Annual Field Day for amateur radio operators is coming up and the local radio group, Splitrock Amateur Radio Association is tuned in and ready for this year’s competition.

Sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (AARL), the national organization for amateur radio operators, more than 350,000 radio amateurs plan to gather on Saturday, June 28 through Sunday June 29 at various locations around the country for the Annual AARL Field Day. The local Splitrock Amateur Radio Association plans to set up shop at Horseshoe Lake in Succasunna.

About 60 members of the local group from Roxbury, Mt. Olive, Randolph, Hopatcong, Landing and Rockaway are looking forward to this year’s informal contest, practice for emergencies and fun.

“I enjoy talking to people and making some contacts around the globe,” says Bill Sohl of Mt. Olive, a member of Splitrock Amateur Radio Association (SARA) for the past 10 years. “It’s been something that’s peaked my curiosity. I’ve enjoyed being a ham. It’s got to be fun or else why do it?”

Established in 1972, the SARA was formed when a group of interested amateurs got together and built an amateur radio repeater from used commercial equipment. It was located on a radio tower on the north end of Rockaway Township, near the Splitrock reservoir, how the club got its name. The call sign was initially WR2ADB.

The repeater had been moved around several times over the years and was moved to its current location in June 2011 on top of a cellular phone tower in Roxbury.

Field day had been established and is known as the “most popular on the air event.” Friend, groups and clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada set up and operate from remote locations to “picnic, campout, practice for emergencies and compete by contacting as many other stations as possible and operate radio gear in abnormal situations, according the ARRL website.

“Field day is a day to stop by, say ‘hello,” says Sohl, and get the public involved to learn about the ARRL. His group, SARA, will have an information table at field day.

The goal of field day is “to provide emergency communication; to provide readiness.” He recalls “some years back” when serious flooding in Jefferson Twp. caused the radio system with emergency services and police to go underwater.

“Individuals with ham radio licenses were providing communications,” says Sohl, during the incident.

Field day involves a 24-hour operating period from 2 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday. Hams will set up their equipment 8 a.m. that day. The objective is “to show our ability to be ready with equipment that can be deployed with three or four stations; putting stations up; raising antennas; collecting antennas; “then go on the air 2 p.m., into the night and into the afternoon” the next day.

“We all help set up,” says Sohl, and then everyone takes turns working in shifts to operate the system. “We are a three-class operation,” says Sohl, a “medium sized club compared to larger ones that operate with seven or even eight stations.

Sohl brings the equipment which includes a VHS Station which is made up of a receiver (less than 10 pounds); AC/DC converter; transmitter; and antenna system.

Besides setting up shop, hams need to know how to communicate with other hams and they compete “to see how many contacts they can make. You can get awards from reaching certain operators.”

In previous years, Sohl’s group has made more than 1,000 contacts in the 24-hour period. In the U.S. exists more than 700,000 amateur radio individuals, says Sohl.

Field day is also the time to educate others about amateur radio, says Sohl. People, especially kids, at the park stop in as they are curious to what the group is doing.

“You have to keep the youth involved,” says Sohl, so they can attract them and peak their interest.

Sohl’s interest in radio, electricity and electronics dates back to memories of his dad who had a short wave radio when he was growing up. Sohl got his first radio license in 1958, and has been an expert in this hobby for the past 10 years, renewing his license every decade.

In 1963, Sohl earned his associates degree in electronics; worked for IBM as an electric repairman of office equipment; and in 1966 worked four years as an electrical technician on a Navy Destroyer ship in the U.S. Navy. When he got out of the Navy, he worked as a telecommunications craftsman for companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Bell Laboratories.

Members of SARA share interests in amateur radio with a common goal of talking in greater distances with low power equipment through a centralized site to broadcast on a different frequency, explains Sohl. Hams can specialize in 50 areas such as building equipment, operating in different modes, and using Morris Code, digital data and more.

“I tend to operate VHF, very high frequency, above 30 megahertz,” says Sohl, with the ability to contact “with other ham operators around the globe.” Sohl says he has been able to talk to people as far as Europe, South America and Canada.

The SARA meets every second Tuesday of the month at the Mt. Arlington Community Center. Call Bill Sohl at 201-841-3501 for more information; visit the club at Horseshoe Lake the last weekend in June; or go to splitrockara.org

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