A common theme I experienced throughout my military career, across all ranks, was a misunderstanding of how communications and other electrical systems worked from power generators, to the complex communication systems in tracked and wheeled vehicles. This lack of understanding resulted in systems being down longer because soldiers could not communicate problems to distant technicians assigned to conduct system maintenance. This resulted in improper reporting on what the true problems were, creating situations where the wrong parts were ordered or the wrong tools arrived to service the issue. An understanding of the simple exercises in Charles Platt's book "Make: Electronics" would have solved many problems that occur when people work around electronics. This book is also an excellent primer for those thinking about taking the Amateur Radio Technicians Exam. The principles are the same, but this book provides the hands on experiences for truly understanding the electronic concepts on the exam. I picked up my book for under $20 on Amazon.com see link below. This is the cheapest price I've found for this item. If you're interested in being able to better trouble shoot communications, battery powered accessories, and solar system issues, this is a great resource!
Shop Universal Radio for great HAM radio products and reasonable shipping rates. Universal's customer service does a great job ensuring you're purchasing the correct products for your communication needs. For Yaesu products such as programming cables and mobile radios they have the best prices around.
Even if you do not have an Amateur/HAM radio license, you can still purchase the radios for listening in on conversations or to access local weather information. I'm often surprised how much people pay for a weather radio when they can just program one of the following National Weather Radio frequencies into a 2-meter handheld radio: 162.400, 162.425, 162.450, 162.475, 162.500, 162.525, 162.550. These frequencies are location based so one of them will work in your area. HAM radios also provide the ability to listen to local emergency stations. See the post below for a 2-meter radio such as the BAOFENG UV-5RA that can be purchased for under $35. Owning a HAM radio to access critical information should be part of any preparedness plan.
Consider purchasing Tram's 1185 Amateur Dual-Band Magnet Antenna for increasing your handheld radio's range when used in a car. For the cost you can't beat the quality of the antenna's components to include the long length of coaxial cable. Also below are several adapters you'll need to convert the antenna's PL-259 connector for use on a handheld antenna jack like the one found on BAOFENG's UV-5RA. The following is the antenna's item description from Amazon.com: Transmits 2 Meter Vhf & 70cm UHF (144-148Mhz & 430-450Mhz). 3" magnet mount with 12' RG-58 Coaxial Cable & PL-259 connector. Antenna unscrews from magnet with regular 3/8-24 thread.
Even if you don't have a HAM License, I recommend purchasing 2 meter hand held radios so you're familiar with their capabilities and features when you do get your license. Our local HAM Club preloads the pictured Baofeng UV5RA with local repeater frequencies so new Technicians have a radio available so they're talking immediately after passing the exam. Use the link below to purchase this durable radio for under $30 at Amazon.com. There is no need to purchase a more expensive radio until you become more knowledgeable about frequencies and antennas. The following is Baofeng's UV-5RA hand held transceiver description. The radio provides 5 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz. It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65 - 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual watch and dual reception is supported. You get up to 128 memories. Other features include: selectable wide/narrow, battery save function, VOX, DCS/CTCSS encode, key lock and built in flashlight. Selectable frequency steps include: 2.5, 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5 and 25 kHz. RF power may be selected at 4 or 1 watts.
Don't put off becoming an Amateur Radio Operator. Find a local test site and take the HAM/Amateur Radio Operator Level 1 Technicians Exam in the next several weeks. These tests are administered by local HAM clubs and are a low stress event. Although you have to review the material, the test is not difficult if you review the test study material located at the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) website.
The following is information about the LEVEL 1: Technician Class License from ARRL's website.
• Exam Requirement: 35-question Technician Written Exam (Element 2).
• Privileges: All VHF/UHF Amateur bands (frequencies above 30 MHz).
• Limited operations in certain HF bands.
• The FCC Technician License exam covers basic regulations, operating practices and electronics theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications. Morse code is not required for this license. With a Technician Class license, you will have all ham radio privileges above 30 MHz. These privileges include the very popular 2-meter band. Many Technician licensees enjoy using small (2 meter) hand-held radios to stay in touch with other hams in their area. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes. You can even make international radio contacts via satellites, using relatively simple station equipment. Technician licensees now also have additional privileges on certain HF frequencies. Technicians may also operate on the 80, 40 and 15 meter bands using CW, and on the 10 meter band using CW, voice and digital modes.
Additional Test Resources:
1. Find a local test station in your area.
2. Test Summary sheets for the Technicians and General Exams.
3. Online exam practice tests.
4. ARRL Level 1: Technicians, Level 2: General, and Level 3: Extra Tests Study Guides (see below).
For those looking to setup a communications base station in their home for personal use that does not require an FCC license, you should seriously consider using a Bearcat 980SSB as your CB base station radio. The 980SSB is a compact fully functioning Single Side Band (SSB) radio that provides the additional power, range and added security when broadcasting on CB channels. The radio's SSB functionality greatly increases communications with others with the same capability within your local area. Using mobile CB radios like the 980SSB as your base station radio provides the flexibility to take the radio with you anywhere you go, as long as you have a 12V DC power source and an antenna. To set up a base station in your home all you need is the CB radio, power source (12 volt auto battery or DC power supply), antenna and a charging source for the battery, if used. See this site's Amazon Store page for equipment ideas. A great alternative to an auto battery is a Marine/RV deep cycle battery due to the length of use between uses. You can start talking today by purchasing the basic components discussed above at Walmart or at a Truck Stop CB Store.
To power communications equipment and electronics in your work area pickup a good power supply designed to power equipment that requires 12V DC Automotive power. These power supplies are a great way to power your CB and indoors without the hassle of a car battery, by converting standard 120V AC household power to DC power. The pictured Radio Shack regulated Power Supply can be purchased on Ebay for around $35. Most power supplies provide outputs for both wire connections and a 12V plug-in socket.
FM 3-21.75 The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills (January 2008) field manual provides the following table that highlights the advantages and disadvantages of different communication methods. When conducting mission planning, leaders must always consider the enemy, force protection and security as key factors in deciding what type of communication method is most appropriate. This table is a great planning resource and a great training aid when discussing communication systems.
Source: FM 3-21.75
Everyone should be familiar with the SALUTE (Size, Activity, Location, Unit, Time, Equipment) report in order to communicate key information in a standardized format. The SALUTE reporting format should be trained and must be included in all unit SOPs. FM 3-21.75 The Warrior Ethos and Soldier Combat Skills field manual provides the following information on the SALUTE format. Information contained in the SALUTE report helps leaders analyze a broad range of information and disseminate it back to your level and higher. Individuals must report all information about the enemy to their leaders quickly, accurately, and completely. Such reports should answer the questions who, what, where and when. Use the SALUTE format when reporting. Make notes and draw sketches to help you remember details. See attached table for how to use the SALUTE format.
The SALUTE Report consists of the following Line Items, Type Information and Description:
1. (S)ize/Who - Expressed as a quantity and echelon or size. For example, report "10 enemy Infantrymen" (not "a rifle squad"). If multiple units are involved in the activity you are reporting, you can make multiple entries.
2. (A)ctivity/What - Relate this line to the PIR being reported. Make it a concise bullet statement. Report what you saw the enemy doing, for example, "emplacing mines in the road."
3. (L)ocation/Where - This is generally a grid coordinate, and should include the 100,000-meter grid zone designator. The entry can also be an address, if appropriate, but still should include an eight-digit grid coordinate. If the reported activity involves movement, for example, advance or withdrawal, then the entry for location will include "from" and "to" entries. The route used goes under "Equipment/How."
4. (U)nit/Who - Identify who is performing the activity described in the "Activity/What" entry. Include the complete designation of a military unit, and give the name and other identifying information or features of civilians or insurgent groups.
5. (T)ime/When - For future events, give the DTG for when the activity will initiate. Report ongoing events as such. Report the time you saw the enemy activity, not the time you report it. Always report local or Zulu (Z) time.
6. (E)quipment/How - Clarify, complete, and expand on previous entries. Include information about equipment involved, tactics used, and any other essential elements of information (EEI) not already reported in the previous lines.