Amateur Radio Operators remembered for volunteering during Columbia disaster

Published: Feb. 5, 2011 at 10:42 PM CST
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By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) – When the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over East Texas in 2003, hundreds came forward to help with recovery efforts.

Some of those volunteers were ham radio operators who set up communication with law enforcement across East Texas. Saturday, the Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club held a special event to say thank you.

Over the short waves he's known as AE5P. Get to talking with him and you meet Army Curtis. Army was one of hundreds of ham radio operators volunteering during the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

Columbia Disaster, February 2003
Columbia Disaster, February 2003

"There was a lot of difficulty with some of the agencies being able to communicate effectively. A lot of the recovery effort was out in the woods east of us," said Curtis who went deep into the Pineywoods, searching for left over debris.

"We put amateur radio operators out in the field with radios that were able to communicate back to the law enforcement center and the Expo center where we set up our control points," said Curtis.

Saturday the Club met at Army's personal station to remember fellow radio heroes who came to assist with massive recovery efforts.

"To one, remember the volunteers that came to help and to remember them through making other contacts across the United States," said John Chapman, the club's public information officer.

For them it's a hobby but the Columbia tragedy proved amateur radio was so much more.

Army Curtis
Army Curtis

"It's designed to facilitate communication between people around the world and to train radio operators in proper radio technique and also radio theory," said Curtis.

And to come to the aid of those in need like so many of them did eight years ago. Today they continue to answer when they are called.

Ham radio operators are trained and licensed by the FCC. If you have a proper short wave radio, you can catch them on different frequencies assigned to the Amateur Radio Service.

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