Navy radio station tunes in
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s radio station participated in a continental test in July.
Last month, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s radio station participated in a continental test that could portend an expansion of the station’s role in daily naval operations.
A military officer from Washington, DC relayed 10 days of weather forecasts to the USS Sampson, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in the Pacific Ocean, via the Auxiliary Military Radio Service Station located at NAS Whidbey.
Retired Navy Commander. Terry Sparks estimated that NAS Whidbey’s radio station had been communicating directly with a ship for at least 10 or 15 years. The station used to send “family grams” to Navy personnel at sea, but has only communicated with other stations on land in recent years, according to Sparks, who is currently the deputy officer in charge of the station.
The test started on July 21. Each day of the test, the station sent a prepared east coast weather message to the ship using four different modulation modes via high-frequency transmissions. In the middle of the test, an additional mode was added so that the team could include images with the daily forecast.
The test was very successful, Sparks said. The station primarily serves as a backup means of communication in case of emergency. If a major earthquake or tsunami prevented other forms of communication such as cell phones, satellite and the Internet, only radio would remain a viable option, Sparks said.
The day-to-day operations of those running the station consist primarily of training for such an event, Sparks said. He and the rest of the station team practice connecting with contacts in various networks to prepare for the worst. NAS Whidbey Commander Eric Hanks recently awarded Sparks a Civil Service Medal of Honor for his work at the station.
Sparks said he hopes to see the station’s role expand to include more operations.
“We’re actually looking for a new job for us,” he said. “We’re still doing all the emergency stuff, but day in and day out we might relay messages for the Navy as well.”