SATERN and You

by Ken Standard, AD5XJ
SATERN So. Terr. SSB Net Mgr.
SATERN Int. Digital Net Mgr.


If you visit frequently, and the wealth of information we have there, perhaps you will have come across the editorials posted since January of 2018. The first two were by AD5XJ and last month by Scott, W9JU Wisconsin / Upper Michigan SATERN Divisional Coordinator on the outstanding local efforts of hams in the Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division. It was great to hear of the activity of SATERN there in the Upper Midwest.

In all of these editorial pieces we seek to inspire and motivate you to rise to the challenges of our stated mission. If you don’t know what that is let me restate it here:

“The Salvation Army has by inclination and tradition strived to provide service at the point of greatest need in time of disaster. Numerous services are available to alleviate suffering, meet physical needs and provide spiritual counseling and support.

The purpose of the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) is to acquire and train personnel skilled in emergency communications and message handling, who will support Salvation Army operations in local, regional and international disaster situations.”

In the first editorial the author shared: “I am a Christian, I serve as a volunteer in SATERN as part of that expression of my faith. Everywhere in the Bible, God starts something that continues to this day. Adam and Eve, Moses, Abraham, David, you name it. These are people of the Bible that introduce us to spiritual concepts that still exists today. That is the business God is in  – eternity.”

But as SATERN volunteers we have a personal vision that spans more than just personal faith. We believe that ham radio operators who are inclined to volunteer for SATERN in service to EDS, do so out of volunteer–ism motivated from a strong humanitarian and, yes a Christian desire to provide help to those who, by their circumstances, cannot help themselves – and we do it under the umbrella of TSA. That desire spans religion, race, gender, creed, nationality, and all other classifications of people that would otherwise divide us.

SATERN can lead, but
SATERN cannot carry you.AD5XJ
The Emergency Disaster Services division (EDS) of The Salvation Army (TSA) attempts to fill that need, and has done so for decades to their considerable credit. The Salvation Army has had an ongoing effort to help the needy for more than one hundred years. SATERN has a stated mission to provide our skill in radio communication and technical acumen to help TSA/EDS in times of disaster or emergency.

We have also made a point to stress that “support” means more than just lip service and showing up for nets. It goes much deeper than that. A SATERN volunteer does more than show up when disaster strikes. Not that ad–hoc volunteers are not welcome. But SATERN members are not part time.

It requires some measure of commitment on the part of our member volunteers. Our commitment should be expressed in activity and investment in support and training activity for other local volunteers as well as cultivating relationships and representing SATERN with other non–governmental organizations (NGOs) like The Red Cross, The Baptist Men’s Mission, The Presbyterian Men’s Organization, and many others who do similar functions in times of emergency, disaster, and in recovery from such events.

The point is this: SATERN exists because of your willingness to volunteer your skill and time. Not just on the radio, but as a mentor to others also willing to step up to the challenges. Without the dedicated volunteers, SATERN would not exist except as a dusty memory.

In the history archives you will find stories from our beginnings 30 years ago that reflect such commitment. Lt. Col. Carl Linstrom, W9JSF started it with the Salvation Army Radio Operator Fellowship (SAROF) nets. Later, Maj (then Capt.) Pat McPherson, WW9E – both officers in The Salvation Army, (but more importantly) visionary ham radio operators, who wanted to use their talents to help those in need and promote the camaraderie of ham radio in the spirit of the Radio Amateur Creed.

Today, SATERN is an international organization of hams using whatever skills they can bring to bear on the needs that arise from disaster response and recovery. That may be voice communication, digital radio messaging or technical support for health and welfare identification and response.

How much SATERN is effective in doing so, is not dependent on EDS or even The Salvation Army, so much as those who volunteer within SATERN. Our SATERN National Liaison Bill Feist, WB8BZH is designated as a go–between for ham radio (SATERN) and the EDS cadre within TSA. Bill is an important part of developing the inroads into EDS and TSA that could make SATERN an asset to all TSA/EDS operations in an emergency or other activity. It is a huge task and very labor intensive within an organization steeped in very long traditional roots and not prone to change in any rapidly responsive way.

But for 30 years SATERN has not relied on TSA or EDS to be motivated. SATERN was there for more than just on–air fellowship. Two months after its inception in 1988, SATERN’s first international response occurs. Hurricane Gilbert batters the Caribbean for nine days, killing 341 people. Major Pat and his friend and fellow ham Art Evans, work with radio operators in Atlanta and Jamaica to relay information. That effort and dedication to service did not come as an edict from TSA or even EDS. It happened because of the personal sacrifice of those hams who worked the disaster.

In 2001, SATERN was there to support EDS in response to the terrorists attack in New York City when the communications infrastructure became overloaded and died. EDS volunteers supplied food, water, and spiritual counseling for survivors and first responders.

During Katrina, SATERN was there with EDS to provide much needed communication when New Orleans completely lost the communication infrastructure due to flooding, and nearby on the devastated Mississippi coast where practically nothing was left standing. SATERN radio operators relayed messages in from Red Cross call center operators in Montana, that directed Louisiana and Mississippi EOC incident commanders to survivors in dire need of help, saving countless lives of adults and children.

SATERN has been pretty much self–governing, self–motivating, and self–activated for the entire history of our organization.

Perhaps it is better to view it like this: SATERN can lead, but SATERN cannot carry you. Think about that! SATERN provides the body and mechanism for you to follow...but we cannot compel you to service. That has to come from your own drive and conviction inside each of you as a volunteer. Local SATERN groups and nets do not exist because SATERN leadership decided it should happen or because EDS or TSA formed it. It exists because like–minded people banded together to serve the larger international organization and add the strength of local nets, groups, and training new volunteers as an underpinning for the EDS effort. Our SATERN National Liaison in TSA/EDS is Bill Feist, WB8BZH. There are not enough Bill Feists to go around. There are not enough miles he can travel to promote SATERN, nor is it his responsibility alone. Bill’s role is a go–between EDS/TSA and ham radio (SATERN)...can you say LIAISON.

So, what then should SATERN become going forward. One thing is for sure – if you are waiting for TSA or EDS to tell you – SATERN is doomed for failure and only a memory of days gone past. If you think your weekly check in of SATERN nets will sustain us, you are dead wrong.

SATERN must claim it’s worth each and every time there is a need arising and SATERN responds accordingly. We cannot, and should not, wait for some to tell us what and how to do it. Notwithstanding that would be impossible, for a host of legal and other equally complex reasons, we should not. That is not what drives SATERN. It should not be what drives any SATERN volunteer.

From the TSA perspective, your non–ham radio help is welcome for their normal course of business – bell ringing during “Red Kettle” season, help with local promotions and activities, and other TSA related activity. From the perspective of EDS, help with disasters and manning canteens and distribution of supplies and food as an outreach of disaster recovery would be welcome.

From the ham radio perspective, we need volunteers willing to devote their time, skill, and effort to SATERN, to assume leadership roles as net control stations, Division Coordinators, and members who can provide training and skill where needed, and to work with our sister organizations and NGOs that promote cooperation. That translates to value. Value to those we serve in times of need – primarily EDS but not limited to. That drive, that dedication to purpose, does not come from EDS or TSA – it comes from the heart of our member volunteers.

The future SATERN will bring together communications and technical expertise to aid EDS and our sister organizations and NGOs in order to further enhance the disaster response, increase effectiveness and timeliness of the aid provided, and to better support those served in the effort to “Do The Most Good”, as we serve those in need. We must be up to that task when called upon.

If you are looking for glory, or recognition, you are probably in SATERN for the wrong reasons. The Salvation Army has a long history of staying behind the scenes and doing what matters ( or to coin the phrase from the last paragraph – “Doing the most good”) and does not seek glory, recognition, or even media attention. There is no “glory” only hard work for the dedicated willing to “get their hands dirty”. It should then, bring to the SATERN volunteer a personal satisfaction you have personally done all you can to help those in need.


73, AD5XJ

Rev. 1.00 2018-04-01 AD5XJ