threatened by both the military and commercial broadcast interests. The hobby also created a commercial industry of amateur radio equipment suppliers – Bartlett describes the elaborate displays these businesses put on at the Chicago’s 1933-34 World’s Fair that helped capture the imagination of the public.

The best part of the book so far is Bartlett’s coverage of ham radio’s support to exploration in the 1920s and 30s (Chapter 7, Amateurs as Experimenters and Adventurers). Harry Wells, W3ZD, accompanied a 1929 scientific expedition to Borneo and sent reports back to hams in the states. Bertram Sandham, W6EQF supported an automobile expedition to open up an International Pacific Highway from Fairbanks, AK to Buenos Aires. The descriptions of both these portable and mobile operations are exciting and inspiring.


I’m still working through the book, so more to come.

… part 2 of the review is here