Excellent read, plus a minor rant…

Wow, this is just perfect: From NT1K’s blog: EmComm and Whackers

First off, I don’t actually know any “whackers” — at least not the hardcore type detailed in that blog post. But I’m sure they are around, as we have an active MARS/RACES/ARES/Skywarn collective in our region. One of my best buddies in ham radio is involved in all those organizations, although he’s not a whacker. Despite my love of the hobby, I find myself with little interest in EmComm.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize hams perform a valuable service for the community in a time of crisis. If I’m ever called upon to help, I will without hesitation. I will likely attend training for EmComm at some point, and I’ve worked a lot of public service events this year. But the way I see it, I got into ham radio for the love of the technology. Radio for radio’s sake. I’ll leave emergency communication to the professionals. If they need my help, they will reach out to my club and hopefully my club will reach out to me.

On a similar, but unrelated note:

Several weeks ago, my club DID reach out to me. The MS 150, “Breakaway to the Beach” bike ride was coming up. Two days of cycling, covering 150 miles, ending at Myrtle Beach, to raise awareness for Muscular Dystrophy. They needed a sweep vehicle BADLY.

Now, I’ve swept bike rides before. Shorter rides. Our club is very service-oriented, and I do volunteer for as many events as I can. I especially try to support events I have a personal connection to. For instance: My mom succumbed to cancer in 2007, so I supported the Colon Cancer Challenge back in the spring. My grandmother suffers from dementia, so I helped at the NAMI Walk. My uncle has suffered for a long time with MS, so the MS 150 was a no-brainer. In fact, I like to support bike rides in general because I was once a cyclist. I was struck by a car in 2005, and narrowly escaped with minor injuries, despite being struck from behind by a car traveling at near highway speeds. So keeping cyclists safe on the mean streets of South Carolina is something I can get behind.

Anyway, the sweep car follows the very last cyclist, and periodically relays position information back to the control station, providing the location of the end of the ride. As I discovered on Saturday, it’s a difficult position to work on a 100-mile bike ride. It’s mentally demanding. You’re driving, checking a complicated 100-turn cue sheet, trying to protect riders from angry motorists who are frustrated that the bike riders are slowing them down, trying to maintain a safe position behind the slow-moving cyclists, relaying positions back to control, driving your car on the shoulder, stopping to help cyclists, calling for SAG trucks. You sometimes are called upon to backtrack to search for lost cyclists. Overall, it’s a challenging experience. The reward is the end, when that slow cyclist that’s been struggling for so many miles, finally pulls across the finish line.

All mobile volunteers supply their own vehicles, radio gear and gasoline. The cost adds up, especially for those who drive the larger trucks needed to perform basic support and gear. I drive a small hatchback, and I still ended up burning 3/4 a tank of gas during the day, not to mention the unknown wear and tear to brakes, clutch, tires and drivetrain.

Being a volunteer, I don’t expect anything from the folks who run these event — except perhaps a word of gratitude. Sadly, my personal experience at this particular event ended on a negative note, and I don’t plan to go into any detail in that matter.

I simply hope the folks who run events like this properly acknowledge, i.e., thank, the hams who volunteer. Don’t take what we do for granted. There are real people behind the voices on the radio — people who have made personal sacrifices and given of their time to help with something they believe in. Thank the volunteers — not just radio guys, but everyone — because without them, these events couldn’t happen.

One thought on “Excellent read, plus a minor rant…

  1. Thanks for reading, You’ve made a couple points that I failed to mention. That what makes these amateur radio blogs interesting.
    I’m also interested in EmComm but backed off after running into these “whacker” types. Even though it’s a small fraction it just rubbed me the wrong way. I have major respect for those that dedicate more time than they should to volunteering and making things happen without getting in the way. They should be thanked!

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