Radio Active — Fort Hall ham radio enthusiast helps with Nepal quake relief effort.
By Michael H. O’Donnell, [email protected]
FORT HALL — Ron Edmo is no stranger to emergencies and the need for communications. He was a Green Beret in Vietnam in 1966-1967.
Edmo put his past experiences to work as he used his ham radio to connect to people on the ground in India and Nepal during the April earthquakes that rocked Nepal’s capital city of Katmandu and killed nearly 9,000 people.
President of the Pocatello Amateur Radio Club or PARC, Edmo has a computer application that alerts him whenever there are earthquakes on the planet and he used the Internet to get a frequency for contacting people in the region where the quake took place. From his radio unit in Fort Hall, Edmo was able to make a connection with an amateur radio operator in India.
“I turned my radio to that frequency and I could hear him,” Edmo said about the radio operator in India. “We were able to talk.”
The operator in India had connected with ham radio operators at the base of Mount Everest and in Katmandu, and was able to share information.
“Initially, they needed radios to set up a local network to get supplies in there,” Edmo said. “It took a couple of days before any aircraft could get in.”
Edmo said his experiences with the U.S. Army’s 509th Airborne gave him the knowledge to react to the emergency and try to help any way he could.
The former Green Beret medic had been stationed in Italy when a massive earthquake took place near the city of Fruili in 1976. That quake killed 939 people and injured 2,400.
“We were deployed to north Italy when that happened,” Edmo said. “So I could picture what was happening in Nepal.”
Edmo’s experiences under pressure aren’t limited to an Italian earthquake in the 1970s. While he was serving as a medic in Vietnam, a post the Green Berets had established was overrun by North Vietnamese Army regulars and Edmo had to play dead to survive after being cut off from the rest of his team.
The North Vietnamese troops stripped him of his boots and left him for dead.
“I knew we would hit the camp with an airstrike, so I followed the NVA out of the area,” Edmo said.
Once he was about a mile or two from the camp, Edmo circled back to find U.S. forces. He said he moved at night and hid during the day.
When Edmo finally found U.S. soldiers, he said they nearly shot him.
“I said, ‘I’m an American, I’m an American,’” Edmo recalled.
He also recalled that his feet were in bad shape because he had roamed the jungle with bare feet.
“I tried to make sandals out of leaves, but it didn’t work very well,” Edmo said.
Edmo was born on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in Southwest Idaho and was adopted by a white family when he was eight years old. He grew up in California and became interested in amateur radio at a early age. He secured a novice license as a youngster and remembers being able to link up with the Soviet satellite Sputnik.
“That was really cool,” Edmo said.
Edmo said he didn’t get back into amateur radio until after he left the U.S. Army, after 22 years of service. He also made an effort to reconnect with his family on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and has been back in Fort Hall since 1991.
“My mother kept my memory alive in the family,” Edmo said.
Friday Edmo was setting up his mobile ham radio with niece Mary Roybal and her son Nakoda outside the Fort Hall Business Center. He has purchased a QRP or low-power radio that only broadcasts at 10 watts. But he said the unit is capable — when conditions are right — to connect with people all over the world.
Edmo used a long fishing pole to string out the end fed antenna, which was connected to a co-ax cable and then his radio. The antenna was attached to a tree about 26-feet from the fishing pole to form an inverted “L” configuration.
Edmo said amateur radios are the only available means of communication when the major infrastructure in an area fails, like when Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
“These radios always work,” Edmo said.
He said when he made contact with the man in India after the Nepal earthquakes, that operator was trying to acquire more handheld radios and a repeater so people on the ground could communicate during the emergency.
“They also needed batteries and they needed antennas for coordination,” Edmo said.
The former Green Beret said even a single ham radio operator can be critical in emergency situations.
He said that’s why he is into the small, lightweight QRP units that can be set up quickly when needed.
The Pocatello Amateur Radio Club will take part in the national field day Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Stewart Park in Chubbuck. Edmo said he will be there and is more than willing to share his enthusiasm for amateur radio.
Idaho State Journal, 21 June 2015