Field Day 2014 After-Action Report
The purpose of an after-action report is to review the operation in its effectiveness, its efficiency, and in short, in its entirety. If this was an actual emergency operation, an AAR would be compiled soon after the order to stand down, and to review what went right and what went wrong so as to anticipate these items in future events.
The ARRL Field Day event is announced as an emergency preparedness test. This means different things to different groups, but as a whole, it is intended to be a fun summertime event with the real potential to improve operating skills which may be critical in times of true emergency. As such, we will review the event somewhat critically.
Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club has had the philosophy that the Field Day event should be treated as a competitive event, feeding on human nature’s passion to be the best you can be against your peers. This has the very real consequence of honing skill and development of a better communicator.
In the past 5 years, RARC has submitted a Field Day entry in class 3A. The following results were obtained:
• 2010 : 6182 points (787 CW QSO’s that year)
• 2011 : 4958 points
• 2012 : entered 2A
• 2013 : 4232 points
• 2014 : 4814 points
These results have distinguished RARC in placing near the top in the state of Tennessee and generally in the top 50 in the nation in that category and class. Last year, 2013 was a distinct exception. Despite several unanticipated complications including hardware malfunction and severe weather, our score actually outpaced last year’s score – and this despite numerous forced weather-related shutdowns.
In no particular order and with what went wrong mixed in with what went right, mixed with statements of fact, analysis is as follows:
• Digital capable stations are hardware intensive and take extra expertise to put together and insure easy operability.
• Power distribution is almost fully standardized with the use of Anderson Power Pole (APP) connecters. Only one station was not so equipped (at least from the start) – GOTA.
• Items from last year’s AAR such as issues with baluns and BPF’s were corrected and were not a factor this year. All functioned well.
• Know thy radio ! Of course, unfamiliarity with the radio is part of Field Day. It might be beneficial to review basics of specific radios prior to FD.
• Intercom system with the phone station needs further interface work to make fully functional. The intercom aspect of the unit worked well; however, further cabling is needed to interface correctly with the radio. Another unit can be made available for the GOTA station if desired.
• Antenna experimentation with the GOTA station was a success. Weather related issues with antennas need further understanding to prevent failure.
• Antenna deployment and lowering need streamlining for safety and efficiency. Using tractor front loader for raising and lowering of unwieldy masts is effective and should be continued. Never raise and/or lower an antenna without assistance.
• A digital station is software, as well as hardware, intensive.
• The N3FJP is not qualified to be an all-encompassing Field Day logging software due to limitations in digital and CW operations.
• N1MM Logger performed well with accessory digital engines during digital operations.
• Sound card DSP digital modes such as PSK31 require the computer sound card to be set up correctly. The sound card sampling rate needs to be a multiple of 8000 Hz. 441000 Hz is not correct sampling; 48000 Hz would be.
• All computers need to be configured with the same OS. Pullezze !!! There is no reason to consider networking between computers at this time. Thank you !
• Winkey keying is much smoother than though-the-CPU keying.
• N1MM Logger presents a better and simpler way to log QSO’s quickly and should be considered for ALL stations.
• The new N1MM+ Logger is expected to be released this fall and will be evaluated intensively.
• 15 licensed, 2 non-licensed
• All operators entered an identifier in the log prior to operating session – improved.
• Control operators were present with non-licensed operators
• Weather / lightning protection: during portable operation, no radio is actually grounded except through the power supply system. With any threat, unplug ALL cables and cover radios.
• Generator power should be engaged 1 hour prior to event to verify operability.
• Troubleshooting of any software / hardware problem is the responsibility of the FD chairman and owner of the equipment in question.
• No apparent issues with inter-station interference – first time ever ! The BPF’s worked !
• Antenna setup and breakdown was, for the most part, smooth. Familiarity with the antennas is becoming apparent.
• Need to work out wire antenna network for better proficiency.