Spring 2009 Issue


Introducing NA7US and a

New Column

By Mitch Gill, NA7US

NA7US posing at his emergency communications setup.

Hello fellow lovers of VHF. When I was asked by CQ VHF magazine editor, Joe Lynch, N6CL, if I would be interested in writing a column on emergency communications, I jumped at the opportunity. For those of you who do not know me I will give you a brief autobiography. OK, the truth is I will try to be brief, but I make no promises.

Personally, I think that writing a short autobiography is not half as bad as having to read it. Just think of some syrupy medicine that you hated as a child. Hold your breath and swallow it fast, because you are going to have to endure it anyway.

It is hard for me to believe that I was first licensed 40 years ago at the tender age of 14. From 19691973 my love of CW grew. It became a second language for me, but girls and college soon moved me in a different direction until I joined the USAF in 1976 and became a radio operator. I stayed in until 1984, having served as the Base VHF Communications Chief, European MARS Director, and NCO in charge of Emergency Communications. I also passed my General Class amateur radio test while stationed at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany from 19781983.

From 1984 to 2003 I worked with various companies in high-tech and communications contracts, but 9/11 affected me as it did all of us. In addition to the patriotism we all felt, I longed to go back into the service. I thought they could use an old sergeant like me in the rear.

The Army? Iraq? At My Age?

In 2002, I became an Amateur Extra, and in 2003 I rejoined the service at 49 years old. I joined the Washington Army National Guard, as it was the only one that said I was not too old. In 2006, instead of the rear, I went to the front lines in Iraq. While I was there I did get a chance to operate for a few months as YI9TU, but it was sporadic, as we worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. I did manage to make over 1000 contacts. It was odd working stations during a mortar attack, but there really was nowhere to hide from them. To tell you the truth, amateur radio helped me relax almost as much as talking to my family on the phone.

Other than a year in Iraq, I have worked for the past six years in the Joint Operations Center as the Operations NCO and Subject Matter Expert (SME) in Communications. In a future column I will give you a tour of our communications system. Prior to my being there, they had one HF radio, but now we have five. They also had no VHF stations, and now we have three, two digital modems, GPS-enabled handhelds, and more. Some officers think I am building a ham radio station rather than an emergency communications center. The truth is that I am looking forward to the 12-element 2-meter beams that will be mounted on our 80-foot tower. Since contests fall on weekends, I just might have to test and see how far we can communicate with a hundred watts. Hey, its for the good of the service!

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