Annual 42nd Marine Corps Marathon

The Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment, with their local ARES leadership, for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes.  For many of our W4OVH members, we register with the Prince William County ARES (PWCARES) organization and as all Ham radio Operators know, “When All Else Fails… Amateur Radio” is there!

You need to be equipped with sustaining skills. What if when you get to a location, there is no food and the sleeping conditions are undesirable? Before you leave on your assignment, you need to make sure you have coping skills that enable you to be able to do your job operating under the conditions you are assigned to—from hardship conditions to making sure you’re able to work the equipment.

Nothing highlights this ability to operate independently or exercises your skills on behalf of public service in this Northern Virginia area more than the preparations and operation of Ham Radio Services on behalf of the Annual Marine Corps Marathon.

In Northern Virginia, we have the Marine Corps Marathon organization or MCM that holds numerous events throughout the year, culminating in the annual Marine Corps Marathon that is in the nation’s capital with the start and finish in Arlington, Virginia.  The 42nd Annual Marine Corps Marathon on 22 October 2017 offered an unparalleled journey through the most recognizable landmarks in our country. The run began, situated between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, continuing through Rosslyn before journeying into the District to tour Georgetown and the National Mall on the way to ‘beating the bridge.’ Entering Arlington and passing the Pentagon, touring Crystal City, and finishing uphill (you read that right) at the Marine Corps War Memorial.

The logistics that the Ham Radio community must accomplish to organize hundreds of Ham Radio Operators to be the eyes and ears of the MCM and accomplish participant runner and also spectator safety and support is staggering, yet every year, hundreds of operators volunteer their time to support and participate in this event.  This year is no different and multiple W4OVH and PWCARES radio operators got up at zero-dark-thirty to drive to the nation’s capital and man and operate mile marker stations, water points, medical tents, net control stations, “shadow” positions that followed key Marine Corps, Law Enforcement, Medical Staff and others, and operated from 0400 in the morning until well after 2PM to ensure the safety and security of the event.

I was fortunate enough to participate in this massive event as Mile Marker 17.5, located directly on the National Mall as thirty-thousand runners passed my position, cheered on by hundreds of thousands of participants, well-wishers, and tourists in our capital.

I had the opportunity to capture some photos while working my position to share with our club readers some of the sights of a beautiful Sunday morning and afternoon in October.

I look forward to continuing my ARES training with Prince William County ARES and many of our W4OVH Ole Virginia Hams Club operators at this event as well as many other training opportunities we have every year.


Andy Gamponia



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