“Rabid Rudolph”
After Action Reports (AAR’s)
& Executive Summary (EXSUM)
Date of Exercise – 20180421-1500Z – 0340Z

Example of message traffic.  See complete list below:

Rabid Rudolph FTX message traffic

 

Participant Comments & After Action Reports:

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Thank you so much for organizing this. Amazing training, and helped me get over the hump of running a net. This was a big takeaway from last T-REX (running a net), so I’m glad to have a chance to fill the gap, and it will help with this year’s T-REX! Stats for my nets: Voice: 5 checkins Digital: 8 checkins, 1 traffic message

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Thank you again for setting this up, it was invaluable training that I greatly needed prior to T-REX
What worked for me:
-I know we won’t be using the Zello during T-REX, but it really helped me with my digital settings. Hearing the feedback from those listening and the instructors was instrumental on me not feeling lost.
-Being able to switch frequencies because I had someone very close to 7.242 that would have caused a problem
– It was instrumental having AmRRON operators available to take over for those that couldn’t hear anything
-A different instructor stepped in and was willing to help me with my FLDIGI and Radio settings and that helped more than I can say

What didn’t work for me/action items:
Everything that happened helped me to be better prepared for TREX. This was an awesome experience for me!
Things that I need to be address prior to TREX
-Find out why I can RX but not TX for digital
-I thought we would only be on 40m, wasn’t prepared for the change for 80M
-Connect more with those AmRRON Operators on the West Coast

My impression of this exercise, is that it has made me a better AmRRON Operator and I hope we have more, not just preparing for T-REX. My recommendation would be that we have instructors (that are willing) assigned to us, especially ones that have been through T-REX, to make sure that all our T’s are crossed and our I’s are dotted, especially those of us that will be new to T-REX. For example, connect on Zello (or the Signal app) and have short practice sessions with FLDIGI, for receiving and transmitting the forms.

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My biggest takeaway was the need to be flexible in adverse conditions. Due to my previous experience with Central Div., training this was not a foreign concept to me. I wish (especially on digital nets) that the start/end times for nets were more closely adhered to to keep us on schedule. My digital net got off to a late start due to the previous net running long. As NCS, it might be a good idea to have an alternate freq in mind in case you need to announce another freq/mode to QSY.
* 1930 Digital NCS – 11 total checkins, 2 were relayed.
* 2100 Voice NCS – 4 total checkins, 4 were relayed.
After running the script with no replies, I passed the net to any available station – a hail-mary so to speak.
* 2230 Digi ANCS – I had no additional stations to add to the NCS, but was prepared. We did stay under 34 minutes though! Great training today gentlemen, reflecting your hard work preparing us.

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The pacific time zone portion of the exercise kicked off on schedule on 20180421-2300z. Participating were 6 trainees/3 instructors. Each trainee had a shot at voice and digital NCS duties. As would be expected in real world situations (Murphy’s Law) we had our share of challenges. Deviation from standard SOI frequencies because of QRM, poor band propagation conditions, equipment failures (antennas, software, radio’s and settings, etc.). In spite of these problems the trainees performed very well. Most equipment problems were solved, alternate frequencies were used to avoid QRM and propagation issues were solved by switching between 40m and 80m voice/digital. All trainees exhibited excellent flexibility when it came to start and stop times using the pre-determined schedule. As a result the team effort produced the following statistics:
Voice Check Ins.- Direct-22 Relay-3 Total-25
Digital Check Ins.- Direct-23 Relay-2 Total-25
Message Traffic- Voice-0 Digital-8 Total-8

Suggestions:  I would emphasize/encourage trainees to practice with their equipment a little more before the event to iron out some of the equipment/software issues.  I would suggest that the SOI would reflect the ability to switch between 40 and 80 meter based on band conditions. It really made the difference out here in the west. Other than that it went very well! All I can say is the success rate is directly proportional to the efforts of the instructors.

I had my own issues as my Toughbook continued seizing up requiring a hard power down and reboot.  I had to configure another laptop which will now be my primary ham shack laptop. I’ll keep the Toughbook for field/portable ops. Unfortunately I received very little traffic due to that glitch. The upside is that it forced me to do what I had been needing to do for a while. As always, “I wish the exercise was today instead of yesterday.” =) Should be our motto. But that means we LEARNED. …and grew.

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Thank you all for organizing and executing the NCS Training exercise! I learned a lot of valuable skills and worked with a bunch of dedicated operators. Your efforts and skills are appreciated!  AmRRON Corps has a fantastic spirit with not a single discouraging word spoken all day. It’s hard to find any group that does not have a bad apple anywhere. I was impressed with the skills of the students right out of the box, and what they may have lacked in terms of skills, they quickly adapted and overcame. That sounds like AmRRON operators to me! Second, conditions were marginal much of the time, particularly bad for the SSB mode. This is very likely how conditions will be under real-world emergency scenarios. You cannot assume or hope for good band conditions during an “event”. You need to have a contingency plan and train for poor propagation – that is likely to be the rule rather than the exception, particularly in the coming decade as we are entering what it likely to be a very deep downturn in the solar output, one that some are saying may be another Maunder Minimum.

Digital is usually the rock-star by comparison, but requires a level of understanding the equipment and software that takes time to develop. It is NOT something you want to put off learning until you need it. Digital is fantastic in trained hands and that was the outcome of this exercise. We now have increased the number of AmRRON operators who can rise to the challenge of poor operating conditions. When stuff went wrong, the ANCS picked up the net while the NCS recovered. Relaying stations were utilized when needed. This is not likely to be the outcome for operators new to these modes and conditions without training or experience. Knowing how to set up and configure equipment for digital modes is only half the equation. Understanding propagation behaviors, how to participate, and how to control a net carry as much weight as expertise with your equipment. That’s what we saw in this event and I was pleased that the bands were not the most cooperative as that drove the operators to persevere and experience how it is more likely to be in a real-life comms-down event. Murphy is on a first-name basis with the QRM and Propagation gods.

During the annual T-REX event we cannot use Zello. This pre-TREX event showed just how much we have come to rely on it during training. While it’s there use it to best effect. But think about how you would have resolved an issue if Zello hadn’t been working. I remember the feeling when flying solo and getting myself into some hairy situations and my flight instructor was not in the right seat – – it’s all on YOU to figure it out. I heard that a lot of people in Florida had “prepped” for the last hurricane by putting the Zello app on their phones, actually thinking it would help them to stay in touch when the lights went out. What’s wrong that that picture? Hello?

This is exactly why we went through this event on Saturday – you are quickly confronted with challenges you never considered before, and in turn plan, train, and adapt for it in the next scenario.

Well done all, and I applaud AmRRON leadership for its forward thinking in arranging this event.

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Thanks again for all of the work that you and others put into making this exercise a success. I thought it went very well and I, too am honored to be a part of an organization like this.
Voice:
I was 2nd at bat on the Eastern voice net. I believe that most folks after the first voice net switched over to the digital net because of band conditions. As a result I only had two check-ins and one piece of traffic… a County Status Report created on the fly by my neighbor. I felt comfortable with the voice net but that’s because I got off easy 🙂 It might’ve been a different story if I had 20 stations with traffic that I could barely hear.

Digital:
The digital net went smoothly for the most part as well. I had numbered and organized my macros in sequence which allowed
me to start the net with a clear vision of how it “should” go. There is no way to “macro” everything so when it came to check-ins and traffic, I found myself typing a response
to something only to find that something else happened while I was typing forcing me to back up and start over. But, I guess that just goes with the territory.
For the future, I can think of several helpful “snippets” of information that I would create macros for.
I had 7 check-ins for the digital net and two “canned” pieces of traffic. I was able to copy the traffic 100%. The station in NW Ohio was very professional and a great help. We had a solid signal and we set up a relay for check-ins to a voice net. For me, working with people like that is truly a pleasure and makes me want to strive to be better. For T-Rex, just more air time and practice will be helpful. Now that the Tuesday night practice net has moved back to 9pm eastern, I will be able to participate more.

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What a great exercise! I loved the way we had back up if needed, but if we didn’t they stayed out of sight. That way we can learn and have some confidence if things were getting out of hand we had a fall back. Kudos on a job well done!

Starting out I was very anxious,(normal for me) Then, when my light saber went to crap…….. pour on the gas! But, my wife was my hero again! She uninstalled it and reloaded it and the rest of the story is smooth. I have to get more acquainted/comfortable with using the macros. I am a word guy and it seems hard for me to use something canned. And I have to be the slowest typist in the world. I made it through ok without to many scars. The exercise was just what I needed. I have signed up for NCS on the AMRRON site. Thanks for all the hard work putting it together!
DIGI chkins = 8 Voice chkins = 1 Msgs = 19

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Checkins:
1900 Voice NCS
9 checkins including ANCS and relays. No traffic to pass.
2130 ANCS Digi
7 checkins with 1 QST message and 1 statrep.
2200 Voice ANCS Could not copy
2230 Digi NCS
6 checkins with 3 statreps, only 2 copied.

30 minutes proved to be a short time frame handling digi traffic. But I suppose in a real world situation that wouldn’t be so much of a constraint as we could keep the traffic flowing and bring up new around the clock. I had no way or instructions as to how to pass traffic along, so that will need to be researched before T-Rex. I personally need to keep a phonetic alphabet cheat sheet close by. I also need to utilize my ANCS more efficiently.

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Thank you and the instructors for putting together Rabid Rudolph. I had a lot of fun learning the business of Net Control.

During my digital session – I had 12 check-ins and received 3 messages. During my voice session – I heard one other AmRRON station briefly, but did not get any check-ins and heard no messages. Maybe with a lot of practice I could handle a voice net – but it really is a different skill set than I have been working on since joining Amrron. The crowded 40M band didn’t make it any easier.

What worked –
Well – My station seemed to hold together for the duration – I didn’t have any weird laptop lockups, or radio issues.
I was able to navigate the macros on the digital nets. There are a lot of useful bits in the macros – I added a few and I’ll pass them back up. I realized the value of FSQ as a pre-net tool.

What didn’t work so well –
The hardest part of the exercise was my attempt to run voice net. I seldom run voice from my station, so I was a little concerned about my setup. I was reassured when I was able to check into two voice nets (one by relay) before my voice net slot. But its a bit different when I tried to run the net. It was a challenge to locate an open frequency, I ended up on 7241. I ran thru the script, but when I called out for messages or check-ins, I heard one station that was looking for NCS but from his transmission – I could tell he had not heard me very well. I heard nothing else after repeated calls for stations – so closed the net.

What I need to get done before T-REX:
I have one antenna at my location – it is a 40M Windom – I need to lengthen it so I can get tuned up on 80M, I also need to add at least one more antenna for NVIS Practice with the macros so they become more familiar. Practice to get good with FSQ .

An extended exercise like RR or T-REX requires resources not normally needed during a casual radio session. I made a list of misc items to keep at my station – there were several moments that I had to run back to my house to get something – like a charging cable for Zello.
I also need to work on the ergonomics of my station –
I filled out my NCS form on the AmRRON – I am looking forward to being involved in nets going forward, and T-REX! Thanks to all involved in RR – It was a good day.

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First, thank you so much RM-08 for all the pre-event training documentation you supplied. This helped so much with being prepared – the overviews, the voice script, and the macros. Also many thanks to my trainers and ANCOs. Exercise was great. This was my first NCS operator experience for both voice and digital. The trainers were fantastic.
VOICE: Had ZELLO on and figured out that the noise may be interfering on the air, so I had to mute. It took my attention from the net. I did have the script typed out with my information included and a request for ANCS which helped a lot. Conditions required relays for several check-ins. 0 MESSAGES. 9 CHECK-INS ACKNOWLEDGED.
DIGITAL: Had good reception. Took longer than I thought. Need more macros and a text program opened so I can copy information before it scrolls away. Having to find info in the scrolled window caused delay in net progress. Really benefited from my wingman ANCS. Got a little confused when message over and sender not return mode back to contestia. 7 MESSAGES ACKNOWLEDGED, 4 MESSAGES RECEIVED. 11 CHECK-INS ACKNOWLEDGED

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We had a total of 6 AmRRON Operators in the CSRA SigCen for the RR18 FTX with 3 HF Radios/3 HF Antennas.
We operated the 7200 for voice – better antenna – DX80 and we operated a FT891 for digital with the better antenna for the duration of the FTX. We had a 857 with a Super Antenna as a back-up too.
Voice Net: 13 Check-ins | 1 Traffic Message
Digital Net: 6 Check-ins | 1 Traffic Message

The Pre-planning/training prior to the RR18 FTX was excellent! I am a regular NCS for our local CSRA AmRRON, but this was great training for folks that never have ran a Net. Thanks for the easy-to-understand macros for the digital net. Future planning – should be done every quarter, I really enjoyed the whole event. THANKS to you!
Rabid Rudolph EXSUM

A sincere “Thank You” to the planning team and to all of the AmRRON Operators that participated!