My interest in radio comes from a childhood fascination with shortwave broadcasts. My dad (KD6EUG, Larry) held a novice license back in 1954 (KN6ILL). In his bedroom hamshack, he ran 75 Watts input to a 4D32 Output final Tube on a HT-20 transmitter on the HF Novice Bands - using a National NC-57 for a receiver with an 80 meter dipole.
His license eventually lapsed, got married, had two kids, got divorced, and moved around to various QTHs in the Santa Clara Valley. Some of his old equipment ended up in garage, along with old electronic books and amateur radio magazines. As a kid, these strange pieces of equipment fascinated me and one day my dad brought in the National NC-57 receiver to my room and strung a dipole across the roof of the house in Saratoga. We sparked up the NC-57 and it was MAGIC! BBC from England, Radio Moscow from Russia, Deutsche Welle from Germany. This was 1981 - the Cold War was raging and shortwave broadcasts played a major role in the propaganda campaign. I received a letter from Moscow confirming my reception report and a parcel of books from Deutsche Welle's German language on-air class. I built a basic AM receiver using a Radio Shack kit and graduated to a kit to monitor the aircraft bands. Dad had a crystal scanner that blared the local police, fire, and sheriff communications. I'd briefly considered attempting to get my Novice ticket, but the Morse Code requirement just seemed too daunting. Time went by and with high school my interest drifted to other subjects.
My interest was re-kindled after my enlistment in the US Army. After a year of language school and I was off to Goodfellow Air Force Base in glorious San Angelo, TX. My training involved monitoring radio traffic and I spent many hours underneath a set of headphones, furiously scribbling down everything I heard. After graduation it was off to Fort Wainwright, Alaska (outside of Fairbanks). I was lucky enough to be assigned to an aviation unit and my job was to fly in the back of an EH-60 (AN/ALQ-151(V)2 - QUICKFIX) Blackhawk helicopter that had been modified with radio equipment to conduct direction finding operations as well as communication jamming.
So I was getting paid (with extra flight pay) to cruise around the interior of Alaska while having fun operating the DF station and my all time favorite radio: the AN/TLQ-17A(V)2. After completing Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, GA I was posted out at Fort Lewis with a similar signals collection unit that used ground-based equipment. Our equipment was old (AN/TRQ-37, AN/PRD-10, and briefly got to mess with a RACAL jammer) - but we still had a lot of fun on rotations to the Yakima Training Center and the National Training Center near Barstow, CA.
In the spring of 1997 I was transferred to Ft. Bliss (El Paso, TX) with an air defense artillery unit. By the beginning of 1998, I’d completed my service obligation to the Army and decided to get out and take a job back in California. After an initial stint with Northern Telecom, I took a job with Fatbrain.com working first with the web editorial staff and then moving over to the engineering section. Those were exciting days, still under the boom of the internet. However, after two years I realized I missed the camaraderie and special sense of purpose I enjoyed as part of the Army. I applied for a voluntary recall, returned to Ft. Huachuca and Ft. Leavenworth for additional training, and in December 2000 went overseas where I was stationed at Camp Hovey, Korea – about 15 miles south of the DMZ in between North and South Korea.
Korea was, overall, a great experience. It sparked my interest in traveling – I frequently enjoyed trips down to Seoul, making use of their outstanding subway system and enjoying the wonderful Korean food. I was also able to travel the island of Cheju-do (south of the Korean Peninsula) and to Vietnam. At this point my interest in shortwave radio returned and I purchased a Ten-Tec RX320. I spent hours with that black box and quickly concluded I needed to get an amateur radio license. From Korea the Army sent me to Heidelberg, Germany. Enroute to Germany, I spent Christmas back in California and was able to take (and pass) the Technician exam. Three days later I was issued the call sign KD7PJQ.
I’d always wanted to be stationed in Europe and had finally got my wish. Early in my tour I had the opportunity to travel to France, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Poland. In the early part of 2003, my unit deployed to Kuwait in preparation for the war with Iraq.
All in all, I was deployed for exactly 365 days, spending time in Kuwait, moving up to Baghdad and then moving back down to Kuwait before flying back to Germany in February 2004. I packed my Yachtboy shortwave radio during the deployment and enjoyed keeping up on the news. I've traveled a good bit of Europe and now am back in the states living in Hampton, VA and stationed at Fort Monroe.