By Nick Nunn
Deep in the labyrinth of the Morgan County Public Safety Complex last Saturday and Sunday, a few “hams” – amateur radio operators – gathered together in the Emergency Operation Center Conference Room to take part in the American Radio Relay League’s (ARRL) Field Day, which has been taking place since 1933.
Bill Ronay – call sign KM4LS – is the emergency coordinator for the Morgan County Amateur Radio Service, whose call sign is WR4MC. From 2 p.m. last Saturday to 9 p.m. and from 8 a.m. Sunday to 2 .p.m., Ronay manned the Kenwood 590 in the EOC of the Public Safety Complex. Within the first 30 minutes of operation, Ronay had already been in touch with operators in Nevada, Louisiana, Alabama, North Florida, and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
“You get to know people all of the time,” said Ronay about being an amateur radio operator. “It’s a fascinating hobby, but I call it a service.”
In addition to allowing a day for hams to make as many contacts as possible – Ronay said that many operators use the day to see how many contacts they can make during the time frame of 24 hours – the purpose of the ARRL Field Day is allowing amateur radio operators the chance to prove that they would be able to communicate during emergencies, when everyday methods would fail.
“We communicate when no one else can,” assured Ronay.
Ronay and Charles “Chuck” Roswell, the Assistant Emergency Coordinator in Morgan County, have stories, which span decades, involving their interaction with hams all around the world.
Ronay recounted the story of when he stopped in Rhode Island for dinner with a ham that he had spoken to several times, but had never met before.
Although, as in every hobby group, there are older hams dying off all of the time, Ronay assures that the number of amateur radio operators in the United States grows every year.
Before one is allowed to operate as an amateur, one must become certified, but the certification exams are inexpensive, often less than $20.
Ronay recommended that anyone interested in amateur radio visit the ARRL website www.arrl.org to find out more information about hams and what it takes to be able to begin operating.