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KTVD Remembers KAIR

When I heard the call, KAIR, on the air a few weeks ago, it brought back some very powerful memories of days gone by! I was asked to share them, so here goes.

While I was stationed on the island of Okinawa, in the Ryukyu Islands, with the US. Army, during 1967-69, I had the opportunity to have many conversations with KAIR, who, at that time, was operated mostly by a wonderful airman named "Al." I never got the opportunity to actually meet him face to face, but I felt like I knew him just the same.

As a 20 year old midwestern boy, far away from home for the real first time, and having been a ham for ten years at the time, when I arrived on Okinawa, I immediately sought out anything resembling an HF antenna. Luckily, in the barracks next to mine, was the 555 LE Maintenance Company, who had a Tri-bander mounted on the roof of the building! I went back several times until I finally met the "Chief Operator", Rick Crabb, a great guy from New Mexico, who traveled quite extensively with the USARPAC Calibration Team throughout Southeast Asia. After checking out my license and operating qualifications, I received a key to the shack and permission to operate whenever I wanted! What a thrill!

Since 1967 was approaching the peak of the sunspot cycle, world-wide communications were routine and being on the "other end" of a DX pileup as KR6CF, is a thrill that I will never forget! I, of course, sought out a station in the midwest to see if I could get a phone patch through to my family back in Omaha, Nebraska. I had recently married and was expecting my first child at this time, so I was anxious for any news from the homefront! I was very fortunate to hook up with several stations from Omaha, who were very happy to provide phone patches for a local ham overseas. Unfortunately, many of these same stations didn't have the signals that could compete with the extremely strong stations in California or Japan.

Enter KAIR. Al heard me trying to get through one day and jumped right in with his powerful signal! He told me that he would be happy to patch me through to my family and pass other patches as well! We set up a schedule a couple of times each week and he provided me with information and updates on a regular basis that would have taken weeks to accomplish through the US. mail. One day, while making a patch home, my Grandmother, WCCD, informed me that my new son had just been born a couple of hours before and that I could talk to my wife in the hospital. Al immediately dialed the number and I was connected with her 10,000 miles away, to celebrate this wonderful occasion!

Since my wife and son were planning to join me on Okinawa as soon as the doctors allowed them to undertake such a journey, we spoke often, trying to iron out all the details of such a trip. Al was also very helpful to me in getting thousands of phone patches passed for service men and women that had been wounded in Viet Nam, and were on the hospital ships "Sanctuary" and "Repose", as well as the hundreds of fellow Army guys that had witnessed my communications with my family over those several months.

One specific instance stays in the forefront of my mind even today, some 30 years later. We had an Army General who had two teenage daughters who had boyfriends back in Texas. There were days that, even with good propagation, that we weren't able to make communications with the mainland that was of phone patch quality. This particular evening, when we were unable to get through, I received a call from the General, asking me why we weren't able to patch his daughters through. I informed him that our station was old and in need of a serious upgrade to provide reliable communications. He asked me what I needed, in the way of new equipment, to continue to provide phone patches in a reliable manner. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I told him, "A new HyGain TH6DXX antenna, a complete Collins S-Line, with 30S1 amplifier, should do the trick!" He told me that he would see what he could do!

I had completely forgotten about this conversation until about 2 months later, when my CO called me in to tell me that there were "many" large boxes in the mail room, addressed to KR6CF "MARS" Station and for me to come pick them up. What a surprise! The General had come through!!

During the weeks that followed, we assembled all of this wonderful new equipment, installed the new antenna, and tested it out. The General, in the mean time, had phoned me and informed me that he could now see of no reason why I couldn't patch his daughters through to their boyfriends in Texas! I had really stuck my foot in my mouth this time!

Everything went along wonderful for quite some time. The General's daughters were happy because they were able to communicate with their boyfriends. The General was happy because *they* were happy, and I was happy because all of them were happy! One day, while trying to pass a patch, the conditions were horrible and phone patch quality was not what it should be. I was having a very hard time hearing Al at KAIR. I told him of my problem with having promised the General that I would provide phone patches for his daughters and mentioned that I probably would be operating from the Republic of Viet Nam very soon! Luckily, Al understood. He told me to standby for a few minutes and he would see what he could do to improve his signal strength on my end. In a few minutes, he came back on the frequency and was 20 over S9. What an improvement! I told him how much his signal had improved and asked him what he had done! He informed me that he didn't think that the Air Force would mind if he "borrowed" their worldwide communications antenna system for a little while! What a guy!

Soon, I was transferred to another position, away from the 555 LE Maintenance Company, and a new operator came on the scene, to replace me. This gentleman was another "Al" from California. By this time, my family had joined me on Okinawa, and I knew that the station was in good hands. By the time that I returned to the States, in August of 1969, the operator of KAIR, Al, had left the service and returned home to somewhere in Florida. I never had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful man, to personally thank him for all that he did for me and the others who were thousands of miles away from home! So, if by chance, you ever get a chance to read this, Al, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! KAIR will always hold a special place in my memories!

Chuck Sudds KTVD
csudds@probe.net

July 28, 1997

Missouri Valley, IA USA

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