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The majority of my 14 years was spend using conventional commo like this.

A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was in a unit whose mission requirements dictated that everyone down to the lowest ranking “Joe” knew how to make improvise antennas for use primarily with our PRC 74 or 77 radios which was then slaved to a DMDG (Digital Message Device Group).

We (the “Joes”) sat through a number of classes concerning radio use. Considering the unit’s mission required that we be well out of range for regular mil commo, EVERYONE had to know how to make the antenna required for effective commo.

At that time, the classes consisted of a “Fire Hose” dump of info that would have been difficult for most to digest, let alone have a basic understanding of. Like many things I learned in the military, The initial “Dump” of info was through the “Fire Hose” technique.

We learned how to go through the motions to accomplish the task, and we memorized what needed memorized, but the understanding of the reasons for doing it that way, or in this case, the theory of the “Why” and “How” an improvised antenna worked was lost to many of us.

My good friend NC Scout and I have a lot in common, from some very similar background In certain types of units, to our philosophy as Survivalists. He was tellin’ me on the phone one night what his class consisted of, and we hadn’t gotten together for a while, so I said, “What the Hell” (after clearin’ it through the “First Sergeant” of course) and decided to go check out his class a few weekends ago.

NC Scout Commo Class01

My prep for the class over the next couple days consisted of going back and finding my old notes from those classes 27 years ago (which I had transcribed into a “Write in the Rain” notebook a number of years back), and square away my radio and field gear. I reviewed my notes over the next couple days, packed up my vehicle and left, the Friday afternoon before the class, on my 5 hour drive to NC Scouts teaching site.

Something that I’ve noticed (it’s pretty obvious to most who are observant) while putting on classes for Mason Dixon Tactical, is that classes such as we put on are as much a networking event, as a learning event. Upon my arrival, I met a number of guys that I knew of, but had not met. I got to know them over the next couple days and am glad to say they are now part of my “Network”.

As an aside, I’ve found a number of times over the last decade or so, you can neither count on, trust, nor believe many that you will meet through the internet. Two “Well knowns”  in particular come to mind that were given a high level of trust based on the Mil background they told me. One proved to be a snake and a liar, the other, a thief and a liar (go figure). What’s the saying….. “Caveat Emptor”?

So Saturday morning, after a kick ass breakfast, we got to the classroom work. NC Scout started with different radios, their positives, and for some, their negatives. Along with that, he discussed power supplies in the field. Next up was creating an SOI (Signals Operating Instructions) for our group. This is an important step. Since everyone there was involved in doing this, they now have experience in doing it for their own groups. NC Scout didn’t just tell us how to do it, he had the class actually make an SOI. Along with the SOI instruction, the class received a block of instruction in putting together an OpOrd (Operations Order), and where the SOI is included in that OpOrd.

Next up were report formats, and the “when”, “where” and “why” of their uses. Certain reports (“CRACK” in this instance), he modified the format slightly to fit the Prepper/Survivalist needs. After report formats we went on to using the radio, and how to speak on a radio (‘You, this is Me”) to be understood and verify that your message was received correctly.

We then covered the uses of radios with HF, VHF, and UHF frequency coverage, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each type. Unless you realize what you have, and how best to utilize it’s potential, your ability to relay info will only work if there is some luck involved. NC Scout covered the radio freqs, and the “How” and “Why” of there ability or inability to work in certain environments.

The next part of the class was where I received the most “real world” info. Everything else we had covered in the class was either familiar to me, I had a pretty good working knowledge of, or I had used it a lot (SOI and OpOrd for instance). Antenna theory was something that I was force-fed as a “Joe” and “learned” it (remember my “Fire hose” analogy), but I didn’t understand it. I now understand it, and am not only able to implement it, but feel comfortable with using the info.

NC Scout Commo Class02.jpg

Using the “Cobra Head” we attached wires and insulators to create a “Jungle Antenna”.

NC Scout covered Di-Pole and Jungle Antennas in the class. We learned the theory behind their use, The history (including the Japanese and German answers to the same problem) and the reason they worked so well in their niche. Then we built (he had supplies for everyone to build one) a Jungle Antenna for use with a specific freq for OUR radios, using the formula we were give in the class. Imagine that, they worked……

NC Scout was able to make things we knew of such as the “Old School” TV antennas we had on our houses years ago, relevant to what we were doing in class (They are “Yagi” antennas, which was the Japanese answer to the “Jungle Antenna” question). He also made relevant why an antenna such as that has so many  forward cross pieces (we learned the are called “Directors”) by advising of the “Gain” achieved with the different number of “Directors”.

We learned about digital radios, and some really cool advantages of the different ones available. BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight) was covered, as well as NVIS (Near Vertical Incident Skywave), and the radio categories and freqs used with the previously discussed antennas and also the advantages (range and security), of their use, and the “How” and “Why” they work so well.

Some of Saturday and most of Sunday was spent in the field practicing radio use. Saturday afternoon was spent actually transmitting messages from one group to another using the different formats (SALUTE, SALT, ANGUS, CYRIL, CRACK, BORIS, UNDER) the class had been taught, along with using radio security measures with those reports.

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Most of Sunday the students spent in teams (that were flip flopped occasionally) in the field sending back reconnaissance (to the Tactical Operations Center) info gleaned from actual sightings of OpFor in the field. They put up the “Jungle Antennas that were built in class, and utilized the different reports they had been taught for various scenarios. From what I saw, the students became pretty comfortable with doing what was needed for relaying the info.

From my perspective, the AAR would go something like this:


What was the mission/task?

Teach basic radio/antenna theory, the types of radios and antennas available, their use, and conduct practical exercises.

Items needed for the class?

A notebook and a pencil or pen, a radio was not required. This was not a HAM only class, and was relevant to anyone wanting to learn the basics of the above mentioned “”Mission/Task” for the Prepper or Survivalist.

Was the mission/task accomplished?


What should be sustained?

The method of delivery, the area the class was taught, and the info put out was excellent, and needs to be maintained. The time was used efficiently. The classroom was sufficient (dry with tables to work on) for what was needed. The supplies given to us for building an antenna were a bonus. We were fed some awesome home cooked meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Supper/ Breakfast, Lunch) and I was stuffed in a good way after every one. The class took the theory taught in it and put it into practical application, and everyone (even the two young girls who came with their parents) got to participate. The chance to network with those of like mind and make new friendships can not be understated as a “Sustain”.

What should be improved?

Nothing, given the time constraints of a two day class. If we had more time, maybe more field time, but referring back to “It was only a two day class”, yeah, that’s not an option.


To NC Scout I want to convey a “Well Done Brother!”. To put it mildly to those reading this, I wish he had been the guy with the “Fire hose” 27 years ago teaching the antenna class to us “Joes” in the detachment. You made some things learned, all those years ago, not only understandable for this “Non Commo” guy, but I now feel comfortable with the improvised side of radio/antenna use.

To those I met in the class I want to convey that you guys made it a quite enjoyable time, and I plan on keeping in touch with a number of you. I know I said this in the class, but it stands to be reiterated that you guys are very lucky to have a guy like NC Scout putting out this info in such an easily digestible manner.

Great class taught by an outstanding instructor, Good people with the same goals and mindset, what could be better?

Ruckin' with the FAL

By no means am I a “commo guy”, but I always carry a radio in the woods. Now I know I can carry a conveniently compact antenna with me and get info out over a lot longer range than the standard antenna would have let me in the past. 


“Parata Vivere”-Live Prepared.

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