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View Full Version : Does The Military Still Teach CW?



W7KKK
02-20-2008, 03:10 PM
I have heard that the military does not teach CW to any of it's ops any longer.
I have also heard that they still do as many smaller countries still use it?
I learned it and taught it for awhile while an instructor myself in the US Army.
I cannot believe that intercept ops are not learning this is they did drop it.
Does anyone know for sure?

K0CMH
02-20-2008, 06:00 PM
I do not have first hand knowledge, but I have talked to some Hams who are also active military.

The old army schools, such as O5B and O5C do not exist anymore. The army and navy no longer train plain old radio operators in code anymore. I do not know about the Marines. There may be special courses for special intercept personnel, but that would be a different rating than "radio operator". In fact, I am told that there really is not a classification or rating as "radio operator" any more in the army. People simply get OJT training on how to work the various voice and data rigs the army uses now.

Buy the way, I am an old graduate of the O5C school, 1970, Ft. Gordon, GA. I still like the code, it is my first love in ham radio. I like the other modes also, but CW is my first love.

W7KKK
02-20-2008, 06:07 PM
Interesting.
Needless to say from my signature, I too am a intermediate speed op from back when.
I did not go the 05C route. I purposely faked it with CW until they all shipped out in the 6th week of training and then got my speed up. As they can't draft me again I guess I don't have to worry about recourse at this point. They would not want me there today anyway.
I did not want to go to tent city for teletype school in 1967. The conditions for the trainees there then were well known as poor.
Guess what? My first assignment was to cross train for 05C! :mad: I did escape that assignment a short time later when I was sent to the school and made an instructor. That was good duty with the exception of knowing where about 90% of the graduates where headed (RVN).
Sometimes you just can't win.
With no radio operator training I wonder how they would expect someone to construct an antenna in an emergency? ( for that matter do a lot of the things we were trained to do?)
I guess the military has become appliance ops too.:rolleyes:
I don't work much CW now myself. Never was a dedicated op at it unless I had to in the Army. But CW stills seems to work when SSB doesn't at times. To me it's just not comfortable to ragchew with but then that's my lack of efficiency at it.

WA3KYY
02-20-2008, 07:30 PM
Ken,

You've pretty much hit it on the head with appliance operators now. Where I work we hand an Army SSGT who was a medic teaching junior medics how to operate the current manpack radios the Army uses. This included how to set up the field antenna. There was no instruction on how to cobble up an antenna from insulators and a spool of wire. They expected they would have the issue portable antenna available. This was done as general military training and applied to all MOS classifications here.

I believe but cannot verify that a few of the intelligence and spec ops folks still receive morse code training in all the services.

73,
Mike WA3KYY CDR, USN (Ret)

KD8HMO
02-20-2008, 07:38 PM
Evidently Mossad and other intelligence agencies dont use morse code that much. Look at all the weird "numbers" stations that are still in operation. Many are in spanish. You would think it would be easier to send whatever encrypted message it is by cw instead of am voice with crappy audio...

W7KKK
02-20-2008, 07:50 PM
Very interesting.
I don't know about the Air Force, but those in the Army learned 15 Groups per Minute (encrypted 5 letter random). You could not just guess at what the word was as with plain text.
I know I ran into a lot of Navy and Coast Guard types on the air at the time and they were training their ops for high speed or 25 WPM while I was in. The Army ops were considered intermediate speed ops at 15. I think it even shows that on my DD214 after the 05B MOS designator but I would have to dig it out and look at it.
You would think they would want someone capable of interpreting what some other station is saying today that still is broadcasting in CW.
It appears that like Latin as a language that CW is becoming no functional.
It may be that the ham community is the last of the hold outs.

KB1PRQ
02-20-2008, 07:51 PM
I went through the army radio-op course in '02 and we didnt and as far as I know they haven't taught it in quite a while.

ks4du
02-20-2008, 07:55 PM
I took my AR CW exams at O5C Ft. Gordon, Ga. The local club used the facility which had individual listening positions with headphones. I wonder if it's still there?

N8UZE
02-20-2008, 08:07 PM
I went through the army radio-op course in '02 and we didnt and as far as I know they haven't taught it in quite a while.

Although radio-ops are not taught it, what about other specialties such as intercept operators?

KB1PRQ
02-20-2008, 08:30 PM
I'd imagine some signals intelligence types must be taught it but as far as the majority everything is fm voice or data.

K0CMH
02-20-2008, 09:24 PM
O5C school. Half a day at the CW booths, the other half trying to stay awake through the procedure classes and equiment classes. But actually I was interested.

Then assignment to a real unit. The smell of warm sewing machine oil on the teleprinters. The pain of hitting the floor of the steel "hut" mounted on the truck when you slipped on the chaff on the floor from the reperf. Getting yelled at for sending "keyboard to keyboard" and not using the reperf. The relaxing "thumpity thumpity" of the teleprinters on a long message. I used to lean my back against it and got a nice warm massage. Getting yelled at for braking the copper whip when operating mobile, because the road the Com Officer forced us to take was full of low hanging branches.

The wonder of a chaffed chest from carrying the patch book inside my uniform shirt. The fun of getting yelled at for getting the patch book wet with sweat, when it was the standing order to carry it inside your uniform shirt.

Putting on the "leg key" because the frequency assigned for RTTY had some commercial station 1 Kcps away (and it was cps then), so to make contact with Division HQ, we used CW. How much fun it was to get yelled at by the Division HQ NCS for checking in with CW. How much fun it was to hear our CO yell back about the frequency we were given.

Leaving all the CW keys in the radio shop when taking the rig out in the field for the weekly net check-in and getting yelled at for cutting an unused headphone connector so that we could touch the wires together to send CW. The fun of hearing the Com Officer yelling back about not having enough key to keep in the rig. The fun of explaining all this to the CO and having him yell at everyone.

Ah yes, the army life. I don't think I will miss it. Ham radio is MUCH more fun. I only get yelled at here on QRZ.:D

AI6AT
02-20-2008, 09:31 PM
Special Ops continues to employ Morse Intercept officers is my understanding.

KA9VQF
02-20-2008, 09:51 PM
{Edited Quote}
Ah yes, the army life. I don't think I will miss it. Ham radio is MUCH more fun. I only get yelled at here on QRZ.:D



Your not married ‘eh?

K0CMH
02-20-2008, 10:21 PM
"Your not married ‘eh?"

OK, that one broke me up -- soda spewed on the keyboard.

Yes, I am married. I obviously had a major memory malfunction when making that last post.

AB9LZ
02-21-2008, 12:43 AM
Evidently Mossad and other intelligence agencies dont use morse code that much. Look at all the weird "numbers" stations that are still in operation. Many are in spanish. You would think it would be easier to send whatever encrypted message it is by cw instead of am voice with crappy audio...

Boy, you sure are fond of commenting on subjects you know very little about...

KD8HMO
02-21-2008, 12:52 AM
Boy, you sure are fond of commenting on subjects you know very little about...

Well, why dont you explain it to us?

K4ZAG
02-28-2008, 10:49 PM
day to day go...the US armed forces have not used CW for several years...not even the navy lamp flashers...i think the navy was last to quit using it...

W5HTW
02-29-2008, 12:53 AM
Well, why dont you explain it to us?

The Spanish numbers stations are not Mossad. Most of them you hear are from Cuba. The ones you hear with the sloppy audio are actually from the same site as Radio Havana. Often you can hear on the audio tapes, the background of "erased" Radio Havana programs, beneath the voice numbers. You may also hear other noises that aren't necessary, such as AC hum, rattles, clanks, etc. They are not a quality operation.

Havana also uses CW. Popular and well know frequencies are 10126 and 3926. You will hear five letter code groups, with ten different letters substituted for the ten numbers.

Much of it is MCW (A2) That's normal within the "numbers game."

Mossad, oddly enough, doesn't use Spanish. I wonder why that is. Could it be because they aren't Cuban?

N4AUD
02-29-2008, 02:45 AM
The reason for sending codes by numbers stations using AM on shortwave is the wide availability of shortwave radios no matter where you go. Cheap sw receivers may not always have a BFO for CW or SSB, and of course there's no incriminating special equipment if you get caught. The one time pads are normally made to be easily destroyed, so catching someone receiving these messages would be very difficult.

W9GB
02-29-2008, 02:03 PM
I have heard that the military does not teach CW to any of it's ops any longer.
Last time I heard, Special Ops was still teaching and using.
The intelligence community does have requirements to be able to receive and understand without a computer. A major defense contractor in Washington DC area a couple of years ago -- had a requirement for an employee to receive 20 wpm Morse.

I have also heard that they still do as many smaller countries still use it?
Yes.
Morse is also still a requriement for some Asian and MidEast countries.

I cannot believe that intercept ops are not learning this is or did they drop it?
Morse can either be categorized under crypto or some specific foreign languages -- depending on usage/need.

w9gb

W7KKK
02-29-2008, 03:14 PM
I know it could not have been dropped totally. It just did not make sense as this time anyway.
In 05B schooling you got 3 weeks all day long at the bench with 5 letter/number encrypted groups. If I remember right they wanted you at 10 WPM by the end of that time. (the graduation benchmark was 15 GPM at the ended of 10 weeks)
Then you went half days with CW and radio training the other half learning mapping, operation of various radios, net procedures and antenna setups etc.
If you were fast enough at one point on CW you were automatically selected for 05C (radio teletype schooling) and shipped to Ft. Gordon to finish that up. That never made any sense to me because as far as I knew they did not use CW. Why would they send the fastest CW ops? This was the Army though, HI HI.
I have often wondered how emergency communications are done today if the need arises. We learned the simple formulas to make a longwire out of phone wire and such and how to get it on the air.
I guess anyone can operate the simplified radios today (we had them too when I served such as the PRC/25 and VRC-43-49 series) but nobody was going to operate the GRC-19 or GRC-106 without some training.
I will assume with the improvement in radios in that they don't require tuning the military no longer sees the need for dedicated ops.

N8CPA
02-29-2008, 04:20 PM
Very interesting.
I don't know about the Air Force, but those in the Army learned 15 Groups per Minute (encrypted 5 letter random). You could not just guess at what the word was as with plain text.
I know I ran into a lot of Navy and Coast Guard types on the air at the time and they were training their ops for high speed or 25 WPM while I was in. The Army ops were considered intermediate speed ops at 15. I think it even shows that on my DD214 after the 05B MOS designator but I would have to dig it out and look at it.
You would think they would want someone capable of interpreting what some other station is saying today that still is broadcasting in CW.
It appears that like Latin as a language that CW is becoming no functional.
It may be that the ham community is the last of the hold outs.

How often did you send the group, SILGL? NMN used to send the groups in the same sequence night after night for training, late in its CW career. Yes, I know NMN is Navy/USCG But I thought the military might use the same training groups among the various services.

And it's interesting that NMN still uses audio MCW to mark its HF data (SITOR?) channels.

WB2UAQ
02-29-2008, 04:53 PM
Hi Ken,
The modern mil rigs have built-in antenna couplers that will tune into anything of reasonable length:D
73, Pete

clif
02-29-2008, 08:40 PM
Ah yes, fond memories of all morning listening to code and the afternoon sweating in a classroom learning theory. BS!!! Ft Gordon in the spring is a festered armpit. 85 deg wet bulb temp and you couldn't even breathe without sweating. But it was so much fun.

We had to learn 20wpm code groups, send and receive, straight key yet. To be a RTTY op???? Then on to Korea and forbidden to use CW because that's what the Koreans used for their comm's. All RTTY, An GRC 125 anyone, in the back of a 5/4. Oh yeah the wonderful brand new 5/4 that were RVN rejects. No heaters, didn't even have a thermostat. 125's with A/C units and no heaters, more RVN rejects, but they were brand new.

But I did learn code.

Clif Holland KA5IPF
Sgt 05C40
Ft Gordon 1971
Korea 1971-72

K4LSX
03-16-2008, 02:48 AM
Interesting comments and questions.
I was "full time" radio op in USN in early 60s in ASW Patrol Squadron - when we were on patrol for sometimes 12+ hours, radio position was always manned and a/g circuits monitored - constant position reports, sitreps, etc. When I first went in the Navy we used CW about 99.5%. Then a/c started getting 'upgrades' with Collins ARC-38a and then Collins 618T HF transceivers - all digital with autotuners. At that point SSB was utilized more and more. Now a/c don't even carry radio ops - the HF comm. is handled as a 'secondary' duty by another crewmember - all SSB/data. We had a crew of 10 - always included at least 2 CW ops. When not sitting radio, we had other duties - mine were, 2nd - Search Radar and 3rd - one of the ASW sensors. It is a different world now - most folks have to look at a 'pocket card' of dots and dashes to read the NavAid ID.

Ham radio played a huge part in my experience - having a General license at age 14, upon entering the Navy I was on flight crew every day of my Navy time, except for basic training. The CW training that the Navy did have back then appeared to be superb - knew guys that went to Aviation Electronics Technician School and then on to radio school for a few weeks and came out copying 15-20WPM quite well. 73, K4LSX...QCWA(50) - SOWP - FISTS - ARRL

WA2ZDY
03-16-2008, 02:07 PM
You may also hear other noises that aren't necessary, such as AC humEd, I always thought it was some kind of law down in CM/CO land that all signals were to be modulated with at least some AC hum.


Mossad, oddly enough, doesn't use Spanish. I wonder why that is. Could it be because they aren't Cuban?They're not? Boy have I been confused.

W5HTW
03-16-2008, 03:02 PM
Most of the Cuban hams have improved. Actually I think the power system in Cuba has improved a lot. The stability and frequency accuracy of the AC line voltages in Cuba were apparently atrocious. And I think filter caps for ham rigs were smuggle din by the Russians, so much Cubans didn't have any. But the CO signals I hear today are mostly much better. I know, too, a lot of the Eastern Europe signals used to be horrible, too, not just Russia but anywhere in the USSR. But they were working, on CW, and they sure made contacts. And not just "TU QSL QRZ" contacts, either. One nice thing about the Cubans, too, is they almost all will ragchew, and that is true today. Maybe they're lonely??

Them thar Isralii Mossad Cubans are the real clincher, though. I was copying a numbers station and it announced they are building a Wailing Wall on the north side of Havana. Gonna have Kosher Numbers.

I spent time in the Far East where I heard gobs of Asian CW. Of course they have some different characters from good old English Morse! Hard to copy.

There is still maritime CW on the bands now and then. Third world, I suppose. I hear Korean CW stations, and some Spanish language ones in the maritime frequencies. Not a lot, but some is still there. Some of it is from Africa, too. I don't mean the numbers stuff, but ordinary maritime CW. It's still out there but you have to listen a lot to find it.

KC5SEB
04-30-2008, 01:18 AM
The Spanish numbers stations are not Mossad. Most of them you hear are from Cuba. The ones you hear with the sloppy audio are actually from the same site as Radio Havana. Often you can hear on the audio tapes, the background of "erased" Radio Havana programs, beneath the voice numbers. You may also hear other noises that aren't necessary, such as AC hum, rattles, clanks, etc. They are not a quality operation.

Havana also uses CW. Popular and well know frequencies are 10126 and 3926. You will hear five letter code groups, with ten different letters substituted for the ten numbers.

Much of it is MCW (A2) That's normal within the "numbers game."

Mossad, oddly enough, doesn't use Spanish. I wonder why that is. Could it be because they aren't Cuban?

He didn't say that the MOSSAD used Spanish. He said that some stations were in Spanish, and you obviously only know part of the story.

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