Monday, March 4, 2013

Patriot Redbird II Comm Exercise

Members of the Cobb County and Chatham County ARES programs participated in Operation Patriot Redbird II on March 3rd at Clay National Guard Center on Dobbins ARB.  This communications exercise was the second such drill where Georgia ARES teams were requested to work alongside Georgia National Guard and Georgia State Defense Forces to demonstrate communications capabilities between two major military facilities in the state.  The Cobb County team of Dawn Humphries-KI5EV, Tony Gaito-KC0CSG, Ernie Braxton-KJ4VUX, Chris Loftus-KK4LZW, and Guy McDonald-K4GTM arrived at Clay National Guard Center on Sunday morning as the snow flurries fell in the 30 degree air.  Unusual weather for March in Atlanta!  The team had the Cobb ARES comm trailer set up and operational well ahead of schedule.  During set up and testing it was noted that the 80 meter NVIS antenna arrangement was presenting a very high SWR.  Tony put the antenna analyzer inline and determined that we had an issue with the balun or the antenna itself.  Fortunately the unit also has a multiband vertical HF antenna which tuned up just fine.  Tony performed comm checks with the VHF and UHF radios on the local designated repeater frequencies.  

I had coordinated ahead of time for members of the Chatham County ARES program to participate with us near the military installations of Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart.  The team consisted of Paul Ecker-KC2NYU, Greg Tillman-N4VAD, and Mark Bolton-KA4CID.  Just before 1000, using the new Cobb ARES call sign of KK4OIO, we established voice contact with all three stations on 7.268 MHz.  Plenty of noise on the band but with headsets and a little tweaking of the "nerd knobs" on the Kenwood TS-480, we were able to maintain solid voice contact throughout the drill.  The vertical antenna was not as ideal as the NVIS antenna might have been but the path between Marietta and Savannah held for the full duration of the exercise.  Around 1100 we decided to try to establish a digital data link between the two locations.  We stayed on 7.268 MHz, changed the mode to USB, turned the power down to 20 watts, opened the DM-780 digital program on the station computer, selected PSK-31 as our protocol and typed the first message from KK4OIO to KC2NYU.  Paul, in the Savannah area near Hunter Army Airfield acknowledged our message right away and gave us a 599 signal report.  Paul’s signal was booming in and the digital traffic was solid copy.  We sent several test messages and practiced for the better part of an hour.  Signals were so strong that we even backed the output power down to 5 watts and held solid contact between the two stations.  We also established digital data contact with Cobb County ARES member, Randy DeLuco-K4JTT in Woodstock.  Randy was also able to communicate with Paul in Savannah from his location in Woodstock.  We wrapped up the digital comm just before noon and Paul, Greg, and Mark signed off.  Sure appreciate those guys working with us.

Things couldn't have gone better from a communications objectives perspective.  We once again were able to show how quickly an ARES team can set up a fully functional, multiband, multimode, radio station and communicate with other units in the state.  We also had the opportunity to brief several groups of officers of the National Guard and State Defense Force about the capabilities that we are able to bring to our served agencies.  Everyone seemed very impressed with the ARES program, our capabilities, and our commitment to public service thru amateur radio.  We are building some great credibility and more importantly some great relationships with the National Guard and the State Defense Force.  The next commex is being planned for some time in May and we've been asked to participate again and perhaps even broaden the drill to several other facilities across the state.  We'll start planning as soon as we have the details!

Just after noon, LTC. Boan and LTC. Olive invited us to join them for chow with the other soldiers in the unit.  It's was great to get out of the cold and have a nice meal.  Well, it was chow hall food but hey the lasagna was tasty and the soup was nice and hot!  After chow, we got a brief tour of the Joint Operation Center (JOC).  Then back outside to break down the unit and pack everything away.  We had everything stowed and we all departed around 1300.  Great exercise and great job by the Cobb and Chatham County ARES teams.

Guy McDonald, K4GTM
ADEC Metro Atlanta ARES

The HF station inside the comm trailer

Dawn-KI5EV getting things powered up

Dawn-KI5EV, Chris-KK4LZW, Tony-KC0CSG, and Ernie-KJ4VUX troubleshooting antenna issue

The team troubleshooting the 80 meter NVIS antenna

LTC Olive and other soldiers inside the Cobb ARES Unit

Chow time

Chris-KK4LZW in the chow hall

View from the rear of the unit

That's what it's all about

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