Jeff Dahn, KB3ZUK, of Rockville, Maryland, activated every available NPOTA unit in the Washington, DC, area during the year-long National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program. That, and his prior DC-area law enforcement experience, gave him a leg up to snag a gig during the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington as a radio operator for the National Park Service (NPS). Dahn, an ARRL member, spent 32 hours over the course of 3 days as a volunteer, operating park service radios from NPS Headquarters.
“I was invited to serve as a communications officer during the inauguration at the NPS Incident Command Post at their Headquarters facility as a direct result from participating in NPOTA,” Dahn told ARRL.
NPS Eastern Incident Management Team Communications Officer Gary Shipley, N5GQD, said Dahn was a quick study. “He handled announcements, dispatching, trouble calls, and requests for assistance on four radio nets with ease,” Shipley said. “He also handled equipment issues. He provided timely and valuable assistance and his participation was key to the success of the mission.”
In appreciation, NPS gave Dahn a certificate, a reflective service vest, scarf, and hat, plus he got to meet acting NPS Director Michael Reynolds.
Dahn said the climate-controlled, access-restricted environment was a far cry from his first presidential inauguration experience on January 20, 1993, while serving as a law enforcement officer. “I remember standing at parade rest for what seemed like hours on the parade route between the crowd and the street, facing the crowd, not the procession while hungry and freezing,” he recounted.
On his second day, Saturday, January 21, Dahn was up very, very early, and involved with “coordinating planning with local point folks involved with the Women’s March on Washington (WMW). Just elected president of the HacDC Amateur Radio Club, Dahn was able to give the okay for his club’s W3HAC facility to serve as the net control station site for Amateur Radio operators helping those arriving for the march. “[T]hat facilitated another connection between the NPS Dispatch Center HQS Incident Command Post and the volunteer Amateur Radio NCS, who were both communicating and working with their stations in the field as the ‘boots on the ground’ on both sides of the equation!” Dahn observed.
Art Feller, W4ART, was the primary NCS at W3HAC. “We did what hams do best — communicate messages clearly and accurately between WMW leaders and key staff members,” Feller told ARRL. “They worked with their marshals and health professionals to assist everyone, as they were so well trained.” Feller said that during the march, cell phone service failed “under the demand of a population equal to, or slightly larger than, the entire population of the District of Columbia, all within the confines of the National Mall.” The outage even slowed text messaging to a crawl. Dahn observed that radio amateurs “were, at several times, the only working communication link between organizers, marshals, volunteers and marchers.”
Dahn said it was an honor and a privilege to serve as a volunteer. “It was amazing to have been given the chance to participate and to have been so closely involved with such an amazing event,” he told ARRL.
“Dahn’s participation in a formal NPS communications event has helped to strengthen further the ties between the NPS and the Amateur Radio community,” ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, said, “after hams made over 20,000 visits to 460 NPS units for ARRL’s National Parks on the Air program in 2016 during the NPS Centennial, helping to raise the visibility of NPS administrative units — especially smaller units — worldwide.”