Amateur Radio came in for high praise following its role in a March 30 to April 3 Washington National Guard interoperability communication exercise, sponsored by the US Northern Command. The so-called “Vital Connection-Cascadia” exercise was aimed at improving interoperability among Department of Defense entities, federal, state, and local first responders, and Amateur Radio operators. Interoperability was tested on 5 MHz frequencies. The spring drill was a run-up to June’s “Cascadia Rising/Vigilant Guard/Ardent Sentry” exercise. It included voice and data radio and satellite communication plus video integration from airborne assets.
“The largest success of this exercise by far was the use of the 60 meter HF interoperability bands to successfully pass voice and data traffic between military and civilian entities,” the After Action Report said. “There was great integration among military units from Washington and other states, Army and Air Force MARS, Washington State Guard, state and county EOCs, and the ARES and RACES Amateur Radio communities.”
Lt Col Lawrence Hager of the Washington Air National Guard also had kind words for Amateur Radio. “I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Vital Connection-Cascadia [communications exercise],” he said. “We had many successes, such as HF radio interoperability between military, government, and civilian sectors on the 60 meter (5 MHz) band.” Hager is an Air Force officer responsible to The Adjutant General (TAG) for communications in both the Army Guard and Air Force Guard.
“It was truly a pleasure exercising with you folks,” allowed State RACES Officer Ed Leavitt, K7EFL, in a message to the Washington National Guard. “Thanks for inviting us.” Regarding outreach to civilian jurisdictions using the 60 meter channels as the conduit, Leavitt said, “While I am hesitant to use phrases like ‘This has never been done before,’ I suspect that may actually be the case.”
ARRL Western Washington ARRL Section Manager Monte Simpson, K2MLS, who is also Washington State RACES Officer, said the feedback he’s received regarding Amateur Radio participation has been positive. “The 60 meter band proved to be excellent,” he said. “While at the State EOC I had the occasion to hear a 60 meter conversation that was crystal clear with nearly no noise. The Mason County Emergency Coordinator/RACES Officer reported that he had used Fldigi to communicate with the National Guard. The Washington State Guard provided soldiers who are Amateur Radio operators as the ham radio connection to the National Guard.”