JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICHAM, Hawaii (NNS) -- More than 18 Sailors and civilians assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) amateur radio licenses from the American Radio Relay League (AARL), March 3, after passing a final written examination aboard the ship.
With the permission of U.S. Pacific Fleet Command, Bretz invited two civilian instructors, from Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) on Fort Huachuca Army Base, to teach the Fundamental Amateur Radio Technician Class and the General Amateur Radio Class licensure courses.
"I am very excited to host the trainers on Mercy," said PP18's mission commander, Capt. David Bretz. "We will be researching the effectiveness of using amateur radio aboard the Mercy for the duration of PP18. Amateur radio operators have played a huge role throughout history assisting in humanitarian and disaster relief (HA/DR) efforts. I am looking forward to gathering research on how this older technology can still be relevant in current HA/DR missions, such as PP18."
The FCC license will allow them to operate an amateur radio system to broadcast signals from the ship to locations all over the world during Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18).
"These courses are designed to help students pass the licensing examination and become qualified by the FCC, which will allow them to operate amateur radio systems run by the American Radio Relay League," said Doug Smith, a volunteer civilian instructor from Fort Huachuca Army Base. "My hope is that Sailors and civilians who attended the courses will pass on the knowledge they learned over the past few days and tell other people about the positive effects it could have in today's HA/DR efforts."
Throughout PP18, these licensed Sailors and civilians will be using two different modes of amateur radio, the Single Side Band (SSB) and the Weak Single Propagation Report (WSPR). The technology they will be using has been around for more than 100 years, and provides a method for people to communicate around the world without depending on satellites, internet and cell phone towers."
"During this course, the instructors had us use the amateur radio system on SSB mode to communicate with another person so that we could hear what it sounded like," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Joshua Kostic, a native of Baltimore who is assigned to Mercy. "I heard a strong signal without any static, I assumed it was someone nearby even though we were floating around in the middle of the ocean," he continued. "Imagine my surprise when the instructors told me that I had just spoken to someone in Arizona, more than 2,000 miles away from where I was, all without the use of satellites, cell phone towers or internet. It was truly amazing."
Due to the fact that these systems can operate without the use of delicate, modern technology, the use of amateur radio systems is the most reliable form of communication in areas that have been ravaged by a disaster, according to Smith.
"The technology the Sailors and civilians will be using on the Mercy was used when the Titanic hit an iceberg, during World War II, Hurricane Katrina, after the twin towers were attacked on 9/11 and most recently it was used in Puerto Rico after a series of hurricanes devastated the area. In all of those most recent incidents all forms of newer technology such as satellites, Internet and cell phones were knocked out. Without the use of the amateur radio system and all of its operators, there would have been no way for the emergency responders and people helping in the relief effort to speak to one another, or get messages from the disaster-ridden area to loved ones anxiously awaiting news about loved ones' safety."
According to Smith, many of the current amateur radio license holders do it as a hobby and volunteer during disasters to help out, but he feels that if more people knew and could understand the technology, that knowledge could change the way we currently respond in a HA/DR situation.
"It is with great hope that using this system aboard the Mercy during PP18, will help raise awareness on the benefits of using the amateur radio system during a HA/DR mission and maybe the research gathered on this mission will stimulate further conversations on the possibility of increased use in our military," said Smith.
Throughout PP18, the licensed Sailors and civilians will be broadcasting the location of the ship using the WSPR mode of amateur radio. The purpose of this is to show that without the use of modern technology a person's location during an emergency or natural disaster can be found by using amateur radio and be heard by people all around the world.
"Not only will it help gather further research on this older technology blending with the new age technology, but using WSPR mode will allow our PP18 host nations the ability to track our location in real time and know when we are nearing their country, said Bretz."
The Mercy will be sending out a WSPR signal during PP18. Go to the website www.wspr.net.org and type in the Mercy's call sign K6MRC to see where the Mercy is located in real time and who also see who has been able to receive our signal all around the world.
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