Boy scout radio jamboree a big hit

Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, the 14th Air Force commander, chats with Vandenberg Boy Scouts and signs autographs during the Satellite Amateur Radio Club's annual  boy  scout  jamboree on the  air at Vandenberg Oct. 18 to 20. This event allows scouts to chat with other scouts in countries around the world, as well as within the United States.  (courtesy photo by Eric Lemmon)

Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, the 14th Air Force commander, chats with Vandenberg Boy Scouts and signs autographs during the Satellite Amateur Radio Club's annual boy scout jamboree on the air at Vandenberg Oct. 18 to 20. This event allows scouts to chat with other scouts in countries around the world, as well as within the United States. (courtesy photo by Eric Lemmon)

VANDENBERG AIR FOCE BASE, Calif. -- The annual boy scout jamboree on the air was hosted by members of the Satellite Amateur Radio Club from October 18 to 20. This event allows scouts to chat with other scouts in countries around the world, as well as within the United States. In addition to getting on the air, scouts also attended classes to earn the radio merit badge, with 13 scouts earned that distinction. Another four finished all their requirements for the space exploration merit badge, and many others were nearly complete by the end of the weekend.

This was one of the largest JOTAS hosted by the SARC, with troops from Vandenberg, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, and Santa Barbara attending. Troop 394, based at Vandenberg, was the focal point for the scouts, and handled the invitations and base approvals.

The SARC provided the certified examiners to conduct a test session for the technician-level amateur radio operator's license. Seven people passed the examination, including Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, the 14th Air Force commander. Helms, a former NASA astronaut, awed the scouts with her stories about life on the international space station, the thrill of riding the space shuttle, and her experiences talking with ham operators around the world while living on the international space station.

As an incentive for taking the entry-level amateur radio exam, the American Red Cross donated an emergency radio to all scouts who tested. This unique radio runs on a hand crank or solar power, and can receive AM, FM, and NOAA weather broadcasts.

Throughout the JOTA event, all scouts were able to get on the air several times, and contacts in Europe and South America were made. Since the JOTA is an international event, the scouts were able to chat with their counterparts in other countries, and learn about school, hobbies, and customs. The SARC provided four operating stations to maximize the amount of time available to the scouts.

The JOTA provides the opportunity to camp out over the weekend, and the SARC compound was dotted with dozens of tents housing the scouts, parents, and adult leaders.

More information about the JOTA is available at www.arrl.org/jota and at www.scouting.org/jota.