WEST JEFFERSON — Ashe County amateur radio enthusiasts will gather at Westwood Elementary School this weekend for their annual field day exercises.
Amateur radio operators have held these field day exercises since 1933 and have always played a critical role in keeping communication lines open.
“Usually the only time ham radio makes the news headlines is when there’s a major disaster. Ham radio operators here and across the world train and prepare for major communication emergencies, but we don’t always have to be in that emergency mode,” said Marty Norris, a member of Ashe County’s Amateur Radio Club, W4YSB, that was founded in 1984.
Clubs set up their radios, communication towers and any other equipment that may be needed in an emergency situation and establish communication with as many people as they can all across the United States and the world for at least 24 straight hours.
While the field day practice gives the radio operators a chance to prepare for the worst, there is a lighter side to being a ham radio operator as well.
“We have a lot of fun talking to our friends everyday on the radio around the county or across the state, or nationwide and sometimes around the world,” said Norris.
For over 100 years, amateur radio has allowed people from all walks of life to experiment with electronics and communications techniques, as well as provide a free public service to their communities during a disaster, all without needing a cell phone or the Internet.
Field Day demonstrates ham radio’s ability to work reliably under any conditions from almost any location and create an independent communications network. Over 35,000 people from thousands of locations participated in Field Day in 2015.
“I’ve been in this hobby since I was 13-years-old, and it still amazes me how far you can talk with a radio and a wire stretched between two trees. Although I understand how radio works, it still has a magical element to it,” said Norris.
If you are interested in learning more about amateur radio and their field day exercises, the public is invited to attend the event this weekend.
There are over 725,000 licensed amateur radio operators in the United States and it is fairly easy to get a license of your own.
For more information on the Ashe County Amateur Radio Club, visit their website at www.w4ysb.org.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.