AAR: Sparks31 – Grid Down Comms – Western Wyoming – 6/7 Sept

From one of the students:

Grid Down Commo: Rock Springs Wy 6-7 Sep 2014

Instructors: Sparks31 and Z-man (11 combat tours in OEF/OIF)

Students: 11 – Preppers with various degrees of experience and commitment. Lot of helpful student expertise in one-on-one discussions. Many with military experience. Mr AMRRON provided a useful one-hour briefing on AMRRON and the SOI.

WX: Cloudy 70 degrees

TD1 – Saturday – Classroom

TD2 – Field Training Exercise – BLM Land 30 minutes south of Rock Springs

Training material – Grid Down Communcations Volume 1 – course followed book in almost page order.

Mission: Assist the student in understanding the grid down environment from a commo standpoint and developing the expertise to train, organize, and equip a TOC.

Background: Prior to attending the course, I read the existing AARs, Sparks31 blog, AMRRON, and many other sources. Was looking for a formulaic solution, buy x, buy y, do the following training but . . .

BLUF: To get the most out of this course the student should determine his commo/monitoring requirements prior to attending the course. Consider conducting a commo METT-T analysis prior to attending. Sparks says – needs to know your requirements before recommending equipment. In many cases – you may need passive monitoring and COMINT before you need to communicate. If you are taking the course in the near future – wait until then to procure equipment.

There are generally three phases to planning. Most people buy technology in phase 1, don’t know what to do in phase 2, and train in phase 3.

The typical “plan”:

Phase 1 Buy tech

Phase 2 ?

Phase 3 Training

The Much Better Plan:

1. Work on your communications/electronics skill set (continuous)
2. Set up a commo monitoring post. This more important than being able to talk on the air to other people
3. Never trust anyone else infrastructure – e.g., 2m repeater networks. Think simplex and NVIS – near vertical incidence skywave
4. Establish your intra-group communications
5. Establish your commo networks with neighboring allied groups (interoperability)
6. Establish commo with a nationwide commo network

Between Sparks31 blog and his book he followed it. I will not regurgitate the info here.

Sparks and Z-man brought a wide range of equipment, radios, power, antenna, meters, test equipment etc to demo. Sparks was very patient with the Newbies, but could quickly accelerate for the experts. Sparks plugged a couple of XP PCs into USB devices and showed us how to analyze the spectrum and see what aircraft were binging overhead. Doesn’t take the WMD genius from OIF to figure this one out.

The SDR RTL were purchased from ADAfruit. I ordered one. You have to see this web site, as well as this one. Lots of toys to procure.

Several of the students brought additional equipment that was interesting to see. Also, some of the Wyoming residents arrived in their land yacht antenna farms that were a sight to behold. [Deleted for PERSEC] did an excellent job hosting the course and had a great classroom.

Sparks provides a lot of insight on buying used equipment from Ham fests, pawn shops, ebay, etc. Good lists in his book on hardware.

TD2 – FTX – Vicinity of Aspen Mountain four miles down a gravel road. 75 degrees, partly cloudy to sunny.


Sparks and Z-man used an enclosed trailer provided by one of the students. Right after stopping, Z-man had a station up and transmitting. Most of the students brought various rigs, antennas and portable power supplies. Sparks had done a good job explaining antenna formulas in the class and it was put into PE.

The most interesting antenna was a four fishing reel/yoyo antenna from Hamradiofun.com.


handy dandy

One student used Army camoflauge poles to set up an antenna. Sparks set up and demonstrated a 2M directional antenna. I set up a 10/20 foot PVC J-pole antenna. Sparks brought over the SWR meter. My MFJ J-pole antenna did fine there. Then he put the Analyzer on it didn’t measure up. Sparks peeled it apart and demonstrated the half-ass construction of the antenna. He then recommended using a dual band ground plane antenna for my PVC work of art.

Sparks went around to each student AO and checked out the equpiment with analyzers, antenna tuners, etc.


My head was spinning but I learned a lot. When you come to train with Sparks – bring your equipment and use this opportunity to wring it and you out.

Watching Z-man set up radios and antennas in the field demonstrated his extensive CONUS and OCONUS field experience. Each student that provided him a USB drive was rewarded with him providing more relevant files then I will be able to digest in a year.

ENDEX was declared around 1530.


1. Sign up for a course. Look at the recommended prerequisites. I have a technician license with little HAM experience. Glad I came – before buying additional equipment etc.
2. Sparks31 provides a book at the course, but it wouldn’t hurt to read it ahead of time. Read his blog, WRSA, and AMRRON.
3. Figure out your requirements.
4. Put your kit together for the FTX. Sparks will help you optimize it.
5. Display excellent listening skills and network with your fellow students.


3 responses to “AAR: Sparks31 – Grid Down Comms – Western Wyoming – 6/7 Sept

  1. Alfred E. Neuman

    Reblogged this on The Lynler Report.