Amateur radio is alive and well in Cherokee County, and in June it was on display in Cherokee Veterans Park in Canton at what radio enthusiasts call Field Day.
The annual event, which dates back to 1933, was formalized by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), and is held in North America the fourth full weekend in June. It evolved from the humble beginnings of the golden age of radio. Field Day was established to showcase the value amateur radio can bring to the government and the public.
After World War I, the importance of civilian radio operators providing aid in times of emergency, when regular infrastructure is stressed or destroyed, was realized. They were banned from operation during the war; when the war ended, amateur radio flourished and became a serious hobby for many people. Radio operators were nicknamed “hams.” In telegraphy, it referred to an amateur operator who was ham-fisted, i.e., not a professional.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was established in 1934, and regulates all radio communications in the U.S., including amateur radio. Operators must be licensed.
Ready for Emergencies
The Cherokee Amateur Radio Society (CARS) brings together local amateur radio operators for education, training, fellowship, enjoyment and public service. The CARS group is a back-up communications team for the Cherokee County EOC (Emergency Operations Center), in case of an emergency. A tornado easily could wipe out county communications, and cellphone service for days. The team is trained in handling emergency messages, compatible with the methods used by the EOC. This is entirely voluntary work and service.
Field Day is a time to show the public and our served agencies that we are ready to deploy, if needed. During Field Day, we set up multiple, fully functioning shortwave radio stations in a field devoid of infrastructure. We bring all our supplies, including generators, antennas, shelter, food, water, computers, networking and sophisticated radio equipment. The object is to deploy the equipment successfully, no matter the weather or circumstances, and contact as many other amateur radio stations as possible within a 24-hour period. We use all modes of operation, like voice, data and Morse code (also called CW). The CARS group had all the modes in operation, and made many contacts throughout the U.S., Canada and U.S. territories.
We also use the event as an opportunity to serve in other ways. Members of the Scouts BSA, have the opportunity to earn a radio merit badge. They are required to train for several hours on radio technology, then talk on a radio to people outside of their organization. At this year’s Field Day, we hosted 25 boys and girls looking to earn this badge. It is a very fulfilling part of being a radio operator and part of a club that is willing to serve in this way.
We also encourage those interested in the hobby to try it out, and operate a station under the watchful eye of a licensed ham. We call it the GOTA station, which stands for Get on the Air. Many of the scouts, and a few adults, gave it a try, and had a lot of fun. The youngest member of our group is Noah Reed. He passed his first level exam (technician class) in February at the age of 8. Both his parents are hams and highly support and encourage him.
We had about 28 of our participating members making contacts to accumulate points for our club. When the event was over, we reported our results to the ARRL, which will tabulate points for clubs across the U.S. and Canada. Results will be published in a future issue of the league’s magazine, called QST. Last year, we did very well and were the No. 2 club in Georgia for our category.
Amateur radio is a hobby that continues to grow each year. There are more than 700,000 licensees in the U.S. The hobby keeps growing, with amateur radio satellites, moon bounce, extended range drones, and people in the “maker” community interested in learning about electronics and wireless technology. We have engaged with schools and offered to demonstrate ameteur radio capabilities as part of STEM education.
– By Martin Buehring, the Cherokee County Amateur Radio Society Club president.