Communications skills tested

Cpl Ryan Plamondon of 39 Signal Regiment, B Squadron Nanaimo, listens to High Frequency (HF) radio chatter during Exercise Noble Skywave.

Cpl Ryan Plamondon of 39 Signal Regiment, B Squadron Nanaimo, listens to High Frequency (HF) radio chatter during Exercise Noble Skywave.

Capt Jeff Manney, 39 Sig Regt PAO ~

It’s day three of Exercise Noble Skywave, a friendly radio competition involving NATO nations and civilian radio affiliates around the world. 

Cpl Ryan Plamondon repeats the call from 39 Signal Regiment’s Nanaimo operations centre, his words riding skyward on 400 watts of high frequency (HF) radio energy.  First, they’ll hit the ionosphere, then, if his settings are correct, they’ll bounce to a similar radio half a world away. 

An accent breaks through the ever present hiss of radio static. 

“Charlie Alpha five four, this is Papa Echo two two.  You are loud and clear. How me, over.”

Cpl Plamondon eyes the other signallers. They’ve just reached Peru. 

“Cool,” he says to the room.

In 2018 Cpl Plamondon and his Peruvian counterpart could have been Snapchat buddies hours earlier, without the need to mobilize a literal army to talk on the radio. 

But in a natural disaster, an earthquake or flood, the vital communication infrastructure British Columbians take for granted may not be working. 

“In the event of an emergency, HF radio is one of the tools we’d use to talk with Ottawa or international agencies,” says Cpl Plamondon. “Among our many roles, signallers would help re-establish critical communication links, so government agencies can begin the recovery effort.”

Overseen by the Canadian Army’s Joint Signal Regiment in Kingston, Noble Skywave is intended to keep Regular and Reserve Force signals skills fresh. The competition awards points based on the number of communications links made. A portion of the event requires signallers to eschew any automatic HF technology, like digital data links, and focus on simple voice calling.

“It’s a great training opportunity,” Cpl Plamondon says. “We get to experience the same troubleshooting issues you get with wires, antennae and environmental conditions but without the pressures of real consequences, so that we can be ready when it really matters.”

The hiss from the radio erupts into chatter again. Someone somewhere is reaching out to Vancouver Island. 

“I think connecting to some remote station is fascinating,” Cpl Plamondon says as he prepares to key the microphone.  “And it’s important.”

“…station calling, this is Charlie Alpha five four, say again, over…”

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  1. Gilles Laframboise says:

    Est-ce l’inscription à MARS est limitée ou ouverte à tous les radio-amateurs ? Si ouverte, comment faut-il procéder ? Merci. VE2SP.

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