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Operating ham radio in Afghanistan

T6JC - Operating ham radio in Afghanistan

October 12. 2012

I came  home safely.

There were a lots of emails with questions about beeing in online log and LoTW. I will check and answer everyone in next days. Allready arrived direct QSLs will also be posted in next week.

In 9 days of "radioactivity" I made as follows:

Band               Mode              QSOs              Nr of Countrys

3,5 (80m)        CW                 710                  46

7   (40m)         CW                 1776                74

14 (20m)         CW                 472                  47

21 (15m)         CW                 811                  63

28 (810m)       CW                 242                  33

Total                                      4011 + 254 DUPES = 4256

Because of QRN, QRM, big pile ups an other things I estimate about 5 % errors in the log. You can send me an e-mail if you are shure, that you really made QSO with T6JC at given date, time and band and I will recheck log, corect log and update LoTW.

Regards Janez, S57J (T6JC)

October 7. 2012

Yesterday afternoon I was trasfered vith helicopter about 300 km north to base near international airport, where I will stay for next few days. No possibilities for Ham radio. All QSOs are upploaded to LoTW, online log will be soon.

Thanks everybody for QSO with T6JC.

I beleive this is it for this time.

?Regards Janez, T6JC (S57J) 

October 6. 2012

It was a looong night! 80 m band was open all night long, pile ups were auful, made over 500 QSOs on that band, went to bed at 0430 local time.

Janez T6JC (S57J)

October 5. 2012

Sorry, no propagation on 160 m. I am changing antena to 80 m, hope to work some QSOs there tonight.

Some guys are really crazy!! I saw I was spotted on 7173 and comment, that CW op is PIRATE!!!!!

I am operating ONLY and ONLY CW!!

All other is imagination of some "operators".

Janez T6JC (S57J)

October 4. 2012

Sorry, no propagation on any of lower bands last night. Relatively good opening to NA this morning, but for short time only.

Will try 160 m band in comming night again.

Janez T6JC (S57J)

October 3. 2012

Please be carefull! I was never active on 30 m (10 MHz) band, because it is not allowed here in T6!!!!

Propagation are satisfactory only on 7 MHz band, on all others there is heavy QRN and QRM from other users of ham bands. Signals over S5 are very very rare.

Last evening 80 m band was completly closed. This evening I will change 80 m dipole to 160 m band and hope to get some good propagation and make few QSOs.

Please dont call me every day on the same band.

Regards from YA, Janez T6JC (S57J)

  September 30. 2012

I am in Afghanistan again, will stay till middle of October. My license is renewed, i have the same radio and other gear with me. SLO army moved to new location, our part of base still under construction. So, I have problems with electrical power sometimes and operating is occasional, depending of many factors. Three power generators are now just 20 m away from my operating shack and noise is GREAT.

Propagation is not very good, level of QRN is newer less than S5. I have dipole that can be used on 80 and probably even on 160 m bands, there is space for that long vires. I have to find a support for that dipole, which will be as high as possible. In few next days I will try to operate on 80 and 160 m bands.

 

Regards from YA, Janez T6JC (S57J)

 

 

 

 

 

The story of T6JC

All begins when I get the information that I will have to go to Afghanistan. I started to write e-mails to different T6 ham radio operators. I got only two responds, one said, that it is not possible to get T6 license, the other was from T6AF, who send me application form and e-mail addresses to which I should send application. Jim was unfortunately killed in the time, when I was in AFG. Afterwards, some people asked me to pass them the information about getting license and I passed application form and e-mails to four guys. Some are already there; some will go there in this year.

It was quite a big challenge to fulfill the application form, because the form is for commercial radio, not for ham radio. I send it to ISAF Spectrum Management Buro. Chief of SMB, major Robert was very kind and immediately passed my application to ATRA (Afgan agency for telecommunications). I had no big hopes to really get the license, but I must try. I had luck, that my leave to AFG was postponed for 45 days because of many reasons. I got my license after two months. In the mean time, I was preparing to use one of the military HF radios for ham radio. I prepared antennas and interfaces from computer to different radios and other small things that are necessary for operating ham radio.

In my crew was another ham Ė Mitja, S57PM.

Just three days before my leaving to AFG, major Robert sent me a pdf file of my license and list of frequencies, on which ham radio in T6 is allowed. On all ham bands primary user is military, 10 MHz band is forbidden. Only at that time we started to look for suitable radio, which first and most important characteristic is small geometrical dimensions and weight. The reason for this was that we already pass our baggage to be sent to airport. We were limited with personal baggage to 20 kg, consist of personal protection items and necessities for one week. I meant to put my T6JC call into QRZ.COM after I start to operate. When I pass T6JC call to some friends, one of them Ė Slavc called me and said that my call sign is already on QRZ.COM owned by USA operator KD5NOI. WOW!   What now? K5NOI wrote there that he will not going to operate ham radio in T6, because Talibanís blew up his radio. I wrote an e-mail to major Robert in SMB and explained the situation. He responded with only possible logical answer: donít mind and use your call T6JC. If you will send a complain, it can takes another two months to possibly get new call sign. I wrote another e-mail to QRZ.COM administrator and ask to reassign T6JC to me. Positive answer comes within a day. The last day before leaving, I got an IC 706 MK II G, borrowed form Tone, S51I. It has no CW filter, but I could easily use all my accessories with it. So, we distributed my equipment between all members of crew and started our mission.

When we came to our base in T6, we have to start our job, so there was no time to think about ham radio. Anyway, I ask my colleges-ISAF mentors for help with getting the permition to operate ham radio in the base from proper authorities. It took a lot of days and explanations that I already have a T6 license and operation approved from ISAF SMB, that I only need permition from THIS base authorities. Because it was the time when Slovenian contingent changes, major Gregor went home before he managed to arrange my permition. Commander gave this task to Slovenian sergeant. But I also ask new major, Peter for help. After 14 days sergeant came to me and said that I can not operate ham radio in the base. After a few hours major came and bring me the Authorization for operating the radio! Finally! So I have to put up antennas and radio setup and start to operate. And I did it with a help of my men. They constructed and made a special earth spike from a tube with funnel at the top for pouring water into tube and holes at the bottom for water leaving into the sand and earth.

The first antenna was  EZ Wire  on cca 5 m high voden mast, fastened to tent . Antenna worked only on 14 MHz. Also a challenge, ambient noise from "hundreds of power generators, air conditioners, construction machines and helicopters," and constant S5 or more QRN. Internet access was a few hundred meters walk away. For start, my computer and IC 706 didnít want to cooperate. So I started to operate with miniature CW keyer and 20 WPM. It took two days before I got familiar with radio menus and submenus and configure N1MM logger for IC 706. Because everything was transported in rucksack, paddle of keyer was broken. I replaced it with a tip of plastic knife. The next day first sargeant Adam provided me an 8 m high aluminum mast. The third day of operation I finally managed to combine computer, USB converter and radio. Operating became much easier. Few days later, we put up multiband dipole for 28, 21 and 14 MHz. There were no propagation on higher bands, so next day we put up another set of multiband dipoles for 24 and 18 MHz. Then, the operating gets more pleasant in spite of big pile ups. There was still a lot of job to do. As a leader of group and engineer I have to decide how and where new equipment to be mounted, to provide all the means and resources and other things. Plus briefings with commanding officer and all other social and similar duties. Mitja, S57PM tried to operate some digital modes, but pile ups were to big, so rate of QSOs was very low. Number of QSOs rising was slowly. Then I have to leave to another military base down south for 8 days, other crew members came two days after me. When we were doing our job there, new orders came. We have to go home now and come later again to finish our job. In last night before leaving T6 I made 600 QSOs in 5 hours of operating. Finished with 2976 QSOs in the log. When at home, I got LoTW certificate and load T6JC log into system. QSL cards were printed within 10 days after coming home and direct QSL was sent back.

I made much more of preparation for second trip to T6. I bought my own IC 706 MK II G, 350 Hz CW filter and switching type power supply. I made CI-V, CW and DIGI mode interfaces, retuning of dipoles and made vertical antenna for 7, 14 and 21 MHz in one piece. I also checked military antenna, meant to be used as a dipole for 3,5 or 1,8 MHz, and were already in T6. My goal was to make 10.000 QSOs in 20 possible days of operation, 500 QSOs per day Ė at least four hours of operating with good propagation and big pile ups. Not an easy task if someone knows, that working day in ISAF is 12 hours and more if needed.

We got orders to leave to T6 in 06. September. Our baggage was limited to 40 kg including weapons, helmet, body armor, personal belongings and special equipment for our job. So, I leave a lot of personal things that can be bought in the base in T6 in favor to ham radio equipment. After 52 hours of voyage with two different air planes and armored vehicles we were in our new-old home in the Camp Stone again.

Unpleasant surprise was, that one of coalition armies set up there radio center about 80 meters from our tent. I have visited them and after consultation, they agreed with my operation of ham radio. Of course, I must not make any QRM to them and they will certainly make QRM to me. During my operation I had to close my radio because of military radio operation several times.

All September there was heavy wind, which make many problems with my multiband dipoles and 10 high fishing pole, representing vertical antenna. There was huge amount of dust everywhere. I have to clean my radio setup every day, but in four or five hours of operation everything was dusty. Dust was collecting on antennas and cables like the snow.

Propagations were not as good as in may, which results in only 190 QSOs in some days in spite of a lot of trying. As a result, I have to operate more hors in days, when propagations were a little better. I planed not to go for dinner in favor to operate ham radio, because propagation at that time of day was the best. All bands closed at around 20 GMT. Every day I started on 28 MHz and go down to band, where propagation was good enough to hear some signals. Every day propagation was good only on 14 and 7 MHz. Signals with S9 were very rare, most signals were S5 and lower. Good propagation to NA was in early morning, so at that days I operated ham radio instead of going to breakfast.

I was planning to participate in CQWW RTTY contest. But on Saturday morning and all the day propagation were very poor. So I decided to operate usual CW and managed to make 355 QSOs only in spite of trying to operate more than other days.

It newer happened to hear only NA or Far east stations. EU was heard all the time, sometimes all three mentioned continents were heard and worked at the same time. In the log are 80 % of EU stations. I still donít understand why some stations called me every day on the same band and mode. I have one UA station logged 16 times on same band/mode and I wasnít logged him every time, we made QSO! Alex, do you understand that at least 15 other station couldnít work an all time new country because of you?

But there were also a lot of good operators. Because of huge pile ups, I started to operate at 38 or 40 WPM and it was not too fast. Sometimes, when also high speed CW operator called me, we finished QSO before other slow speed operator managed to transmit his call two times. After two weeks of operation it wasnít fun anymore, but hard work. I have to force myself to switch on my radio every time again. It was because I know that in first ten minutes I will work everyday stations dupes on same band/mode. After that half to one hour I will work stations that worked me on other bands and only after that new station will appear. Some stations had poor operation skills or habits. One ON station called me on 7 MHz for more than one hour. He was sending his call all the time in intervals of one second, no mater if I was listening or transmitting. At first I answer him two times, but he didnít responded. After that I decided not to answer him any more. Because he was very strong I had a lot of problems to pick up all others because of his constant transmitting, so I started to listen 1 up instead of 2 up. It took 7 minutes before he noted this, probably he saw it on the cluster, and start to call me on new frequency. What can I think about him? Crazy. And this was only the worst case. Many others did the same thing, many called me after I called some other station.

I believe that during my T6JC operation I made two or three major mistakes. First is to put up online log, the other was online LoTW confirmation and third was to publish my e-mail address.  There are many ops, who takes ONLINE log literary. After someone made QSO with me, he clicks on his link to my log and wants to check if he is in log. Of course, he is not in yet, because I have to walk 500 m away to get to internet. I was updating my log every two or three days. So, the guy gets back to radio and starts to call me again. After we made another (dupe) QSO he checks again, but still no success. Then he uploads our QSO to LoTW, after few minutes he download his lotwreport. Because there is no confirmation of our QSO (yet), he is very angry. He clicks on my e-mail address and sends me message with: Hello, Janez. What is going on? I am not in online log, nor do I get a LoTW confirmation. Please check whatís wrong. There were many of those messages. And there were also a few positive messages with thanks for being there and give people c chance to work new country and good wishes to get home alive and healthy.

The final log contains 13.440 QSOs.

Table of QSOs each day of operation in september

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

26.

27.

32

127

344

700

570

357

836

667

737

676

774

788

349

596

119

572

355

588

827

423

 

Final breakdown by bands and modes

CW SSB PSK31
7MHz 1489
14 4037 796 1
18 2435 121
21 2327 289
24 1327
28 624

Acknowledgement

I want to express gratitude to all those, who supported me in my mission to Afghanistan:

My family on the first place.

Nephew Gregor for seting up this web page.

Major Robert from Polish Army, majors Gregor and Peter from Slovenian Army for all their help with documents for Ham radio.

Members of my crew for their help with antennas and support in all my efforts.

Pol, S57U for his help with loggers and interfaces between radio and computer.

Anton, S51I for lending me his IC 706 MK II G

All ham operators who make contact with T6JC and especially to those, who sent me letters of support and gratitude.

30.Sept.2011

As of this moment me and my men are all safely at our homes. T6JC is finished. Completly log is loaded to ONLINE LOG and LoTW. Because of QRN, QRM, big pile ups an other things I estimate about 5 % errors in the log. You can send me an e-mail if you are shure, that you really made QSO with T6JC at given date, time and band and I will recheck log and if nessesary, corect log and update LoTW.

A big pile of mail waits for me, when I come to my work desk at home. I will return every direct QSL in next weeks.

Thanks everybody to contact me in Afghanistan. Hope to meet you on bands from Slovenia also.

Best regards Janez, S57J (T6JC)

27.Sept.2011

Yesterday evening I have reached milestone of 13000 Qsos in my log. Today is the last day of operating.

There are many e-mails with questions about not beeing in online log, or no confirmation in LoTW.

It is not so easy, guys! Nearest internet, where I can put my USB key in and uppload things is few hundereds meters away from my radio shack. I cant use my computer there. So, I update my online log and LoTW every 3 or 4 days. Be patient and observe the date and time of last update! Some people are so nerwous, they check LoTW few minutes after QSO, and are angry because there is no confirmation yet! It is simply impossible! If you can wait for paper qsli via buro for some years, you can wait for LoTW for some days!

I can not operate when I want. Only in my free time, instead of relaksation of work. I can not please everybody with their requests for band or mode. 10 MHz band is not allowed to operate ham radio in AFG! I have no place for antenas for 80 and 160 m bands. And propagation there are very poor.

Regards Janez, T6JC

24.Sept. 2011

Wind finally stopped. With no wind, no propagation for all day long.

Few mornings I operated ham radio on 20 m instead going to breakfast. Every morning logged cca 100 NA calls. Most signals are S3, no signal over S5. Today, I had my breakfast again. No propagation in any direction.

Special regards to those, who call me every day on the same band/mode.

Janez, T6JC


20.Sept.2011

Wind doesnt stop, hi. Mitja, S57PM did some SSB on 20 m at the past few evenings.

There are a lot of requests for sked for an ALL TIME new, bands new, mode new ... Sorry guys, but propagation changes and I dont have time for skeds. 80 % signals here are below S5, and it is very difficult to operate trough pile ups, local QRM, QRN and other Q..-s.

Some stations still call me every day, so number of dupes, tiples and more-ples is raising.

Today I have sent another 3000 QSO-s to online log manager, log  is allready updated. Also I have sent update to LoTW today.

In the tent, less than 100 m away lives Francesco, T6FR. He has dipole for 20 m band, but trouble with his power supply.

There is a photo of us two in PHOTOS section.

Regards

Janez, T6JC

15.Sept.2011

Propagation didnt change much. The wind is here all the time, so I have some problems with antenas. On thursday morning I stand up at 5 oclock - before sun rising and set up the vertical for 7 MHz. I made cca 100 QSO-s, but at the 8 in the mornig, wind was so strong I have to put antena down. Now I have a dipole for 7 MHz, not higher than 7 meters and it works OK. A lot of QSO worked, mostly EU with some JA and NA. I had only a few relatively good openings to NA on all bands. So please, if I say NA only, EU stand by.

There are still some stations who call me every day on the same band. Please, dond do it. We are all waisting time.

There are some stations who called me in series of 5 or more calls without listening. I wont work you people, no matter how strong your signal is! 

Today I am sendig another 2000 QSOs to LoTW and to online log keeper.

Regards form windy, dusty and noisy Afghanistan.

Janez, T6JC

12.Sept.2011

Propagation this weekend were very poor. QSB was even greater. Sometimes I heard station with strong signal, but after giving him RST, his signal dropped down almost to nothing.

Now I have dipoles for 14,12,28 and 18,24 MHz on the same pole, constructed of wooden pole and part of automobile antena. All together cca 7 m high.

I cant understand, why some stations called me 3 times in 10 minutes? Other stations called me every day on the same band again! I have 10 % dupes! From now on, I will remove all dupes. Some stations gives out their call sign for 10 times without listening!!! Are you crazy people? Where are good operating practices? Gone with liberalisation of amateur radio licencening?

Today I loaded 1200 QSo-s in the LoTW and also send them to be put into online log.

I still have no propagation on 24 and 28 MHz.On other bands very few station from NA heard and worked.

Janez, T6JC

10.Sept.2011

Hello everybody.

I am in Afghanistan again and will stay to the end of september. I will try to operate ham radio as much as possible. But there will be some situations, when I will stop to transmit without explanation or saying QRT. There are several reasons for this, so please be patient.

Please, dont call me all the time. One or two calls are enough.

Please, dont call me if I am trying to complete QSO with other station.

If everybody will operate correctly, QSO-s will go much quicker and much stations will get the chance to make QSO with me.

Best regards Janez, T6JC

02. may 2011

I finally have all the papers to operate ham radio from Afghanistan. The call sign is T6JC. This is a previously issued call sign which was assigned to KD5NOI in 2010.

My occupation is a mechanical engineer, and I am here in technical support of the Slovenian Army. Look for me through the end of this month, operating as my work schedule allows. Also on my crew is another ham S57PM, Mitja. I am planning to operate CW with my IC 706 MKIIG which has no CW filters in it, and Mitja will do some digital operating. We are living in a tent with no high antenna supports nearby, so the antenna is just 8 m high. Also a challenge, ambient noise from "hundreds of power generators, air conditioners, construction machines and helicopters," and constant S5 or more QRN. Operation on 80 and 30 m is not allowed. QSL via LoTW or direct to my home address. I will answer when I'll back at my home QTH. Internet access is a few hundred meters walk away.

I am operating from a tent, so a lot of local QRM. Because of many power generators and similar devices there is an S5 and more constant QRN. Dipoles are low, no high objects around. No space for 40 m and 160 m dipoles. I am giving standard 599 RST, reality is that signals from USA and JA are just over noise. Trying to find BAND/TIME window to VK/ZL with no succes till now.

Many e-mails come in, asking about confirmation that call is in log. I have no time to answer, because I also have many official and e-mails from home. Nearest internet is 500 m from our tent. Now I am trying to operate in the morning before job, a little at lunch brake and at the evening if I am not to tired.

Bands above 17 MHz are closed, I only made cca 30 QSOs on 24 MHz.

Regards from Afganistan

Janez T6JC (S57J)

10. may

In my crew is another HAM operator - Mitja, S57PM. He is operating DIGI modes and SSB. I operate only CW.

14.may

Because of QRL QRT for a week or so.

25. may

During the night from 21./22. may (local time) I have made 600 CW QSO-s. About 3000 total in log.

We are home now. Thanks everybody for calling.

Because I am not member of any QSL biro, there WILL BE NO QSL VIA THE BURO.

Regards Janez T6JC (S57J)