Soldiers with the 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion (Enhanced), 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, hosted around 50 Scouts to earn their Boy Scouts of America Radio Merit Badge, July 11.
Soldiers and civilians were set up at nine stations throughout the battalion headquarters to teach the youths about radios of all types during round robin sessions. At the end of the morning, Scouts had the opportunity to show off their new radio knowledge and earn their merit badges.
Sgt. 1st Class Ommannan Gonzalez, an electromagnetic spectrum manager with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Exp. Sig. Bn. (E), was the organizer of the event. Gonzalez is also an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 716 at Stony Point Church in Hope Mills. He became interested in the Boy Scouts two years ago when he got back from Korea. His son had joined the Scouts and Gonzalez had heard stories about the things his son’s troop was working on.
“I went and saw what they were doing and saw how amazing it was,” he said. “I wish I had known about it sooner. It really is an amazing program. It’s designed to develop our youth to be leaders. It’s all focused around leadership, while at the same time allowing them to get all kinds of skills they might need to be successful in life.”
Gonzalez has been working with radios for the past 18 years and said he got the idea to put together a radio round robin day for the Scouts one morning.
“One morning I woke up and I thought, you know what? I work at a signal battalion, I’ve been working with radios for over 18 years. Why don’t I ask and see if there is something I can do to help the community and bring interest to the Scouts in regards to radios and engineering?” Gonzalez said. “We have all of the equipment here, we have the ability to do it here, I’ve got the knowledge. Why don’t we try to put this all together?”
He took the idea to Lt. Col. Ronald Iammartino, commander, 50th Exp. Sig. Bn., and Command Sgt. Maj. Wendell Marshall, 50th Exp. Sig. Bn. command sergeant major. Both offered their support to Gonzalez.
“They were more than on board. They kept bringing me more ideas on top of what I already had,” he said.
Iammartino and Marshall addressed the Scouts before the youths set out on a 3-mile hike.
“I looked up your mission, which remarkably, is at the center of everything we want to do as Soldiers,” Iammartino said. “I can tell you that if you apply what you learn today in terms of moral and ethics, you’ll be home runs for America, you’ll excel in your future.”
After the hike, the Scouts were able to learn about different types of radios and transmitters throughout the morning. Chuck Ward from the Cape Fear Amateur Radio Society showed the Scouts how to use amateur radios, and demonstrated walkie-talkies and long distance radios. Spectrum managers from Forces Command and the XVIII Airborne Corps also set up stations around the battalion headquarters. The youths learned about high frequency, very high frequency and ultra high frequency systems, as well as satellite communications.
Outside, the Scouts were shown long distance military communications and Terrestrial Transmission Line of Sight (TRILOS) radios. These units can be set up quickly and can communicate with each other as long as they remain in sight of each other. The Soldiers demonstrating explained TRILOS radios are a quick, easy way to transmit data without having to commit to a lengthy set up time.
Erin Zeek, family scouting executive for the Occoneechee Council, Boy Scouts of America, was on hand to help the Scouts. She expressed her gratitude to the Soldiers for setting up a radio day for the youths.
“I hope for those kids who parents aren’t in the military that they have an appreciation for what the Soldiers do,” Zeek said. “This is an opportunity for them as well, the Army is a great place to go if college is not for you.”