Each summer, the fourth weekend in June, tens of thousands of hams from around the world gather on the airwaves for ARRL Field Day. This event puts amateur radio out on display for the general public, by setting up temporary stations in parks, shopping centers, and various other high-visibility locations. Licensed operators and the general public alike can take to the airwaves on HF, VHF, and UHF bands, using voice, Morse code, and various digital modes. It's also a great opportunity for hams to practice deploying temporary stations and operating under less than ideal conditions.
Points are awarded for making contact with other Field Day participants, with bonus points for various things like having a designated safety officer or getting some local press coverage. Some club Field Day events take it seriously, scheduling their top operators in shifts to keep the radios warm while racking up the points. RATS takes a more laid-back approach. We're usually more interested in socializing and stuffing our faces with freshly-grilled meatburgers than bringing home a high score.
The RATS Field Day operates under the club's W4RAT call, under the direction of designated control operators. The control operators, supplied by the club's Technical Committee, oversee the operation of the radios at all times. As a Field Day participant, you'll use our club call sign and a control operator's license privileges to operate under their supervision. This means even if you only have a Technician class license, you can operate HF at our event. Or if you have no license at all, that's cool, too.
If you want a license or upgrade, we generally offer license testing around 2 PM on Saturday. In 2023, this testing will be provided by Allan Johnson WA3J through the Laurel VEC. There is no charge for testing at the RATS Field Day this year.
Photo above: Bryan Walker K4RKR, Roy Davis WK4Y (SK), and Gordon "Bubba" Winn WW4GW operate the club radios at the 2012 RATS Field Day.
The RATS Field Day is usually held in the shelter at Laurel Recreation Area, 10301 Hungary Spring Rd in northern Henrico County. The park normally closes at 8 PM, but we secure permission well in advance to remain the park for the entire 24-hour period. Climate-controlled restrooms are just a few steps away from the Field Day site. Noise is not normally an issue but overnight participants are asked to be mindful of the nearby residences located across the street from our site.
Note: We say Field Day is at the intersection of Hungary and Hungary Spring Roads. As you can see from the image above, there are two such intersections, but either one will get you to the RATS Field Day. Click the image above to view full-size.
Need help finding us? Talk-in assistance will be available by calling W4RAT on our 146.88 repeater.
You can find a bunch of Field Day information over on the ARRL Field Day web site.
Club radio manuals: We own a pair of Icom 746 Pro's which serve as our two main Field Day radios. We also have a Yaesu FT-450 (with LDG AT-200 Pro) which may serve as a GOTA station, or as a third operating position for the main Field Day station.