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Airport to play host to amateur radio event

Amateur radio operators from Warren County, Jackson and Brandon will be at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport Saturday and Sunday for a field day to demonstrate their ability to provide emergency communications.

Members of the Vicksburg and Jackson Amateur Radio clubs and the Central Mississippi Amateur Radio Association from Brandon will be setting up their equipment and broadcasting from the airport from 1 p.m. Saturday until Sunday afternoon, said Eddie Pettis, a member of the Vicksburg association.

He said about 50 people are expected to be involved in the event, from setting up to taking equipment down at the end.

The Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club is hosting the event.

“Field Day is sponsored by the American Radio Relay League from Newington, Conn.,” Pettis said. “It’s an annual event that shows the readiness of amateur radio operators to be prepared for different events like natural disasters or any incident where emergency radio communication would be required.”

During the field day, he said, the operators at the airport will be classified as an alternate emergency operations center.

“We’re going to be in a public place and our purpose is to communicate with as many stations worldwide that we can in that 24-hour-plus period,” Pettis said. “It shows our readiness to deploy. We can’t start setting up until Friday, and we can’t start operating until 1 o’clock on Saturday.

“It gives us 24 hours to get set up as if we were called out for an emergency.”

He said three to four radios will be set up for the field day, using voice communication, data, Morse code and satellite communications.

“It’s one of those events a lot of us look forward to,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve had many different times doing it at Vicksburg, plus I’ve done some in Brandon and different areas. To me, radio is a passion. A lot of people who are amateur radio operators are just common people from all walks of life.”

Pettis said operators will be doing different things during the field day.

“Some people like to talk, some people who don’t like to talk can log the contacts in the computet,” he said. “We have others who like satellite communications, some who like to sit in front of a desk with a radio doing Morse code.”

Besides the active radios participating in the field day, the event will have a “GOTA,” or “get on the air” station for someone who is not a HAM but would like to be. “It gives them an opportunity to get on the air and communicate and see what it’s like,” Pettis said.

During the field day, the radios are operated in shifts, Pettis said, “Although there are a few diehards who want to man their stations 24 hours.”

He said the radios will be set up outside the airport terminal under its canopy.
Some operators will bring tents, and others recreational vehicles or trailers.

“We’ll have at least two portable radio towers and a large number of wire antennas; multiple bands, multiple modes.”

Pettis said the field day is open to the public to watch the operators, talk on the radio and get information on training to becoming an operator.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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