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BARC & "Strong Angel" Press Release

Pitt County Amateur Radio Operators and Operation Strong Angel

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) (see: http://www.ncarrl.org/ares/) and Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club of Pitt County (see: http://www.qsl.net/w4amc/) are working to support RIMPAC 2000/Operation Strong Angel organized by the United States Navy Third Fleet. This exercise, which will be conducted in Hawaii June 10-16, 2000 - a US Navy Exercise designed as a mock disaster drill. Operation Strong Angel formally involves the telemedicine arm of the Brody School of Medicine to provide medical support for this 8 nation (United Kingdom, Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, South Africa, and the United States) effort. The amateur radio community of Pitt County came to the attention of Strong Angel planners during Hurricane Floyd and its aftermath here as these "hams" (68 participating) provided essential communications between Pitt County Emergency Center, Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Red Cross, and all county shelter sites continuously, during all phases of this emergency.

Pitt County ARES hams will provide initial connectivity between Brody School of Medicine and the Strong Angel Base via amateur radio resources. An all-volunteer effort this exciting opportunity to demonstrate a grassroots resource will utilize the mammoth antennas of the recently decommissioned Voice of America, Site C - Edward R. Murrow Memorial Greenville Relay Station between US 264 and NC 43 west of Greenville. This unique site is in transition between the U. S. Government and ECU where the main building is already being renovated to house an NIH-sponsored AgriMedicine research and training effort involving ECU. NCSU, ECSU, and NC A&T Universities. Because of this construction the communications are being carried out in the Pitt County Sheriff Department Mobile Command Center located on the VOA Site C grounds and adjacent antenna structures.

The antennas were designed to provide extremely sensitive reception directed at all parts of the world to assure collection of national news broadcasts that were in turn assembled for broadcast at studios in Washington, DC, at the VOA transmitter sites in Pitt County, other parts of the US (Bethany, OH and Delano, CA). Imagine a 600+ acre site with more than 85 towers carrying miles of wire designed solely for radio reception - a "ham" radio operator’s heaven! Our operators are not merely listening. These antennas also facilitate low power transmissions characteristic of amateur radio - 100 watts - a mere candle flicker in comparison with the multiple transmitters of USIA’s VOA Sites A and B in other parts of Pitt County transmitting half a million watts apiece!

The Brightleaf Amateur Radio Club was recently assigned a second club callsign - W1VOA that we requested to honor the many club members active and retired who share their expertise with our hobby community. This callsign is being used at Site C during this exercise. Voice communications are scheduled to be initiated between Site C and the Puu Paa, Hawaii site of Operation Strong Angel beginning Saturday evening, June 10. Br. Simon Jaworski, KQ2V; former Principal at St. Peter’s School accompanied the ECU Strong Angel team to Hawaii to lead the amateur radio communications team there. Mr. Doug Ferris, K4ROK; of UNC-TV and Pitt County ARES Coordinator has led efforts here in Pitt County with support from a core group of approximately 20 of the amateur radio community whose numbers exceed 300. Continuing communications will commence each evening through Thursday, June 15. In addition to voice communications we plan to make digital file transfers and images via slow-scan television. All this is routinely carried out between amateur radio operators every day, but these exchanges become vital during emergencies. Even private sailors on their boats count on access to similar communications during transoceanic passages - far beyond the reach of cell phones and Coast Guard VHF communications.

Future exercises are already in planning stages that will target the Central American nation of El Salvador next spring. Pending successful amateur radio operations from VOA Site C to Strong Angel arguments will be strengthened for retaining some of these invaluable antenna structures - far beyond the economic resources of our amateur radio community - to provide an ongoing international telemedicine communications resource. Further benefits would possibly include meeting, training, and disaster communications center with modest space requirements. A small corner could even house VOA memorabilia - relics that led to the demise of the Iron Curtain without shots being fired.

By Paul Fletcher / KS4YF ks4yf@arrl.net


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