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This is your brain on Field Day

Field Day is fresh in our minds. Thanks to every single one of you who were able to attend or participate. It was a fabulous weekend event…and hot!

Three days before Field Day, I was making my way to my storage locker to pull Field Day equipment to be staged in my garage. I was also chatting with some other members of the team who were doing the same for their own departments. All the while, I kept thinking, why are we doing this? What is the purpose of Field Day? I even sent myself a little voice memo…basically reciting the ARRL party line: Field Day is an opportunity to show our communities what ham radio can do in the event of a disaster. I guess that is rationale for fighting the heat, the bugs and the weather. Still, it does seem kind of crazy. I mean, we had a whole year to plan. How many disasters give you that much lead time? So, that definition doesn’t really hit the mark. Then I got to thinking, Field Day is really about sacrifice. People willing to go to extraordinary lengths to complete a task. That seems like a better working definition and certainly better characterizes the ham radio people I know. For some of us, there was the intensive week of prep time away from family and work. For others, it was giving up a valuable weekend to practice our radio skills. On Friday, we had about 20 people sweating in the hot June sun to set up antennas and towers. They could have easily stayed home to watch soccer or read a good book. Instead, they joined in on the brutally, tough work, on a scolding summer heat. I know, we aren’t getting younger and the tasks are becoming more physically demanding. The point seems to be that Field Day demonstrates the sacrifice we would make to help our communities. And it is not just the leadership team that makes sacrifices.

When it came to operating radios, even that can be arduous and demand sacrifice. Ask Bill Lederer what it is like to sit for 12 hours straight working CW! Or try 80 meters on a stormy summer night! Your hearing goes batty; your voice becomes raspy and tired and you lose your brain. Or imagine what your brain is like after working 20 hours to set up and then you operate for 4 intense hours on radio duty. At 6 am, suddenly, all of the calls sound like alphabet soup. It takes a large number of dedicated folks to brave the elements administer this self-inflicted stress, to make the sacrifice.

There are rewards as well. Watching the young and old working on HF for the first time and catching the fever of making contacts can be thrilling. Or the excitement of commanding the band with a commanding run until you or your logger drop. It is rewarding to introduce people to this hobby who had no idea what this thing could be; it is showing our public service officials see what we can do. It is explaining to our elected officials why Field Day even exists. And, yes, it is also for seeing old friends. It was great to see Mike Wolf, return back with family in tow or seeing Leo, sporting his 4 day beard! For me, I was really glad to see Greg Lapin. He served as my Field Day operating mentor years back (and thanks for being part of the clean-up crew).

I had the opportunity to teach 15 Cub Scouts about radio, electronics and fun. Wow, it was really a treat to see something that you spend days working on come to life.

Then there are the unsung heroes…many of you don’t know Greg Karlove…but he spent many hours behind the scenes creating tools to solve some of our more vexing problem. How do you put a two inch mast into a tower with a 1-1/2 channel? How do you make waterproof connectors for the towers? How do we hoist a 300 pound tower without killing anyone? Dave Hewitt spent weeks and lots of personal resources creating an attractive GOTA station, and he let us use two of his personal K3 rigs. He had hoped to bring in a Flex radio for display, but when Ron Settle could not make FD because of a family crisis, we had to drop that from the menu. Ron Settle, Mark Klocksin, Ron Harroff and Don Whiteman spent two solid days building the 40 meter beam…then Murphy showed up. Thanks to the quick thinking of Warren Pugh, Jordan Kaplan and others with multiple runs to the hardware store, we got that beam up in the air and working. You may not know that Ed Burckart always puts in the ground rods and has made it his duty to take them out. This is no small task, and in the heat we face it was scary tough. Don Whiteman, Mark Klocksin, Randy Brothers, Dave Hewitt, Warren Pugh spent weeks tweaking the rigs to make sure they worked properly and interfaced with the computer for logging. How about the chefs, Larry Leviton and John Wass? Did anyone thank them for the hours they stood behind a steaming hot grill, in 90 degree heat cooking burgers for us? Chuck Saunders and Hy Alexander accepted the job of leading the antenna mounting team with no real experience in doing this job. We needed some leaders and they accepted the responsibility and handle it well. Sacrifice.

Field Day is great fun, but it demands real sacrifices by many, many people to be successful. I have been chair of this event for 15 years…and I am very, very grateful to all of you for sharing the load. You have to understand, before I was President of this club, I was Scoutmaster for a Boy Scout Troop with 100 scouts. I love camping and the outdoors…and so this is my chance to continue that tradition. Plus, I always wanted to go on some DXpeditions…and Lake Forest might be the farthest I ever get!!

A couple of years back, we divided some of the Field Day the responsibilities: I took on most of the bonus point issues and physical support (the three T’s: towers, antennas, tents) and Randy Brothers managed all of the operating tents and related issues. Since then, we have developed some strong band captains and a great leadership team. Together with all of you, we have made this a true Club event. And one that I am very proud to be part of. Field Day is very much worth the sacrifices we all make for it every year.

Thank you,

Rob, K9RST