The US Navy’s Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) has adopted Amateur Radio training as a possible new approach to basic RF and electronics instruction. More than 20 NAWCWD employees took part in a week-long class in Point Mugu, California, in December. The class, which culminated in an examination session for the Technician licensed, offered NAWCWD employees a novel approach to teaching radio propagation, said Brian Hill, KF4CAM, the lead for electromagnetic maneuver warfare experimentation in the Avionics, Sensors and E*Warfare Department. Hill, who got his license while he was still in high school, is also the department’s “innovation ambassador.”
“I looked at the breakdown of current new hires and saw that many had degrees in computer science and thought that their classwork might not have covered things like RF propagation,” Hill said. Rather than have employees sit through hours of PowerPoint briefings, Hill thought that a licensing course might be a more dynamic, hands-on approach to convey the basics — and cover areas such as directional antennas, signal propagation, and modulation that are necessary for their work.
Initially, Hill had 10 class slots funded, but then Target Design Engineering Branch Head Ian Mann, KI6YVO, got wind of the class, saw its potential, and helped get funding to expand participation. Mann, a General-class licensee and a ham for nearly 10 years, said he’s been able to apply knowledge learned in the class to his NAWCWD work.
Target Systems Division head Milton Gabaldon, also saw merit in the approach. He sat in on the classes, took the exam, and he’s now KM6YPA. For him, it’s about connecting the dots.
“It’s about introducing people to electronics, to start understanding what RF is all about …so when we talk about it in the test and evaluation world, [students] know what we’re talking about,” Gabaldon said. “They get a better view than ‘I just do software.’ Now they see ‘My software controls this piece, which sends out RF jamming signals that protect the warfighter.’ That’s the most important takeaway.”
In all, 23 employees who took the Technician exam passed, and several also successfully tested at for General and Amateur Extra licenses. Hill hopes to offer more hands-on classes in the future, and he’s planning a Fox Hunt for the near future, as additional hands-on training. — Thanks to NAWCD and Public Affairs Officer Kimberly Brown; some information from C4ISRNet