Tell me your story. I am a Sucker for a good story
I worked satellite communications for the US Army for 8 years. During one of my deployments to Afghanistan I found myself on the Pakistan border. The US pipes in CONUS(CONtinental United States) programming via an in-house network called AFN(American Forces Network?). Anyway, I arrived upon the FOB(Forward Operating Base) amid a shitstorm of communication troubles. There were several fiber breaks, making infrastructural comms impossible. The first 8 days were extremely stimulating for me, tracing fiber loops, finding the breaks, digging trenches, encouraging soldiers to keep digging trenches, hauling water, food, scheduling work/rest, just fixing all this garbage we got laid in our laps. Eventually, however, we ran out of things to fix! I know! And we still had 11 months to go.
I was made aware of a problem with the TV reception. At some point in the past let’s say 4 months, everyone’s TV reception went out. I was very bored and had previously been trying to recompile URU: Ages Beyond Myst to output video for a buddy of mine’s development kit’s pre-release Oculus Rift(we had met a month before but instantly became friends.) By the way, the adventure game market is supremely suited for VR. Take note, NASDAQ. I gathered positional data as to the x,y positions of the antennas from which complaints occurred, took spectrum analyzer readings to determine EB/NO, got a map of the fob and used push-pins, varying the colors to represent signal strength. A strange pattern emerged. Not so strange, in that the little wedges of color pointed directly to the source of the broadcast.
See, how AFN works(I didn’t know this going in, I was just gathering data) is that a satellite feed is received, then demuxed and retransmitted via VHF on discrete channels. My wedges all pointed to the command complex, and so there I went. I had been there previously for reasons that are immaterial to this story, but the key point is that I did not spend a lot of time looking around, I went in, did what I was there to do, and left. Best for everyone this way. This time I went looking.
As I approached I saw an aerial, looked okay, about the right size for VHF, but no apparent damage. Lost view as I cleared the security checkpoint. I happened to see the XO passing through and I stopped him, told him what I was doing in case anyone reported a suspicious signal nerd poking around. He laughed. I found the demux equipment. Everything was online. I found the conduit for the wave guide exiting the amplifier. So good so far. I circled the building. Good sturdy American FOB construction. I’m not kidding, the Engineer Corps rules. Found the waveguide as it exited the building, followed it. I came upon a coil on the ground. Looking up I could clearly see the aerial. There was no connection between the coil and the antenna!
Upon closer examination I could see that the waveguide had pulled out from the connector. I was also intimately aware that I was bathing my face in amplified RF at that moment, but I’m still as pretty as ever so no harm done. I went back inside and disabled the HPA(High Power Amplifier.)
I’d like to say that at this moment the CSM(Command Sergeant Major) stormed in and demanded to know what happened to Dora, but no. I found the XO, told him what I found, what I did, and what needed to be done. As it happened there was nothing to be done for the moment, for reasons I won’t go into.
That said, the most interesting thing about the whole episode is the colored wedges. The waveguide had fallen out of the connector and RF had been spewing forth from the broken end, bouncing all around the t-walls(think 25-foot high Jersey barriers) and the CSM, the Commander, everyone within the complex had NO IDEA that the waveguide had fallen out and was spewing high-powered RF throughout the complex. They may have even gotten a clearer picture on their TV. The colored wedges represented the little cracks between the t-walls. Where there wasn’t 2 feet of concrete created an aperture which allowed a slightly higher SNR to TV antennas closer to the complex and within the hot wedge. Command didn’t care; Dora was coming in just fine:)
I won’t divulge how this resolved, but I will say that nobody got cancer(AFAIK), I did find some spare waveguides, and nobody lived happily ever after.
Im glad we have people like you serving our good old USA. It is all so interesting I dont know what to say. I like how you said and nobody lived happily ever after. Not to soon and it is a very good read. Am I reading this right they watched Dora the explorer?
Lol no the Dora references are just a joke. AFN does rebroadcast some kids programming but more likely they’d be watching the news, prime time shows, that sort of thing. It’s part of the MWR program(Morale, Welfare, and Recreation.)
Really cool story! Gruffham has told me of similar shenanigans during his enlistment, it always surprises me how things like this could be overlooked!
What Would You Rather Watch?
- Dora The Explorer
- The News
- The Weather
Lol weather wins, but I can understand it weather is very interesting and smart. What did you vote? I might voted weather.
I love that wanting to make friends and talk about radio is in the “off topic” section of an amateur radio forum.
Irony is humankind’s best and worse friend But -to swing that comment in another direction - things did start with audio, and Project-WT.com is a map of the world with radio stations. And Echo-64.com does have an audio component. So how important is the auricular realm? We do have an altered/garbled/warped/??? video/audio so is the underlying thread that ties all of these things together, thus far, the concept of EM waves and especially those in the radio wavelengths (which I wonder, has anyone looked at the wavelengths of radio waves to see if those numbers dovetail with any others?)
Words are powerful, especially when “heard”