Mac McCormick III, KF4LMT

On the radio at the CARS Field Day 2010

Ever since I had my first AM/FM broadcast radio, I’ve always gone to sleep listening to music on the radio. I don’t know how it started or why I started doing it but it is a habit that I have continued to this day. I actually wake up if the electricity goes out and the radio goes off! Besides listening to the radio while falling asleep, I also like to turn the knob and see what all is out there to listen to.  Growing up, I remember my father having a scanner around the house to listen to Fire Department and Ambulance communications. The first scanner I can remember was one of the cool old Regency crystal units with the big red LEDs to indicate which channel was active. At that point we lived in New Orleans, a city where there was always something going on; it was great fun to listen to such a busy fire department and to watch the red lights flash in trail as the radio scanned through the few channels it had (16 at the most, maybe less, I just don’t remember now). I recall my father going through some crystal controlled scanners with progressively more channels (and smaller LEDs…), an early non-crystal scanner (still with the LEDs…) until finally ending up with a Radio Shack Pro-2006.

I grew up in a military family. Both my father’s and mother’s families lived here in Georgia and my father was stationed in California, Maryland, and Louisiana before he retired so several “cross country” trips were made during that time.  I always remember my father having a CB radio in the car or truck. For some reason, I was always attracted to the CB radio. As a child, I had my own toy radio, made out a shoe box, some spare knobs, and an old microphone. It was nothing fancy, but I loved it and always had fun with it. Having forgotten many toys, it really is one of the toys that I have always remembered.  The interest in CB radio no doubt helped lead to other interests down the line.

Having grown up around both the military and radios, it was probably inevitable that the two interests would at some point converge. Around the time I first got on the internet, I also discovered just what the Pro-2006 was capable of. It didn’t take long to find email groups such as MilCom and Flacom and to meet those who mentored me into moving beyond public safety monitoring and into the hobby of military monitoring. I am very thankful to Larry Van Horn, Al Stern, Paul Cobb, Bob Langley, and Bill Collins among others who will remain nameless because of their lines of work. I apologize profusely if I have left anyone out.

Around the time I graduated from college, I became interested in amateur radio through a friend and his father: Ralph Quinn, KF4HII and Ralph Quinn, KE4TQG, now W4REQ. Once I became an amateur radio operator, I became interested in emergency communications and event communications. Through event communications I learned net procedures and radio techniques that were a necessity when I did volunteer communications during the 1997 Indy Lights Savannah Grand Prix and during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. During the Savannah Grand Prix, I worked in the communications center from the day the site opened to the last day of competition, helping coordinate everything from administration to security to track workers to “port-a-suck” trucks for the port-a-johns. During Hurricane Floyd I was a communications volunteer in the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operations Center with Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES). Other amateur radio operators besides the Quinns that I have learned much from have been David Carter, KC4WSD, Ed Woodson, NC5S, Stacy Aaron WA4IDS, and Kurt Hoffman, N4CVF. I learned and still learn something a little bit different from each, from operational techniques to electronics and technology.

All of this became of great importance in 2001 when I quit my job in retail pharmacy and entered the field of communications. I have no doubt that my scanning and monitoring experiences as well as my amateur radio and event communications experience have made me better at my job. As opposed to a technically minded radio hobbyist, I have always considered myself more of an operationally minded radio hobbyist. All of the operating techniques that I learned and absorbed through the radio hobby come into play every day that I go to work.

In the past, I was a member of both the Amateur Radio Club of Savannah and the Coastal Amateur Radio Society, serving as newsletter editor for both at various times.  In 2013, I decided not to renew my membership in an amateur radio club because my schedule prevents me from attending most meetings and activities.  I don’t like the idea of being an absentee member that doesn’t contribute; in essence I don’t want to be an empty number.  Out of necessity, because I can’t put up a permanent station in Brunswick, most of my amateur radio activity consists of mobile or portable operating.  It’s an aspect of the amateur radio hobby I’ve come to enjoy.  I often joke that it’s like taking a knife to a gunfight but it really does teach patience and perseverance.  One of these days I might even take up QRP.

I have also always been interested in motor sports. I started off watching NASCAR because my family watched it. I soon became interested in Indy Car racing after coming across a record of Indy 500 radio broadcast selections; CART during the 1990’s was some of my favorite racing ever. It was truly a test of driver and team skills with it’s mix of road, street, short oval, and long oval courses. Eventually I became interested in Sports Car racing, especially prototype racing; I really got interested during the late 1980’s watching cars like the Nissan GTP ZXs and the Gurney Toyota Eagles. Around the same time, I also became interested in Formula 1 racing, really getting interested in it in the early 1990’s as Williams’ mighty FW-14 and FW-14B became the high point of technology using among other things an active suspension. In my opinion, the quality of NASCAR eroded over the years with cars becoming more and more similar to each other; I know I miss the days when you could tell one make from another at any distance simply by shape. I also miss the characters that NASCAR used to have; these days the drivers worry too much about a corporate image. These days, even though my interest in NASCAR has dropped off I still enjoy watching almost any form of motor racing.