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On the air

Amatuer radio operator keeps Ann's Choice tuned in

Created date

August 23rd, 2010

[caption id="attachment_13819" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Al Tribble mans the Ann s Choice Amateur Radio Station (ACARS), which can facilitate communication in times of distress. (photo by Jeff Getek)"][/caption] CQ, CQ, CQ: Calling all interested in amateur radio. Take note that Ann s Choice Amateur Radio Station is now fully operational from 160 meters through 2.4 HGz, Al Tribble s husky voice calls out on the airwaves. Tribble brought the amateur radio equipment to Ann s Choice five years ago, and he runs the residentdriven station. But what does all this technical stuff mean? And just what exactly is amateur radio anyway? Amateur radio was introduced in the early 1900s as a way for people to communicate with each other on different channels. It lacked organization, as new things often do, until the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established some rules and guidelines that compartmentalized frequencies, separating the commercial from the amateur. All radio began with a practical side, especially amateur radio. Its purpose was and still is to help people preserve life and property during unusual times when normal modes of communication are down. An emergency situation could put a burden on communication systems, Tribble says. Amateur radio s purpose is to assist communication lines in case an emergency situation arises. Since it provides a service, the FCC doesn t charge for the use of the amateur radio frequencies. The term amateur itself reflects that the purpose is one of civil service, and therefore, there is no pay involved; the term is not a reflection of the operators skills. Tribble has been a licensed operator since 1951; he was introduced to it while completing a tour of duty in the Army. He was especially intrigued by the use of Morse code over the airwaves. A language of its own, Morse code is still used today, even though it stopped being a requirement in 2007. After returning from Korea and being assigned to the Signal Corps, I met a licensed amateur radio operator who took me under his wing and exposed me to the rudiments of how to earn a license, Tribble says. To the general public that may not know about amateur radio, one must have a valid Amateur Radio License issued by the FCC in order to operate, Tribble says. The license classes are Technician, General, and Extra. Tribble s licensure extends to the highest level, the Amateur Extra License, and he is part of the Amateur Radio Relay League s corps of volunteer examiners. Some of his experiences include operating and explaining the Franklin Institute s Amateur Radio Exhibit and teaching the rudiments of amateur radio to high school students, preparing them for the FCC Amateur Radio License examinations.

Crossing signals

Wherever Tribble goes, the amateur radio equipment goes with him. To maintain his license, he has to remain active on the airwaves. When he moved to Ann s Choice in 2005, he found a storage room on campus and asked management if he could set up shop. He s been on the airwaves and encouraging others to do the same ever since. There are several licensed operators at Ann s Choice. Tribble helped fellow resident Michael Silverman achieve his operator s license. ACARS (Ann s Choice Amateur Radio Station) is looking for other Erickson communities to communicate with for passing traffic and information of interest to other amateurs. We are looking for ways to serve our community during times of emergencies, perhaps having an amateur radio station here to be in contact with the local hospitals through one of our amateur radio operators there for providing vital medical communication link for doctors and others, Tribble says. Amateur radio doesn t have any traditional programs, but each operator can connect with either operators or a network of operators to discuss emergency procedures and other things relevant to amateur radio. Amateur radio is a science, and many units use the moon, the aurora borealis, and even the ionized trails of meteors as reflectors of radio waves. And since the signal can be used and picked up on hand-held radios, if there ever were a crisis, operators would be able to communicate with hospitals, air traffic, and even the International Space Station, as many astronauts are also amateur radio operators. Tribble s FCC call sign is W3STW. ACARS opens its doors to visitors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, Tribble says, his infectious smile cutting through the radio waves, as he welcomes anyone interested in learning to come by and tune in.