It’s my first time. Be gentle.

The Emergency Amateur Radio Club net has become one of my favorite on-air hangouts, ever since a couple of days since I got my call sign. For a while, I’ve wondered what it would be like to actually do the net as net control.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. And that teacher was none other than KH6DAD. Rich was wonderful about easing me and the other NCS trainees into the job. From just shadowing the NCSs, writing down callsigns as they would, to finally having a chance to read the preamble and closing under an NCS’s supervision.

But then came the big step…doing the net solo. Rich was kind enough to give me a call on the landline about 45 minutes prior for a pre-flight briefing. Still, there I was on Tuesday, at 7:20, sitting next to my radio, and wondering, what in the world am I getting myself into? I had a few concerns in my mind…like, what if I have a visitor with lots of QRM in the background, who checks in non-phonetically, and I can’t copy the callsign? I’m pretty sure I knew what to do, but listening to someone doing the net is a lot different from actually taking the driver’s seat. It felt like being at the starting line of my first marathon all over again. 

Fortunately, a pre-net QSO with Edward, NH6WI, eased my nerves somewhat. And at 7:30 straight down, I keyed the mike and spoke:

Aloha! This is Whiskey Hotel Seven Golf Golf, calling the Emergency Amateur Radio Club Net. My name is Keith, and I will be your net control station for this evening… 

I need not have worried. After that, it was a blur. Everything just flowed. It was like an out-of-body experience…almost as if my body, hands, and mouth were doing the net on autopilot, drawing on seven months’ worth of audio memory, and my brain was just watching, as if it were just another nightly net.

In general the reviews for my debut were good. The most common comment I heard as I was going down the list was that it was like I had done this for years. Well, obviously not for years, as I’ve only had my ticket for less than a year. But I do admit, it did feel familiar.

And it was a pretty good crowd for a Tuesday night. 16 check-ins for a 25 minute net.

Pretty soon I’ll find a place in the NCS rotation, and then my real learning will begin…a ham radio Padawan taking a big step on the journey to being a Jedi master…  🙂

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4 Responses to It’s my first time. Be gentle.

  1. WH7DA says:

    Great job the other night! I didn’t check in, but I was listening. If I didn’t know you were doing it as your first solo, I never would have known from listening to you. See you on the net!

  2. Rich says:

    I really enjoyed your blog entry Keith! I was grinning ear to ear remembering the same exact feelings on my first net. What a wonderful first experience you had too! You have much to be proud about, and i am so happy to have you as an addition to our team. Keep up the great work, and tell me what happens when that visitor with the interference finally calls. Aloha, Rich (KH6DAD)

  3. Ron says:

    That was a fabulous newsletter you put together for the EARC for April 2008. It never looked better and it had a variety of articles of interest. Good job!

  4. Ron says:

    My first net was more of a butterflies-in-the-stomach experience. I was NCS #2, right after Bob N4ESX had created the nightly nets and had run it for about 2-3 weeks. He claimed he’d do the first month, each night until people got the hang of it and more NCS’es signed up.

    I volunteered for Sunday evenings because at that time, I was pretty much guaranteed to be at the radio during the 7:30 pm start time.

    I knew what to do. I had the script (no email back then. I had copied the text from the air.) so, I just started out in the same fashion as Bob.

    I think I had asked Bob prior to the net what do I do after I take the check-ins, and he replied something to the effect as NCS, I could do anything I wanted — meaning, I could hold a round table, I could ask the group a question, etc. That first night, I just ran a roundtable, just like Bob.

    That skill of being an NCS, and taking things on the fly came in very handily later. Having run the nets nightly on Sundays for four years, I relinquished it to do other things in the community for the world of amateur radio. That included working with Robin, AH6CP to further build Hawaii State CD RACES, and assist Ray Moody with Oahu CD Agency RACES. Yearly Simulated Emergency Tests (SETs), classes on emergency communications were but a few of the activities.

    Those skills became handy on Friday, Sept 11, 1992. I arrived at State CD at 4:00 pm, to get ready for the siren net at 5:00 am (the sirens didn’t blow on schedule, so it was reset to 5:30 am). After that point, Iniki operations became one huge blur. There was no net script. This was no drill. Things came flying in one after another, and it was a matter of responding to each one. I remember the flow of events and various fragments, which became the foundation for the QST article, but there’s more that hasn’t been told.

    And, those many nights being an NCS on the EARC nightly net honed the lightning fast listening and operating skills (plus the many years served doing system management and the long weary nights upgrading computer systems prepared me for the long haul) that were invaluable on Friday night, Sept 11, 1992 when I had to run the amateur radio side of SCD solo (Robin was being prepared to fly to Kauai to resurrect broken radio systems).

    All the helicopters on Kauai was damaged in the hurricane, and the roads were strewn with fallen telephone poles and debris that ambulances couldn’t drive. That night, we were fighting to keep wounded people alive. We kept them alive with hope and the word that the choppers would fly from Schofield and be there in the light of the new day to fly them to surgery at Wilcox Hospital in Lihue.

    Looking back, operations during Iniki has made me a better contester — which I’d love to do if I had the time and the station. These days, contesting is for fun. But tomorrow, one never knows if we have to once again dust off our NCS, contesting, message-handling and endurance skills with the next, unseen call to action.

    Remember. It takes two, not one, skilled and ready ham radio stations to pass a message.

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