SPRINGFIELD, NJ - In the excitement of the first day's battle re-enactment, it would have been easy to miss the two gentlemen sitting at a table next to the encampment site, working a ham radio.
Eric Deutchman and Mark Lepore were out as part of field day, an annual event for ham radio users all over the globe. from 2:00 p.m. Saturday through 2:00 p.m. Sunday, Deutchman and Lepore were on the radio, picking up as many different calling cards from other operators as they could.
As Deutchman noted, the weekend functions as an emergency preparedness training workshop. The teams of two are tasked with setting up their own radio equipment, generating their own power, and being as self-sufficient as possible while broadcasting.
Deutchman helps with the Union County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Lepore is with the Springfield OEM. Both men were out practicing their calling skills.
Ideally, in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the training gleaned from the field day event would be enough to help get in contact with other people
"When traditional communications goes down and fails, this is your communications," Deutchman said. "But when there's no emergency, it's a hobby."
Deutchman noted that in non-emergency situations, ham radio is a chance for people to connect.
"It's a big fraternity, big sorority,' Deutchman added. "Some guys play chess on the air, some guys just chit-chat. Some guys discuss everything from world politics to their favorite TV shows."
For Lepore, he likes to focus more on local radio communications with OEM.
"I mostly enjoy doing the OEM stuff, where it's more local, with the VHF/UHF stuff," Lepore said. 'We help out with all the radio systems in the township. DPW, fire department, police department, we back all their radio systems up and when there's emergencies, we help run all the equipment in town."'
However, talking about field day, Lepore said it was a good training exercise for him.
"It's a nice day to come outside," Lepore said. 'It's a contest to play around with the radio. It's mostly about [being able to] set up the equipment to work as a simulated emergency. [We're] under our own power...our own antennas, everything. So it's self-sufficient, regardless of if any infrastructure goes down."
"That's what's kind of cool about it, not relying on anybody else," Lepore added.