From the “Dickinson Press”
Members of the Theodore Roosevelt Amateur Radio Club practiced their emergency communications skills during a National Field Day Exercise on Saturday, June 25 at the Dickinson Trap Club. Though it’s an enjoyable hobby for many, their skills are put to use in emergencies.
The exercise was to demonstrate communications when electricity, cellphone towers and government systems fail in an emergency, said member Bill Bosch.
“Right now in Minot, we have amateur radio operators providing communications for Red Cross shelters, and we’re trying to set up communications, I think, at Turtle Lake — people want to put up a shelter there,” he said. “Normally, when everything else goes down, we can still communicate with our radio equipment.”
Even if the radio towers go down, amateur radio operators — hams for short — can talk mobile to mobile, he said.
“Minot is pretty much covered, but they’re asking for volunteers from other areas to assist should there be a need — it’s just as a backup — I think Bismarck is doing the same thing,” said Bosch.
The club set up a portable electrical generator and portable antenna for the field day exercises. They operated out of a communications center shared with Stark County Emergency Management.
“The reason we like to host a field day is to refresh our memory on how to set up emergency equipment and operate it, and to show new people how to use it,” he said. “It’s a refresher course.”
Trying to make contacts on field day was difficult because everyone was trying to talk at the same time, but they still connected with 356 other amateur radio stations across the nation.
Bosch has been a member since 1977. His call number is K0UB or “kilowatt zero uniform bravo.” However, he’s better known as Uncle Bill.
He remembers field days when they operated out of a small tent.
“When the wind blew and the rain came down, we had our hands full,” he said.
Today’s equipment is more compact as compared to previous years.
“In the early days, amateur radio operators built their equipment from scratch,” he said. “Now, we’re more operators than builders.
When he joined the club, he had to learn Morse Code. That requirement has been dropped.
A highlight of the year is when the Ham Fest is held at the North Dakota Peace Gardens on the first full weekend in July, he said.
Another memorable event was when amateur radio operators assisted with a flood in Grand Forks.
“I helped with communications for the Salvation Army — I provided communications from a canteen truck to the kitchen,” he said.
But it’s the camaraderie that keeps him in the club. Bosch spends half an hour every morning on his radio at home. His wife, Irene, also is a ham operator, and they like to chat with other hams while on trips.
“It’s pretty much the same people,” he said. “For example, there’s a lady in Texas who is on the radio all day — it’s her life.”
David Sheppard joined the club about five years ago. He earned his license while living in California.
“It’s something that interested me — they were such a friendly group when I met them, I figured those are people I wanted to socialize with.”
Sheppard is among the amateur radio operators who participate as storm spotters for the National Weather Service.
“When a storm comes in, several of us jump into trucks and drive to different locations,” he said. “We try to give witness as to how strong the wind is. Somebody from the Law Enforcement Center coordinates everyone out in their vehicles or homes in different parts of town.”
He remembers storm spotting when a tornado touched down in south Dickinson. He and his wife, Melissa, were stationed between Belfield and Fairfield — heavy rain and hail masked the funnel cloud, he said.
Larry Skwarok was also on the radio during that storm.
Skwarok, who is visually impaired, studied with cassette tapes until he received a technician license. His call sign is KD0BDL.
Keeping a radio in his apartment, he said it’s a way to make friends.
His goal is to upgrade his license to the general class.
Luke Schields joined the club at the encouragement of his parents, Mark and Sharon Schields, who also are hams.
“My dad started me off at a pretty young age,” he said. “It’s fun to talk with different people from all over the world.”
Ham operator Kenny Freeman recently moved to Killdeer from Georgia. He participated in the field day to test his emergency skills.
“We wanted to see how fast we could make contact,” he said. “I made a few contacts in Georgia— nobody I knew.”
Not yet a member of the club, he’s pretty sure he’ll join.
“I want to be part of the ham radio community — helping out with the things they do,” he said.