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Jamboree on the Air

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by Guest, Oct 14, 2000.

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  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Gary G. Smith writes "Good Communications:
    The Key to Success for a Jamboree on the Air Event

    (the editor writes):

    Gary smith has written an excellent article about
    JOTA and it's impact to Scouting and Amateur Radio. Read
    more about it below...

    In 1994 I was not yet a licensed amateur radio operator, but my interest was being fueled by fellow hams which my wife and I had the opportunity to meet at the Davis County Amateur Radio Club in Utah.

    Being a ham had been a desire of mine for many years. After attending several meetings with club members, learning more about amateur radio and the benefits of it, I got my first ticket in January of 1995. Having successfully earned my license led to many interesting experiences and involvement with ham radio activities, including becoming the Vice President of the Davis County Amateur Radio Club, helping with communications in many club related and non-club related events and emergencies, and Jamboree on the Air with the Boy Scouts of America. Jamboree on the Air is the foremost reason for my putting this article together, sharing how I started it here in Davis County, Utah in 1994 and my involvement since.

    I had read a small article in the Scouting magazine, September of 1994, telling about Jamboree on the Air. The article did not go into any detail as to what JOTA was all about, so I did some research to find out what it was and whether this was something that I thought would be a fun and valuable event to become involved with.

    Jamboree on the Air is a means of bringing thousands of scouts together at one time on the air, not having to travel long distances but instead using amateur radio to let them talk to each other and learn more about the hobby. Thus in October of 1994, I asked a couple of local hams if they would set up a VHF and HF station for me in the church parking lot behind my house. They agreed, and thus started a yearly tradition for Davis County Jamboree on the Air.

    The first event involved six or eight scouts talking on a few local 2- meter repeaters and keyboarding on HF to others around the world. Total time involved was about four hours. Was it successful? Yes, and this brought me to the conclusion that I wanted to get my own ham ticket and do JOTA again in 1995. So the fun began! Planning and preparations were already taking place in my head.

    In August of 1995 I asked a few club members if they would help me set up some ham gear at the local park for JOTA. Several agreed and we made plans for the Saturday event. Prior to JOTA weekend I did some advertising on a small scale with the local newspapers. The event went well, with about forty scouts and scoutmasters in attendance.

    In 1996, I wanted to do something to challenge the scouts and teach them more about radio. In one of our preparation meetings, Cliff Jenkins, N7ZTY, suggested that we set up workshops similar to those used at BSA summer camps, so that the scouts could earn the radio merit badge while attending JOTA. (See Attachments.) This became the turning point for Davis County JOTA. Not only did we decide to do the radio merit badge course but also to have facilities for the troops to camp out Friday night before the activity.

    The merit badge course was organized into stations taught by scouts and Scouters who were licensed hams. The theme for JOTA 1996 was ?Have A Memorable Experience.? Memorable it was, with fifty-one scouts attending and twenty-five getting their radio merit badge.

    The number of merit badges awarded to the scouts began to create a great deal of interest with other boys. As interest grew, it became apparent that the 1997 Davis County JOTA would become an even more ? Memorable Experience? for all that participated. But there was a lot of work ahead. For 1997, hams commenced to set up multiple VHF/UHF, HF, Packet, RTTY and other stations on Friday afternoon, along with the essentials for the Radio Merit badge course. Ham family members for all those that helped with the now Fourth Annual JOTA in Davis County prepared dinner on Friday evening, and later joined in an evening campfire program. The BSA ?Order of Arrow? danced, with skits and songs from the troops starting off the event. A special guest from Morgan, Utah, Bob Petersen, sang ?God Bless the USA? and ?The Wind Beneath my Wings?, highlighting the evening and becoming the prelude for Saturdays activities.

    Did the scouts have another ?Memorable experience?? Most certainly yes, with two hundred and eight merits badges earned, and a total of 253 scouts and adult leaders in attendance.

    In 1998 a turning point developed. We were concerned over the ever- increasing numbers attending the Davis County JOTA. Many were coming from outside our scouting district, and we were looking at a possible attendance of six to seven hundred! We felt this number would not be manageable.

    Members of our JOTA committee gave presentations to three other amateur Radio clubs early in 1998. Our efforts paid off by encouraging other clubs to sponsor JOTA gatherings. With our numbers under control, the memorable experience continued, resulting in 178 Radio merit badges being awarded that year. The 1999 figures grew even larger, and other clubs in adjoining areas joined in sponsoring and participating in JOTA activities.

    Through the efforts and devotion of many hams and their family members, the 1999 JOTA exceeded our expectations with 48 troops, 412 scouts and 117 adult leaders in attendance. There were 274 radio merit badges earned. The event was held at a large park in Hooper, Utah. The photos are from that location (Don Ormsby K0NOD deserves the credit for the digital photos). Many of the scouts that were in attendance were participants from the previous years who came back for the fun and experience of amateur radio, as well as sharing their experience of the previous year with their friends.

    I have come to love the hobby of amateur radio. Ham radio plays a major role when other communications are lost during a man made or natural disaster. Ham radio is the vital link to many agencies. Ham radio is a service, not just a hobby. It?s a service to our community and our country. Time given by hams is time well spent. These are also functions in which Scouting gives service. Ham radio and scouting often work hand-in-hand, while at the same time instilling interest and knowledge of the hobby to a new generation of operators.

    Won?t you set up and sponsor a ?Jamboree on the Air? gathering in your area? What a great way to help our youth and their leaders in Scouting. I encourage you as an individual or as a club to get involved. Contact you local Boy Scout Service Center or council office and volunteer your leadership. Feel free to contact me if I can be of service to you in this worthwhile endeavor.

    73 de Gary Smith (N7IHZ)
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