By STEVEN NALLEY
Jarrod Marsh first developed an interest in ham radio in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Marsh noticed amateur radio operators, also known as “hams,” were able to stay in touch with each other even after the hurricane destroyed other modes of communication, he said.
“They were able to fill in a lot of the gaps that were lost when the storm took out most of the government and local police communication,” Marsh said. “It was also part of my master’s research. I was, at the time, working on a project that involved doing some transmissions in amateur radio. My advisor at the time had me go get a license, and I got into the hobby that way.”
Marsh is now president of the Mississippi State University Amateur Radio Club, also known as W5YD, which intersects with the city of Starkville’s Magnolia Amateur Radio Club. Both clubs will be participating in the American Radio Relay League Field Day at Camp Seminole from 1 p.m. Saturday to 1 p.m. Sunday, communicating with other ham radio groups operating stations across the country.
Marsh said the object of the ARRL Field Day is to operate the station that contacts the most other stations in a 24-hour period. The winner only gets a certificate and bragging rights, he said, but winning is not the point.
“It’s part game because you’re trying to see who can get the most contacts,” Marsh said, “but the more important side of it is that it’s training for a real emergency where you’re going to have a bunch of stations on the air at the same time and you have to be able to pick out the ones you want and make sure they get the message they need to receive.”
Marsh said this will be the first time since he joined the club in 2008 that the clubs have secured a site in Starkville to participate in the ARRL Field Day. Last year, they broadcasted from Rainwater Observatory in French Camp, he said, and in 2008, they held it on the Natchez Trace at Jeff Busby Park on top of Little Mountain.
Marsh said when the clubs asked to use Camp Seminole for the ARRL Field Day, the Pushmataha Area Council asked them in turn if they would help Boy Scouts get their radio merit badges, and the clubs agreed.
“It’s going to be not quite lecture format, but I’ve been told we’re going to have about six scouts, and we’re going to have some slides for them to look at, but we’re also going to have some hands-on training,” Marsh said. “They have to learn several facts about radio not spelled out in their manual.”
Visitors to Camp Seminole will also have learning opportunities during the event, Marsh said. In the past, he said, the clubs have had success attracting people who want to learn about ham radio.
“They will be able to learn most of the basics of the hobby,” Marsh said. “We’re going to have several radios set up. Anybody that walks in and wants to try their hand at a radio is welcome to do so. We have operators that will be on the radio, but most will be around just to talk to people interested in trying their hand at it and learning how the hobby works.”