Dan and All,
I am definitely an ARRL member and will not let go of membership because I believe Amateur Radio would be done all over the world without its advocacy.
Two days in a row I had lengthy hallway conversations with Bill Friest and John Bigley. Both are involved with Puerto Rico deployments. Friest leads SATERN. Bigley is an elected ARRL official who owns a concrete house on Puerto Rico. He knows every one of the 4,100 hams on Puerto Rico and the smaller islands. He is the one who received the call from the only working cell phone on Calubra (sp) after the hurricane, an SOS. John got the Aid ball rolling responding to that call. On Friday John was unaware of the Reddit complainers. On Saturday, he had talked to other ARRL officials. Their side of the story is the deployed complainer immediately started causing headaches. He started a GoFundMe page as if he was in charge of the rescue. He was a cowboy. (I don’t intend to demean cowboys). My thought is there are valid points on both sides and Rowland is right, as painful as it might be, ARRL should take anything constructive it can learn from the disgruntled volunteers.
Neither ARRL nor SATERN requires the FEMA courses for those deployed. Friest personally interviews his volunteers to screen for any medical issues which are automatic rejection for deployment. People lie. One ham deployed to Florida was dialysis dependent and took time out to get treatment.
Friest believes the grandest challenge is paucity of younger, healthier people going into ham radio. He believes lack of mutual awareness between Salvation Army and SATERN is a huge impediment to deployment. (Interesting that SA is largely unaware of its own communication infrastructure.)
ARRL denies Red Cross is unhappy with ham volunteers, just one or two.
I wonder why ARRL keeps touting a force of 50 when it actually sent only 22. With so many ARES/FEMA trained hams, it seems to me they could have a more refined deployment plan. Indeed those 350 volunteers turned out to be 340. Their numbers keep changing. However, ARRL states its deployed volunteers had many useful skills pressed into service, not just as communicators. They were heroic under an extreme hardship deployment.
Where the Puerto Rico effort stands right now is that all those local hams have kicked in with some equipment help, etc. Government hams are there now, too, according to ARRL.
For sure ARRL got maximum positive publicity and exposure for licensed amateurs providing public service. That is why we pay our dues. They were doing their job.
(By the way, when John Bigley deploys as an emergency communicator, he volunteers with SATERN.)
Looking up the Reddit complainer on QRZ, though he has military background, he has been a ham a short time. One would think a military guy respects chain of command without needing a FEMA course to explain it. I have not followed any more of the man’s story since coming to Pacificon. Perhaps others here have.
Sitting in on the end-of-convention ARRL open forum panel on Sunday, it sounds like passing the Parity Act is the biggest ARRL headache—of course with vociferous dissent from the audience. If anyone is interested in that topic, I wrote about it in the RCR newsletter a few months back. Currently one legislator from Florida is holding it up. I have not followed him and the very latest on that. The President of ARRL could not be more frustrated with politics and politicians—he sounds very angry their thousands of hours and substantial financial expenditures of member dues have not yet resulted in passage of the Parity Act. For myself, I am alarmed the officers on the panel think the language in the bill “effective antenna” is going to be helpful. Effective is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone has tens of thousands of dollars to litigate that each time the homeowner and HOA board OR just one complaining other resident has an opinion about effective antennas being no more than a handheld whip. ( Sorry, I couldn’t help myself there).
This has been typed one finger at a time from my cell phone.
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks for the update.
I have added a hyperlink to the ARRL website where the first article is on the 50 volunteers work in Puerto Rico. When I read it, it sounds more like what we have come to expect from the amateur radio community. As is typical with information posted on the internet, don't over react until the news cycle has a chance to sort out reality.
Please make another post about your meetings at Pacificon. I am jealous. I wish I could be attending.
I talked at length yesterday and today with William Friest of SATERN and the ARRL division guy who started the ball rolling on getting aid to Puerto Rico after getting a call at home from the only working cell phone on a remote island before it lost its battery. The ARRL guy owns a concrete home on PR and knows every single ham in Puerto Rico and smaller islands. He hadn’t heard about the complaint the deployed hams made on Reddit. He met with the other ARRL officials last night and they told him the main complainant started a GoFundMe campaign as soon as he arrived on PR on the Red Cross dime. He wanted to be a cowboy and he was a pain from the minute he arrived. There is definitely more than one side to the story. I suggested ARRL may want to consider whether it needs to make a statement at Pacificon. The hurricane response is a major theme here. I am interested to see what officials choose to do tomorrow. I hope to attend their open meeting tomorrow afternoon.
____________________________________________________________We Say GoodBye To Sally Fields