Rich Arland's SKN Station

Hi Bill:

am writing to tell you what a GREAT book "Solder Smoke" is. I really enjoyed it and I am amazed at how similar our paths are regarding electronics, ham radio and our journeys around the world. 

Although I am 16 years older than you I, too, got my start in radio at an early age: about 10, after I got nailed by my dad's console SW/AM radio prior to a Cub Scout meeting one evening. I just had to figure out how I received a shock from that big old receiver, which led me to a life long pursuit of the elusive electron, an interesting 50 year career in ham radio, a 20 year career in the USAF (Tech Controller, AFSC: 307), and ultimately teaching vocational electronics in the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Pa. 

During my AF career I spent almost 17 years overseas: two tours in Japan (KA2AA--this was prior to recip licensing as we had the Far East Amateur Radio League in the SOFA), a three year tour at Lajes Field, Terceira Island, the Azores (CT2BH--this was prior to the Azores receiving independence from Portugal in 1976)a five and a half year tour at RAF Mildenhall, UK (G5CSU), and a brief stint in W.Germany (DA2NE) while working with 10th SF Group at Bad Tolz and SOTFE in Patch Barracks. Had 18 months in the 3rd Mobil Comm Gp in Tinker AFB, OK, and a twilight tour at Langley AFB, VA. 

The three years in the Azores was from was extremely difficult to obtain a ham license at that time and there were only 9 of us licensed in the entire archipelago, as I recall. I was attached to the 1936 Comm SQ, and all we had for comms to support theUS Forces Azores mission were three HF ISB shots: one to Andrews AFB, MD, one to Rota, Spain and the other to RAF Croughton, UK. During that three year period I REALLY learned about HF comm and propagation. I was on duty the day, in 1973, when "the ionosphere turned off"! WE had a SID of such magnitude that it blotted out everything, and I DO MEAN EVERYTHING! We were lucky to hear AFRTS on the hill by the MARS station! During that tour we also performed comm support for the US Navy's Sea Lab project on Sao Maria, which was part of the SOSUS system. Ultra cool stuff!!! On more than one occasion during a mid shift, the Comm SQ chief of maintenance, CT2BC, would snag me from tech control, and we'd go intoLajes Airways (right down the hall) and grab a Scope Control Level, point the two HUGE LPAs toward the states and work a little DX on 20M !! Definitely NOT QRP! All this under the guise of "quality control"! It pays to have friends in low places!

During my UK tour, we initially lived off-base at Bury St. Edmunds. I had a Ten-Tec PM-2B and a tuner which I loaded into a chain link fence behind our house. I quickly worked Collin Turner, G3VTT, and soon became a card carrying member of the G-QRP-Club (#622) in 1979. To celebrate my 34th birthday, my wife Pat (KB3MCT) and Jo Dobbs, wife of George Dobbs, G3RJV, put together a surprise party for me after a Saturday at the RSGB convention near Birmingham. George Burt, GM3OXX along with Ronny, GM3JJG, furnished the haggis....and the single malt....needless to say we did have fun; all 25 of us packed into RJV's home! 

Hey, sorry for being long winded. Our backgrounds and travels are uniquely intertwined. Thanks for writing "Solder Smoke". I am procuring a hard copy (I read it on my Kindle) for my wife, as your insight into the "why things work the way they do" are perfect for her to help her with obtaining her Extra. I only wish I had it when I was teaching my electronics classes in prison. It would have made my job easier, that is for sure

Stay well, and I hope we can meet one of these days. In the mean time, I have to pull my Meade ETX out of storage and start watching the sky, and finish building about four model rockets for an upcoming launch weekend here in North Georgia. 

Rich Arland, K7SZ
Dacula, GA

Author: "The ARRL's Low Power Communications, the Art and Science of QRP (all four editions)