Sunday, June 22, 2014

Field Day is SOON

It is that time of year again for ARRL Field Day. Field day is June 28th and 29th this year so it is time to get ready to get some stuff done. It is coming up this upcoming weekend. Let's not forget what field day is about.

This is the great event where amateurs and non-amateurs alike from all over North America leave their home shacks and go out in the field with portable stations to operate in the field. But that isn't all. There is much more to field day than meets the eye. Later I will get into more details about what my local club is doing this year.

Field day is a training exercise. Amateurs erect expedient field stations using tents or other buildings, use their mobile stations, or even operate at home. Field day allows amateurs to test their ability to set up a station to operate under less than ideal conditions, ideally in the field, but sometimes at home and even emergency operations centers. This allows amateurs to test their ability to operate using less than ideal equipment, antennas and power sources. Many field day sites use emergency power sources such as generators to provide power even when normal commercial power is available.

Field day is an operating event. I don't like to use the term contest although it is scored somewhat like one. The operating part of field day involves stations contacting as many other field day stations as possible to earn points. To combine the other aspects of field day there are bonus points for those as well, for example emergency power earns a bonus. Natural (solar and wind) power also earns a bonus as does operating at reduced power. Even a 100 watt transmitter qualifies for operating at reduced power. This combines with the above to allow you to see how well you can contact other stations with less than ideal antennas and equipment as well as operate under crowded band conditions.

Field day is a public relations event. Field day is an ideal time to give amateur radio public exposure, as part of the operating event above you get bonus points for doing this. A field day site ideally is open to the public and the public is invited. A get on the air station (GOTA) is sometimes provided to allow inexperienced amateurs and non-amateurs a chance to get on the air and experience amateur radio for themselves. In addition to inviting the public, it is ideal to invite local politicians, emergency management officials, and the media to cover your event and see what you can do.

Lastly, field day is a good time for fellowship. Many amateurs have other obligations and cannot make the other radio club functions. Field Day allows these amateurs to be able to catch up with the other local amateurs and even partake in other hobbies while there.

I belong to the Antietam Radio Association based out of Hagerstown, Maryland. The ARA was formed originally as a club to get together for field day. While the ARA has evolved since those early days in the 1950s, one thing remains the same, the ARA still puts on Field Day. We are changing it up quite a bit this year though.

In my six and a half years of being a member of this great organization we have traditionally operated field day from the pavilion of the local park which was crowded as well as using the cover of another building. This year we are expanding to other areas of the park as we not only have the pavilion rented we have permission to use the entire park for the duration of both the Saturday and Sunday of field day.

We traditionally have a potluck dinner with sodas, burgers, and hot dogs provided. While we are still doing that this year, we are also having a lunch as well, this expansion will help the people on site remain on site longer instead of having to pack a lunch or leave for lunch.

In addition to all of this operating and fellowship we are doing something completely different this year. At 1000 hours local time we will also be having a Volunteer Examiner session. This will allow people to test to obtain their amateur radio license as well as test to upgrade their existing license. Standard rules and ARRL VEC fee of $15 applies.

Lastly as I have recently gotten back into photography the ARA has appointed me as official photographer this year, so expect to see some photos of field day this year.