GREENE COUNTY — Local amateur radio operator Mike Crawford (KC8GLE) has been speaking with people from around the globe via airwaves for a number of years. For him, it’s about “friends meeting friends.”
“It brings people together from all over the world,” he said. “There’s no politics or dividing lines in amateur radio. We’re all one big group … and everybody gains a friend no matter where they are in the world.”
When he’s not enjoying ham radio for the sense of camaraderie that comes with speaking with individuals of a similar passion, he’s serving public events — ensuring effective communication for the betterment and safety of event participants.
He offers his skills for varying events throughout the year, including the Xenia Marathon and Half Marathon, Resolution Run 5K, Young’s Ice Cream Charity Bike Tour, Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, among others. But the biggest event he helps provide communication for is the Air Force Marathon.
Hammers are stationed throughout race courses and keep track of runners as they go by and contact medics or other services if needed. The tracking hammers provide throughout races, in Crawford’s experience, has also cleared up accusations of cheating.
“It feels good to be able to help somebody,” he said. “ … So many of the events, the runners, horse riders, bikers, they’ll come up and say ‘thanks for being here.’ And that’s the greatest thing we can have – a simple thanks.”
Crawford, of Bath Township, acquired his amateur radio license 20 years ago after his brother came home from serving the Air Force and started speaking with someone from across the world via airwaves. Ham radio has since afforded Crawford and his family opportunities to travel across the globe at varying ham radio events, such as “Ham Fest” in Germany (Europe’s version of Hamvention) and “Youth DX Expedition” in Costa Rica, which he attended twice alongside his daughter.
However, he was pretty excited to learn that Hamvention was moving closer to his home. While he, like many local citizens, are concerned about traffic flow, he is confident in the masterminds behind keeping things moving smoothly on the roads. He is looking forward to reconnecting, in person, with a family of five Alabama-native hammers. For him, Hamvention is a “family reunion” of sorts and he plans to live on the fairgrounds for the duration of the event all for the love of amateur radio.
“[Hamvention] is the one time a year where they all travel and meet those people face to face. It’s all about camaraderie,” Crawford said. “These people will talk for hours and hours on the radio around the world, but may only get to see them once per year – at Hamvention.”
Crawford serves as the public service and communications support trailer team committee chairperson for the Xenia Weather Amateur Radio Network and helped build the Dayton Amateur Radio Association’s trailer. He said hammers are typically involved in multiple amateur radio organizations, including himself.
If individuals wish to acquire their license to get on the amateur radio air, Hamvention will offer an opportunity to do so. It starts with a test that, upon passage, affords local airwaves as well as a number assigned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is how hammers identify themselves. The higher the license, the further out operators can communicate. Crawford said operating equipment can be as simple or as elaborate and expensive as the hammer wishes. After all, amateur radio is, he said, for everyone.
“You’re going to find all walks of life on amateur radio,” Crawford said. “Yes, we have interesting people, but we also have doctors, lawyers, famous people … Anyone can be an amateur radio operator. It doesn’t mean you’re a ‘geek’ – it means you enjoy talking to people.”