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Technician License Class Begins on STX!

Technician License Class Begins on STX!

Students learning about the thrill of Amateur Radio

April 16, 2019 – Classes began this evening for students wishing to obtain their FCC amateur technician class license. A total of nine 2-hour classroom sessions are scheduled for students to prepare for their license exam in the tenth class. All of the Tuesday evening (6 pm to 8 pm) sessions are kindly being hosted by the American Red Cross of the Virgin Islands at their Sunny Isle headquarters.

A total of eight instructors from the St. Croix Amateur Radio Club have volunteered to teach various portions of the class. The classes will not be only information oriented, but also incorporate ‘hands on’ opportunities to utilize their newly learned skills.

A total of 30 students from many walks of life are interested in obtaining their license for a variety of personal reasons, however over-arching themes were community service and communications following storms. Many community and governmental organizations are represented in the class mix. (American Red Cross, Bureau of Corrections, FEMA, Juan Luis hospital, STX Rescue, VITEMA and WTJX Broadcasting.)

Individuals wishing to attend the class, or with other questions, should submit them to the class e-mail address of hamclassstx@gmail.com

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April 18, 20190 commentsRead More
Governor Names Col. Daryl Jaschen Director of VITEMA

Governor Names Col. Daryl Jaschen Director of VITEMA

By  Source Staff   –  March 23, 2019

COL Daryl Jaschen, NP2QD

On Friday, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. named Col. Daryl Jaschen, Virgin Islands National Guard (VING) veteran, as director of the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA).

Col. Jaschen, who is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Army War College, is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army and served as VING army chief of staff prior to his retirement from the Virgin Islands National Guard in 2016.

During his tenure at VING, Col. Jaschen served in various capacities relating to emergency preparedness and response. He served as management representative with FEMA Region II and played an integral role in the development of FEMA’s USVI Hurricane and Earthquake/ Tsunami Standard Operating Procedures.

While at VING, Jaschen also provided VITEMA with National Guard support readiness and maintained situational awareness on support requirements, and he served as a management representative at the agency’s monthly emergency management meetings. He also served as management representative for Pre-Scripted Mission Assignment development with FEMA Region II’s Defense Coordinating Element.

“I am happy to announce Col. Jaschen as VITEMA director. He has an impressive career history and is someone who analyses program and system issues and implements policy and process changes. He understands organizational readiness and disaster response, and he knows how to connect our local operations with the Department of Defense and other federal resources. Col. Jaschen is a key component of our public safety strategy and will work closely with our incoming territorial adjutant general to ensure our territory’s preparation and response to disasters,” the governor said.

Jaschen currently volunteers as a VITEMA ESF-2 communications operator and has been actively involved in tactical communications recovery efforts with FEMA, VITEMA, the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) and VING.

Since his retirement, he has continued his engagement with VITEMA and FEMA and has completed ICS300 and ICS400 training courses, Common Operational Picture, and Situational Awareness training and a VITEMA/ FEMA Table Top Exercise.

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March 27, 20191 commentRead More
Public Service in Paradise

Public Service in Paradise

Public Service in Paradise: The US Virgin Islands

The Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands is comprised of three islands: St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.  St. Thomas (population 40,000) is familiar to most as the busiest Caribbean cruise-ship destination, with some 1,500,000 annual passengers.  St. John (population 1,500), just east of St. Thomas, is nearly as large, and only accessible by ferry.  Two-thirds of St. John is a national park, and hence lacks significant development.  St. Croix (population 40,000), is the largest of the three islands and lies 35 miles south of St. Thomas.  There is a robust amateur community, with repeaters, nets, and clubs on each island.  The USVI was incorporated into the ARRL Field Organization as the ARRL Virgin Islands Section in 1982, and its current Section Manager, Fred Kleber, K9VV/NP2X, has served since 2012. 

If this sounds like paradise, it is, but sometimes not so much.  With its closet mutual aid responders some 1,000 miles away, amateur radio has historically played a vital role.  As category five hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the Caribbean, amateur radio provided a critical communications link for the Territory.  Territory ARES® hams supported local and Federal partners, including communication with US Navy aircraft and vessels.  Following the devastation from hurricane Irma, first responders were in search-and-rescue mode.  The priorities were rescue, medical evacuation, hospital recovery, damage assessment, port repairs, and shelters.

On the heels of Irma, hurricane Maria’s outer eye-wall crossed St. Croix at category 5 intensity.  (185 MPH sustained and 200+ MPH gusts!)  Maria caused catastrophic damage to St. Croix.  The majority of buildings were damaged or destroyed.  Some 95% of the utility poles in St. Croix had fallen, and the majority of cell telephone sites were out.   St. John was especially hard hit with 8 of 9 cell sites inoperable. 

The St. Croix Amateur Radio Club (SCARC) and USVI ARES® supported the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) acting under ESF-2 (Communications) from September 5 through October 2, 2017.  From the St. Croix EOC, SCARC acted as net control relying heavily on the shared 60-meter band to conduct nets involving Territorial, Federal, and non-governmental agencies.  Traffic was passed between the EOC, responding agencies, Puerto Rico, the Hurricane Watch Net (14.325 MHz), and the Friendly Net (7.188 MHz).   VI ARES® coordinated many medical evacuations, supply flights, and provided other logistical communications support.  

Although not ultimately required, Kleber planned to deploy wireless mesh network nodes to provide data connectivity between key USVI government locations. “We have used every trick in our comms bag of tricks to make stuff work,” he said.  A total of 2,232 volunteer man-hours were provided by the team of 13 dedicated VI amateurs.  Commercial power restoration exceeded 100 days in some locations.  Understandably, amateur radio filled a huge telecommunications gap.

More Than Just Hurricane Response

Amateur radio operators serve other public safety functions across the Islands.  On October 3, 2018, St. John Rescue members Larry Pruss, NP2LP, and Jennifer Pruss, NP2QT, were attending the monthly meeting of the volunteer organization.  The meeting was interrupted by a request for assistance from the VI Police Department.  The police had received a report of an empty small vessel washed up on the rocks in Reef Bay.   Larry Pruss, NP2LP, and Jennifer Pruss, NP2QT, immediately headed to the search area, while other St. John Rescue members commenced the maritime portion of the search.  The severely injured and dehydrated boater was found huddled amidst the treacherous rocks, and his life was saved.  For Larry and Jennifer Pruss, it was a family affair: daughter Tia, NP2RE, had made the initial call for assistance using her newly acquired license and traffic handling skills.  Following the successful rescue of the stranded boater, both daughters, Tia, NP2RE, and Skylar, NP2QS, radioed the reports that the mariner had been located.

Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, a devastated St. John community awoke to the realization of the critical value of the amateur service.  The Pruss family has been the spark plug of a new generation of hams on St. John. Through the assistance of Gilly Grimes, NP2OW, the support of St John Rescue, and two technician class sessions, the region now has 23 new hams.  This is quite an impressive accomplishment in just six months!  These new licensees are members of the community, St. John Rescue, the National Park Service, the Fire Service, and include four youngsters under 13 years old.  Five have completed the requirements to become ARES® members.

Additionally, one of the Pruss’ initial examinees, Dr. Henry Smith, NP2QP, is nearly finished teaching a new crop of a dozen future technician licensees on St. Thomas.  Local old timers are assisting new licensees with antenna building classes, public service opportunities, and well attended field day exercises.  The bottom line is a cadre of new and upgraded hams, resulting in a larger, trained, and more robust, ham population to support future disasters. 

Hurricanes Aftermath: Rebuild, Enhance Amateur Infrastructure

After the 2017 storms rocked the Territory, media interest waned, and the mainland US turned its eyes to western wildfires.  The USVI was left to pick up the pieces, but not alone.  Kleber recounted new relief “friends” gained in helping the USVI rebuild: FEMA employees, US Army Corps of Engineers, National Guard, US Army, private consultants, linemen, National Park Service, etc.  “Some of their responders were hams who showed up on the local repeater and attended club meetings,” Kleber said, “The Territory is forever indebted to these individuals and their organizations,” he added.  “They have made a huge difference.”

As for amateur service hardware, the Territory ham repeater network suffered extensive damage.  The sole on-air repeater (NP2VI) provided hand-held coverage to the helicopter landing zone and other critical locations.  Kleber reported “Through one of our new relief friends, who happened to be a ham, we were introduced to a philanthropic opportunity to purchase new repeaters, controllers, link radios, PV panels and batteries.”   Kleber is happy to report the USVI inter-island repeater system is completely connected with resilient UHF links.  Additional linked repeaters are currently being installed on all islands.  When commercial power is lacking, PV panels and batteries power the system.  Echolink/IRLP capability will have soon been added, as well as linking to Puerto Rico.  Lastly, there are plans to link to a 5-island system with coverage reaching south to Dominica.

Hams and Territorial Entities Continue to Work Together

It wasn’t long ago that St John personnel got word that the Mamey Peak radio tower — home to mission critical repeater antennas serving the Rescue service and the Virgin Islands National Park Service was being shut down.  Rescue members and park employees had used the tower repeater antennas to assist police, fire, and emergency medical services.  With the help of the National Park Superintendent, a new physical location for a tower was found atop Lizard Hill and technical challenges were overcome.  Gilly Grimes, NP2OW, oversaw the successful project, which was an excellent example of government agencies and organized volunteer radio amateurs can work together.  Logistical communications for triathlons, walk-a-thons, and water based events, continue to provide venues for new hams to practice their communications and technical skills. 

ARRL Field Day is Big for Territory’s Amateur Community and Government Agencies

The 2018 ARRL Field Day provided a great opportunity for new and veteran hams to get out and exercise the new amateur systems, operators’ experience, training, and the resulting new response capabilities.  Kleber acknowledged a great promotional effort spearheaded by USVI SEC, Daryl Jaschen, NP2QD, resulted in the attendance of many staff and officials from local partner agencies, such as VITEMA, the VI National Guard, St. Croix Rescue, and the American Red Cross.  The media was also represented.

Going Forward

For their efforts in post storm response, Kleber and fellow USVI amateurs were awarded the ARRL 2018 Humanitarian Award.  Additionally Kleber was lauded for his individual efforts with the YASME Excellence Award.

VI hams frequently attend ICS classes and training exercises. These interactions form a foundational bond and future interactions with partner agency personnel.  With the influx of new hams, grants, and the old timer expertise, the Territory amateurs are well positioned to support future responses. If you would like to follow future developments, please visit www.vihamradio.org

Figure 1 – FD “Class photo” at Cramer’s Park – the St. Croix VITEMA mobile EOC. (photo courtesy K9VV/NP2X)

Figure 2“Graduation photo” at St. John Rescue test session – (photo courtesy K9VV/NP2X)

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February 22, 20190 commentsRead More
Ham Radio Isn’t Just for Hurricanes: Ham Radio Assists in Rescue of Missing Mariner

Ham Radio Isn’t Just for Hurricanes: Ham Radio Assists in Rescue of Missing Mariner

by Larry Pruss, NP2LP & Fred Kleber, K9VV / NP2X
[St. John, US Virgin Islands, October 3, 2018] It was Thursday night and I was nodding in and out while watching TV. From the other room I heard what sounded like a weak scratchy signal trying to access the local repeater. I ignored it at first, and heard scratchiness again. The “L” in CW at the end of each transmission meant the transmitting station was via the UHF link of the newly installed inter-island repeater system.

Half asleep I stumbled into the other room and transmitted, “This is Fred, NP2X on St. Croix. The station trying to access the repeater, you are very noisy into the system, please try it again.” Again I heard a very scratchy station breaking the squelch of the repeater. Again I responded, “Sorry, you’re still unintelligible into the repeater. If you are using a handheld, please try moving a bit and try again.” On the next transmission I could make out a couple of syllables in a young girl’s voice.” I responded, “OK that location is better and I heard a little bit. Don’t change your location. What is your call sign?”

In a calm voice I heard, “This is Tia”. I immediately recognized the voice as that of Tatiana “Tia” Pruss, NP2RE. Tia is the youngest daughter of St. John hams Larry (NP2LP) & Jennifer (NP2QT) Pruss. Finally my head was becoming clearer and I thought to myself, “Isn’t it a bit late for someone of Tia’s age to be on the radio?” I responded to Tia, “OK Tia, I understand that is you. Is everything OK? Do you need help?” Again the answer was a scratchy uncopiable signal. I responded, “Tia, please give me a yes or no on if you need help.” Tia calmly responded, “No, everything is OK.” I responded, “OK Tia, I will standby on frequency in case you need anything.” What I heard unfold made me proud to be a ham in the USVI.

Unbeknownst to me, Tia’s parents had been attending the monthly meeting of St. John Rescue, a volunteer organization serving the St John, USVI community. Shortly after arriving to the meeting, St. John Rescue received a request for assistance from the VI Police Department. They had received a report of a dingy spotted washed up on the rocks in Reef Bay with no occupant. Larry and Jennifer immediately left the St. John Rescue meeting and headed to Reef Bay. Other members of St. John Rescue headed to the marina to begin conducting the maritime portion of the search.

What follows is Larry’s summary in his own words. “Jennifer and I set about traversing the various shorelines and beaches in the dark in search of the boater. The terrain became too rocky for Jennifer to continue, so she remained behind perched on the rocks providing flood lighting. As the Rescue radio coverage was marginal, Jennifer and I kept in touch with our VHF amateur HAM radios. When the lights of the Rescue boat became visible in the bay, both Jennifer and I found we had unreliable communications with the boat.

I came upon the dingy which had crashed upon the rocks. After finding the dingy and continued traversing the rocky shoreline, I pondered returning due to the jagged rocky shoreline. Just before making a decision to return, I encountered the boater huddled along the shore in a rock crevice. The boater reported his boat hit the reef, was thrown from the dingy, and ended up on the rocky shore. His position was an extremely treacherous spot which the Rescue boat could not reach. We were at the water’s edge at the base of a tall seashore cliff. Besides some minor scratches, the boater was cold and thirsty. I gave him a Mylar blanket for warmth and he gladly drank the water we brought.

With no cell service and having difficulty with our VHF radio, the immediate need was to notify the Rescue boat that we had located the missing person and discuss his evacuation.

Using our Yaesu Ham radios Jennifer called our daughters Tia, NP2RE and Skylar, NP2QS, at our home and requested they relay we had located the missing person to the Rescue boat. Tia and Skylar immediately went about contacting the some other Rescue members that passed along the message that we had found the missing individual.

The boater was not able to hike out from our location as he was both exhausted and without shoes. Jennifer hiked to the top of the hill to acquire some shoes from a house to protect the patient’s feet as we moved him from the sharp rocks. Due to the proximity of the reef and large waves, it was also not feasible to land the Rescue boat on the beach. Another Rescue member, Dylan Baird, arrived on scene and managed to reach me. He had taken a 4-wheeler to the site, hiked down the beach, and climbed the dangerous rocks to reach the boater’s location. Dylan had the good idea to try using the dingy to get our Rescue subject to the Rescue boat. In the dark, Dylan and I pulled the dingy off the rocks, bailed enough water out of it to keep it afloat, and started the engine. Dylan made a break for the reef to get the boat further drained of water and to coordinate next steps with the Rescue boat.

I stayed with the boater. Dylan reached the Rescue boat and returned with Brian Grassi, another Rescue member, a short time later. We put a lifejacket on the boater and together they transported him to the Rescue boat. Upon reaching the harbor, he was transported to the local clinic for treatment.”

We felt good about a number of things:

 Within approximately thirty minutes of locating the injured boater, he was transported to the Rescue boat.  Our daughters aged 12 and 13 flawlessly executed the relay of critical information using their newly learned skills. (Note: Tia has been HAM licensed 2 weeks and Skylar 5 months)  The HAM radio and Rescue training our family received and practiced, may have well saved a life

Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Larry and Jennifer Pruss have been the sparkplugs of a new generation of hams on St. John. In the last 6 months, and with the support of St John Rescue, they have held two HAM class sessions resulting in 23 new hams on St. John (19) St. Thomas (2) and the BVI (2) have been licensed through their instructional efforts. These new licensees are members of the community, St. John Rescue, the National Park Service, the Fire Department, and include 4 children under 13 years old.

Want to know more about ham radio? Check out http://www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio Want to know more about ham radio in the Virgin Islands? Please visit http://www.vihamradio.org Want to know more about St John Rescue? Please visit http://www.stjohnrescue.com/

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November 19, 20180 commentsRead More
YASME FOUNDATION SUPPORTING GRANT TO ARISS AND EXCELLENCE AWARDS

YASME FOUNDATION SUPPORTING GRANT TO ARISS AND EXCELLENCE AWARDS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2018
St. Charles, MO
YASME FOUNDATION SUPPORTING GRANT TO ARISS AND EXCELLENCE AWARDS
The Board of Directors of The Yasme Foundation announces that it has made a significant grant to ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, www.ariss.org) in support of the Critical Infrastructure Fund. Yasme has supported this important upgrade to the ISS amateur station since the effort began and challenges other organizations and individuals to support it, as well. As of late 2018, ARISS is the only non-commercial entity being considered for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway program, indicating the importance with which the space program views amateur radio. Putting and keeping amateur radio in space is a significant expense and needs the support of the entire amateur community.
The Yasme Excellence Award is presented to individuals and groups who, through their own service, creativity, effort and dedication, have made a significant contribution to amateur radio. The contribution may be in recognition of technical, operating or organizational achievement, as all three are necessary for amateur radio to grow and prosper. The Yasme Excellence Award is in the form of a cash grant and an individually-engraved crystal globe.
The Board of Directors of The Yasme Foundation is pleased to announce the latest recipients of the Yasme Excellence Award:
Brian Machesney, K1LI and Michelle Guenard—in recognition of their extraordinary efforts on behalf of Commonwealth of Dominica communities in the wake of the 2017 hurricane season. Their efforts included fund-raising, delivery of communications supplies, on-site support, and application of amateur radio technologies to support the relief efforts which continue today.
Fred Kleber, K9VV/KP2—in recognition of Fred’s leadership and technical skills that support the Virgin Island’s emergency communications capabilities. Fred has been a key player long before hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the islands. He is hard at work today re-building and extending the inter-island communication systems even after his own station suffered extensive damage.
Zorro Miyazawa, JH1AJT—for his extensive promotion of amateur radio in developing counties. Governments and telecommunications administrators in Bangladesh (S2), Bhutan (A5), Cambodia (XU), Eritrea (E3), and Myanmar (XZ) have benefited from Zorro’s patient and skillful efforts, supporting his own government and his fellow amateurs in Japan and around the world.
Stu Phillips, K6TU— for contributions to amateur radio through his Propagation and DX Strategy website, www.k6tu.net. In particular, his innovative tools, free for amateur use, enhance the use of the High Frequency Terrain Analysis (HFTA) program developed by Dean Straw, N6BV, another Excellence Award recipient in 2012.
Randy Wright, W6CUA—in recognition of his long service to the Yasme Foundation as our Awards Manager. His steady efforts and exacting attention to detail and customer service are greatly appreciated.
The Yasme Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation organized to support scientific and educational projects related to amateur radio, including DXing (long distance communication) and the introduction and promotion of amateur radio in developing countries. For additional information about The Yasme Foundation, visit our website at www.yasme.org.
Ward Silver, NØAX, President
The Yasme Foundation
Board of Directors:
Ward Silver, NØAX, President and Director
Ken Claerbout, K4ZW, Vice-President, Secretary and Director
Rusty Epps, W6OAT, Treasurer and Director
Hans Blondeel Timmerman, PB2T, Director
Martti Laine, OH2BH, Director
Fred Laun, K3ZO, Director
Robert Vallio, W6RGG, Director
Marty Woll, N6VI, Director
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November 5, 20180 commentsRead More