Welcome to 2021

C. Matthew Curtin, KD8TTE
January 1, 2021

"Groundhog Day" might not be over but at least the calendar has changed. After what we've been through, it seems like a little reflection is in order before we turn back into the wind and continue moving forward.

Sometime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I recognized that I'd not really be able to pursue both the part of computer science that I was and amateur radio. I opted to save Morse Code and nifty human-based radio communication on hold. In 2012, I decided that a particularly convenient time never would present itself so I turned my attention back to radio. I bought a Yaesu FT-60R and started scanning the VHF and UHF airwaves for anything I could hear in whatever time I could find.

I found "the Central Ohio Traffic Net, a part of the Ohio Section of the National Traffic System." Whatever that meant. I listened on-air and I kept notes. Detailed notes of times, frequencies, callsigns, and I looked up things like the ARRL NTS Methods, Practices, and Guidelines. I started to transcribe the traffic. When I finally got my license and could finally transmit around Christmas of 2012, I dutifully prepared my first radiogram to get on the COTN roster. I wrote it out. Then I wrote everything I'd say, prowords and all, to transmit the traffic. It took me over an hour to make sure I got it right.

It was sort-of right. But Denny, WA8EYQ, said "ROGER," and oh boy, I was a real radio operator. I was attracted to COTN because it's an operation with a purpose, one that isn't a need in everyday life when things work normally, but one that can become suddenly powerful and important when people most need something reliable and resilient. Lots of friendly people were on, and were very welcoming, which was also important, but it wasn't just blather about doctor's appointments and antenna repairs. And there I was, a real radio operator.

Since then I've gone through a similar process time and again as I've picked up operating privileges, skills, and capabilities. Even as today I do things like run single-operator multitransmitter stations and flip among voice, CW, and digital, I'm never very far from being brand new, listening for Denny's voice to come through that speaker and say "ROGER."

We've built up tremendous capability on COTN in the past few years, as our performance in recent years' Simulated Emergency Test (SET) exercises have shown. Please think about your station and your operation. Think how you can continue in your own path to develop new skills and capabilities, and how to apply them to make safer and more resilient communities. Review COTN's After Action Reports (AAR) especially for the 2020 SET.

Priorities for COTN this year will be to get better at things we didn't do as well as we'd like in the SET. But even as we develop and practice capability for working multichannel and multimode net sessions, working higher-volume operations, and integrating into public service messaging systems, don't forget that there's always someone out there nervously holding a new handheld radio. When they finally work up the nerve to hold the push-to-talk button to enter the net and have that first experience of blanking out on the ITU speaking alphabet, only to discover compounded terror when they've now forgotten their own callsign—oh, we've all been there—remember to welcome them. Help them understand what we're doing, why, and to get to the point where they'll finally transmit and wait to hear someone respond back to them, "ROGER."

Tim K3AUX, the rest of our officers and board members, and I are all here to help, but can't do everything. Maybe something you can do this year is start working as a net control operator, or a liaison to another traffic net, or to an agency station. Maybe there's something that you've done to make your traffic operations better and want to share it with the rest of the net. Whatever it is, remember that making COTN successful requires both on-air operations and off-air planning.

Thank you for everything you've done and will be doing in 2021. I'm looking forward to working and training with all of you. Happy New Year.