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Local ham radio operators keep skills sharpened

REACHING OUT — Shawn Neupauer, vice president of the Hancock County Auxcomm Team, shows off some of his equipment during the National Amateur Radio Field Day held over the weekend at the athletic fields along Gas Valley Road. -- Craig Howell

NEW CUMBERLAND — A group of local ham radio fanatics spent their weekend reaching out to like-minded communicators across the country, and even around the world, as part of an annual exercise.

Members of the Hancock County Auxcomm Team, also known by the callsign WV8HAT, gathering at the athletic fields on Gas Valley Road Saturday and Sunday as part of the National Amateur Radio Field Day.

“We had four stations running all night,” explained the group’s president, Levi Anderson, noting members spent a 24-hour period connecting with amateur radio operators throughout the United States and Canada.

National Amateur Radio Field Day is organized by the American Radio Relay League, a national association which represents amateur radio operators across the country. According to the league, such exercises can be traced back to 1933, with operators setting up temporary ham radio stations in various public spaces.

Anderson explained such programs help to keep the group’s skills sharp as they practice for when they may be needed.

“It’s an emergency communications exercise,” he said.

The Hancock County Auxcomm Team, which officially incorporated in 2018 with 10 members and now has more than 30, often is called upon to provide communications during local community events, including parades, races and more, as well as to assist in the event regular emergency communication methods are operational. Ham radio systems are capable of running independently of the internet or cell phones.

“We work real close with the emergency groups in the county,” Anderson said.

Depending on the frequencies used, the weather and other factors, the local operators can make contact with others around the world. One station, for example, registered operators in 14 states, while another run by team vice president, Shawn Neupauer, reached people in 48 states, much of Canada and several U.S. territories.

Anderson noted, though, people in Australia, South America, Europe and Asia know when the Field Day exercises are scheduled and often will be available to communicate.

In addition to its own local operations, the Hancock County Auxcomm Team is able to offer training and licensing tests for those wishing to get involved in ham radio operations.

For more information about the Hancock Auxcomm Team, contact Anderson, who also serves as the Hancock County emergency coordinator, at president@wv8hat.org.

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