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Ham radio operators aim to get out their message

| Sunday, June 17, 2007

During Sept. 11, 2001, as well as Hurricane Katrina, cell phone towers, power lines, and telephone poles were down, causing a loss of communication. However, in these times of disaster and devastation, a different kind of hero emerged -- the amateur radio operator.

Many people don't even realize that amateur radio, or ham radio as it is more commonly known, is still around, and just how crucial it really is.

Even Wendy Haywood, secretary of the Monessen Amateur Radio Club and an operator herself, said, "I didn't realize how important ham radio really was until 9/11. It would be a true tragedy to lose communication; it's very important to everyone."

Because of the importance of communication, every year the Amateur Radio Relay League sponsors a national event called Field Day, held on the last full weekend in June, this year Saturday and June 24.

During Field Day ham radio operators from all over the country gather to demonstrate the communication abilities of the amateur radio community. Clubs gather at a designated spot and test their skills as radio operators by attempting to contact other operators from around the country.

Haywood's husband, Mark, also a member of MARC, said that amateur radio operators even once contacted the Russian space station.

This year MARC will be holding its annual Field Day events at the Mon Valley YMCA along Route 88 in Carroll Township. It is open to the public.

As chairman of MARC, John Podroskey said, "It is part of our job to try and get the public to attend."

There will be food and drinks available to all who attend any portion of this 24-hour event. Podroskey said it's kind of like a picnic.

"The food ranges from peanut butter and jelly crackers to a feast," he said. " You won't go hungry and there's lots of good things to eat."

The focus of Field Day is on communication and inviting the public to come out and see what amateur radio is all about.

MARC President Bill Cioccio said, "In lieu of computers and appliance-type radios, we need to get back to real communication. Let's get back to ham radio."

For more information, contact Cioccio at 412-751-4373. For more information on amateur radio, visit the Web site www.ARRL.org

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