On Saturday, March 20, 2021, Andy, KJ4MTP; Tom, W4PIO; John, KK4TCE; Scott Larimer, KN4RPA; Rob, KJ4LWN; Peter, KD4QNA; Greg, KM4CCG; David, KG4GIY; and Marc, N1BED, deployed to the wilds of MCB Quantico to support the Crossroads 17.75 run. Two waves of 200 odd runners attacked the hills on a lovely Saturday morning and hated every minute of it, so the MCMO considers it a complete success.
Crossband repeater: We put the crossband up at the OSV, and it was easy to hear Tom from inside the OSV, and he could hear most of us. We might want to use the crossband for Mile 4 as well, as it could not be heard at NCS.
NCS at the school: NCS was located at one of the highest points on base and could hear everyone but Mile 4 and Mile 5. Both locations used HTs. Mile 6 relayed for Mile 5.
Relay practice: With Mile 5 unable to communicate directly with NCS, Mile 6 handled the relay. It worked pretty well.
What needs work
DBIDS: While this is nothing we can fix, the whole DBIDS mess is still not a smooth process. It has been escalated to the MCMO for resolution.
Repeater in the middle: We should give thought to adding a crossband or higher power repeater to the middle of the course (around Mile 6 – although there is limited space) to handle the relay issues. Something to ponder.
Relevant vs. non-relevant traffic: Determining what is and is not relevant is tough, and from a situational awareness perspective, sometimes it is better to pass traffic, even if it seems meaningless to you when it might be helpful to someone else.
This was PWCARES first opportunity to get back into the field since the Honor 8K run in December, and the first post-COVID-19 event hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon Office. This served as both a chance to prototype how events might work in the future, and give everyone a chance to run through the woods.
CM11 and CM 12 were out in the woods with dead radios. CM12s radio was dead when he attempted to turn it on. CM11’s Radio was only viable for about 5 mins before it also went dead. W4PIO relocated from Mile 3 (assigned location) to CM12 to allow them to listen into the Amateur traffic.
We had an opportunity to practice relaying traffic for those that could not hear.
We had an opportunity to blow the dust off our gear and get out into the field again.
What needs improvement
The issue of base access is not something PWCARES can affect, however our issues have been heard, both by the MCMO and the PMO, who have overall responsibility for base access and access control. A number of issues have been identified and will be discussed internally at Quantico.
We did not stand up a net. We should have, especially with the need to relay traffic. ACTION: Stand up a net, even if you don’t feel it is needed, you can stand it down.
OSV was shadowed by Lejeune Hall and an HT just did not cut it. ACTION: We have been given permission to stand up an antenna and cross band repeater on the field opposite to the OSV. We will investigate the coverage in September or October in preparation for the Turkey Trot.
We need to work at relaying traffic. The traffic was successfully relayed, but it could have been done better. ACTION: More practice!
We need to identify the bib range for the multi-race events so we can tell who is who, even if we cannot see the actual colour of the bib. ACTION: Add this to the action plan as a standing requirement.
As our first event back, we could have done better. We certainly could have done considerably worse. We will find an excuse to practice as the year goes forward.
On Saturday, May 17, 2014, Prince William ARES took to the field in the green common in front of the McCoart building at the County Government Centre for a small digital exercise. The key goal was to set up one or more FlDigi stations and pass communications between them. A second goal was to set up a broadband hamnet mesh network. And finally, it was a great opportunity for the members of PWCARES to exercise their go-kits, digital gear, and work out in the field without commercial power.
Three “station” set-ups were provided. At the height of the exercise, as many as nine stations were in operation around the perimeter of the common and two different types of mesh networks were in operation. Most operators had a standard set up of a laptop, radio, and some type of external sound card device, such as SignaLink. A couple of stations tried the “headset to mic” interface method. At the end, four stations were able to successfully pass traffic, both ad hoc messages and more formal ICS-213 messages. These stations were all using SigaLinks.
Clarence provided a traditional broadband-hamnet network, with an access point connecting the field to the Internet.
Derek set up a mesh network that was a custom set up that was not BBHN or HSMM. The equipment he brought for the mesh was three WNDR3700v2 routers . On these devices, I had loaded the OpenWRT firmware. One device ran DHCP and an XMPP server, while the other two acted simply as relays. The network was configured so the 5 GHz radio connected ad-hoc while the 2.4 GHz radio provided an AP, different name and channel from each node.
Significantly different from BBHN, the adhoc 5 GHz connections were connected with the B.A.T.M.A.N. protocol (BBHN uses OLSR). The bat0 interface thus provided was bridged with the 2.4 GHz APs. This has the effect of making the entire network link-local. Thus, wireless clients could pull addresses from the node running DHCP.
At the exercise, David KG4GIY and Keith KM4AA connected their laptops and used Pidgin to connect their XMPP accounts, while Mark Redlinger connected with his iPhone and the ChatSecure app. No downtime was noted, though use was not heavy. The ability to connect Android and iPhone devices through the second AP is a big advantage to having a dual-band radio. The clear weather and flat terrain meant all of the APs were visible from the entire area of the exercise.
Derek welcomes any questions on this topic.
We learned there were a great number of power options available to everyone. Deep cycle batteries, generators, even solar panels, which meant there was no need for commercial power during the exercise. We also discovered that a physical device between the computer and the radio worked better than other lash-ups for sending and receiving data via fldigi. Several observers were present and learned how to use the system and what value it brings. It was also a good learning experience and we need to have more opportunities. A suggestion was made to have little workshops to review settings and set ups and then have another exercise. The digital list will be used to coordinate. The mesh nodes demonstrated the ability to utilize traditional TCP/IP based technologies successfully. More research and work needs to go into establishing the best way to implement it.
Bill did a signal study during the exercise, the results of which will be provided as soon as he has completed his analysis.
Thanks to everyone for their participation!
1 – http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/netgear/wndr3700
2 – XMPP is an instant message protocol, perhaps likened to a computerized form of the National Traffic System