Spring 2007 Issue

Wagoner Windtalkers Amateur Radio in the Classroom with a Historical Twist

The following is excerpted from the January and April 2007 “VHF Plus” columns in CQ magazine. It is an example of an in-classroom program in Oklahoma that, although is in its infancy, has already garnered recognition from non-amateur radio media for its innovative approach to using amateur radio in the classroom.

By Jeff Sharrock, AF4CM

When I was in the U.S. Marines, I came to appreciate the importance of portable and reliable low-power communications. The transceivers that reconnaissance teams carry are essential to accomplishing missions. It is their means of reporting information (the eyes and ears of their units); of calling in for assistance, such as medivacs or emergency extracts; and it is the means they use to call supporting arms such as air strikes and artillery.

As a reconnaissance officer, I was particularly impressed with the science involved in high-frequency communications, as it always seemed to be harder to maintain than the UHF and VHF links. Despite our use of VHF, UHF, and SHF radios, it was my desire to master HF that took me into the realm of amateur radio, and once exposed to that as a hobby, I was hooked.

I got my first amateur radio license while I was stationed on the Army base at Ft. Knox, Kentucky in 1996, and worked through the then six classes of licensing in a couple of months. When I retired from the Marines in June 2004, I transitioned to teaching through the military’s Troops to Teachers program via the State of Oklahoma’s alternative certification program. Shortly after starting my first year as a U.S. History teacher, we formed a school club and crafted a constitution that empowered the students to control all aspects of the club except issues involving safety and proper operating procedures (which I retain as the sponsor). I was very pleased to find out that we were the first licensed amateur radio high school club in the state and that the WI5ND callsign was available.

The club, the Wagoner Windtalkers, was named in honor of the American Indian Code Talkers, particularly from the Choctaw and Comanche nations, who hail from Oklahoma. When most people hear the name “Windtalkers,” they only think of the Navajo, because they played such a vital role in the Pacific theatre with the Marines. What we want to bring to attention is the fact that the Choctaw were the first to employ their native language when wireless radio was introduced onto the battlefields in Europe during WW I. The Comanche played a significant role in the success of the Normandy D-Day landings and the subsequent liberation of Europe by reporting the progress of the landings on the beaches to Allied commanders across the English Channel and on all the way to the fall of Hitler’s bunker.

Photo 1. Student members of the Wagoner Windtalkers High School ARC, WI5ND.
(Photos courtesy of the author)

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