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HAMS in Paradise – Spring 2019

HAMS in Paradise – Spring 2019

Wow, what a difference a year makes!  Ham radio is coming alive in the USVI, both in infrastructure and new hams joining our ranks.  It’s a known fact that following hurricanes there is logically an increase in interest in ham radio, but what’s happened over the past year is beyond my wildest dreams! 

BACK TO SCHOOL

License classes on all three major islands, and even several rescue members on little Water Island (in Charlotte Amalie harbor) want to join in the fun.  On St. John, the efforts of Larry, NP2LP & Jennifer, NP2QT Pruss, a total of three tech license classes have been held resulting in a couple of dozen hams on St. John.  A couple of these new hams even ventured from the neighboring British Virgin Island of Tortola to obtain their tickets! 

St. Thomas has also joined in the quest to license more hams.  Recently upgraded extra Dr. Henry Smith, KP2J (ex-NP2QP) has fostered an effective and productive learning environment.  The professor is now teaching both technician and general licensing classes. His second licensing class is about ready to sit for their tech tests.  He hopes to keep his noteworthy student perfect pass rate intact!  Also, congratulations to Dr. Smith on going from no license to extra class inside of a year!  Great job! 

Last night saw the first ham class on St. Croix in some five years commence with 30 students.  We look forward to welcoming our next group of hams just in time for this year’s Field Day 22-23 June.  We will be looking forward to the next “all islands” Field Day exercise, after several years of challenges. 

REPEATERS – LOTS OF THEM!

Following the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria, a single repeater remained on the air.  The only links between islands were via those stations with coverage to neighboring islands.  Clearly something had to be done.  Through a community foundation grant, new repeaters, controllers, duplexers, etc. were procured for all islands.  Thanks to the efforts of Larry, NP2LP and Carlos, NP2DL, I am happy to report that there are now five LINKED repeaters covering all three islands.  As icing on the cake for our newer licensees, Echolink and IRLP capability was also added.  Thanks to the ability to link to the National Hurricane Center’s WX-TALK Echo/IRLP weather net, the Territory will be much better informed for what is coming over the horizon.  Needless to say, the linked repeater system is abuzz with new hams.  Weekly nets generally have in excess of 20 check-ins, some from a-far via Echolink. 

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

The relationship with VITEMA, our Territorial EMA, was tested to the limit following the storms.  With all of the Federal financial aid pouring into the Territory, a small piece was secured to improve and harden communications from our EOCs.  Soon, the EOCs on all three islands will bear the distinctive calls KP2EOC, NP2EOC and WP2EOC.  VI hams anxiously anticipate the Senatorial confirmation of Daryl Jaschen, NP2QD, as the next Director of VITEMA.  Before, during and following Irmaria, he was a prime relief EOC ham operator in St. Croix.  This provided him with relevant, front-line emcomm experience to gauge the state of readiness in the Territory.  As a retired colonel form the VI National Guard, he has ‘walked-the-walk’ in the military ranks.  As a long-time VI resident, he is a familiar name, and face, to many Territorial and community organizations.  The hams of the VI congratulate him and look forward to furthering their relationship with VITEMA. 

EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS

Our recent graduates are not sitting around just chatting up a storm with their newly issued licenses.  They’re learning net protocol and preparing to help their communities and organizations.  They’re on-line taking their core ICS classes (ICS-100 / 200 / 700 / 800) to prepare for future support of Territorial and Federal partner agencies, and other NGOs.  They’re practicing their skills supporting public events, such as the “Eight Tough Miles” on St. John with some 1,500 participants. 

YOUTH – OUR FUTURE!

The longevity of our hobby critically depends on attracting, training, mentoring and retaining younger hams.  Some of our younger hams (Skylar, NP2QS and Tia, NP2RE) think it’s cool to wear their HTs to school.  The teachers unknowingly tell them that “cellular phones aren’t allowed in school”.  Skylar and Tia politely and proudly reply, “This is not a cell phone.  It’s a ham radio.”  They have formed a ham club at their school boasting 14 members and “already have permission from the Principal to put an antenna on the roof”.   Great job young ladies! 

Reynaldo, WP2RB, hosted a group of youngsters to participate in the recently concluded CQ WPX SSB contest.  The wide-eyed future operators made over 100 contacts!  What a great job for youngsters who had never touched a microphone!  Following the contest Reynaldo met with a school teacher who enlisted his assistance to bring amateur radio classes into a local grade school.  We’ll be looking for another school club soon on St. Croix thanks to Reynaldo! 

STORM PREPARATION

As the mainland US battles severe Spring weather, we too in the islands prepare for inclement weather.  Hurricanes are a fact of life here.  Thankfully we generally have sufficient time to make storm-imminent preparations.  Everyone talks about the seasonal storm predictions from the experts.  The only storm that matters is the one coming at you, and if you’re not prepared, then you’re too late. 

I am elated to see the rise of ham radio in the Territory!  Thank you to the seasoned hams who selflessly give hours of their time to train students and install repeaters.  I salute all the new hams and applaud you for your drive to become prepared to help your family, friends and Territory in their time of need.  Together we will make our Virgin Islands a safer place to call home.   Hope to work you on the air soon!

73,

Fred, NP2X / K9VV
VI Section Manger

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