Amateur Radio: On Acting Like Professionals

I felt compelled to write this post after a recent experience I had volunteering for the Kat’cina Mosa 100K Mountain Run. I was one of the two radio operators for Aid Station 3. The race is a 100 Kilometer Mountain Run, that starts at 3 AM, and runs for nearly 24 hours. Aid Station 3 is early in the course, and the first runners reach it 2-3 hours after the start of the race.

Overall, the race went well, and I had a great experience. The race organizers did a great job, and the volunteer coordinator did an amazing job of distributing the information we needed to do our jobs as radio operators. I am looking forward to volunteering again for next year. Which brings me to the point of this post…

Some of the other radio operators were truly amateur. I am not going to name names, or even which positions they were manning, because I believe that the problems were largely a case of a lack of education. I was disappointed and frustrated with the complete lack of professionalism displayed by a small number of my fellow operators.

First: When the volunteer coordinator sends out very well prepared and organized information, READ IT. Repeatedly, until you have a firm grasp of what you exactly your responsibilities are, and how to perform them. If you have questions, ask those questions far enough in advance of the event to get answers and have time to study them. Do NOT ask questions that were covered in the materiel over the radio on the day of the event.

Second: Comply with Part 97, especially the parts that concern identifying yourself on the air at least every 10 minutes. Using your tactical call for the net is NOT sufficient. Depending on the traffic level of the net, I would suggest using your call once in every exchange, simply stated after your tactical call at either the beginning or end of the exchange. On very busy nets, this can be extended to once every ten minutes, when you are speaking. Giving your call takes only a second or two, and keeps you in compliance with Part 97. (On a side note: I’m not a fan of the practice on some nets of doing a bulk ID where everyone keys up at once and IDs. It defeats the entire purpose of giving your call, and sounds extremely unprofessional.)

Third: Apparently there were issues of which I wasn’t aware, but it was frustrating to me that Net Control didn’t come on the air until all the runners had passed through our aid station, nearly 2 hours after they were supposed to open the net. It would have been appreciated if word had been passed that they were having difficulties. The traffic levels for the Kat’cina Mosa race were low enough that a distributed net worked just fine, and we didn’t have any issues.

Finally, and related to at least problems one and two: Act like a professional at all times when dealing with the public as a volunteer. You are a reflection on all of us, and one bad operator can damage the reputation of all of us, far faster than good actions can restore it. If we want to be able to do our best to help the community and to advance the hobby, we need to make sure that we are allowed to help out. A bad reputation can make that extremely difficult.

And, as a parting gift, here are pictures taken from the site of my aid station, in the mountains above Rock Canyon Campground, just east of Provo Utah.

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