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The YAORR DXpedition

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The First Operation From Afghanistan Almost 20 Years Keeps Soviet Operators On the Move by Romeo Stepanenko 3W3RR and Edward Kritsky NT2X

I

can't talk too much about how

it first seemed.

a

like to thank Yuri Brazhenko, President

impossible as

license for the operation was obtained, so let's just say it's a secret! Before I tell

whose efforts what we waited

of 'Moscow-Boston Intl. Ltd.', without for two

you the story of our adventure, I would

years to accomplish would have been as

Our most joyful moment came when the license arrived. Then in November of 1990, we received a telex from Don

Before departure are (left to right) Eugene RA1AA, Dimq UA3AG'[V,

Yri

Brazhenko, MBI's president, Romeo TW3RR, and Larry

W3CW.

The DX Magazine

Speedy preparations

at the MBI

ffica

Romeo 3\V3RR is on the left, and Andy UAjAB is on the ight.

Search W3AZD, stating that the docu-

mentation submitted to the ARRL was acceptable for DXCC documentation. Having accomplished the difficult part,

all what remained now was to go to Afghanistan! After careful calculations, a budget was formulated. Requests for funding were faxed and telexed to 23 different amateur radio clubs and organizations, but few responded. Although we were hoping for December 23 start for the expedition, it had to be delay-ed.

Preparations Antennas Nick LZlJY,who heads antenna department in Sofia's Vector Company sent two Yagis to Moscow by train via Romania on the 20lh of December. As always, the Soviet Customs Service-a state within a state-was vigilant. Instead of antennas we received a notice on December 24th that customs had detained '34 rnetal tubes of unknown nature' on the Moldovan-Romanian borAugust, 1991

der. Fighting customs was fruitless and moreover, we had no extra time to

YLlWW started looking for alernative antennas very spare. The operators of

actively and soon had a portable quad antenna for 10 and 15 meters. Igor RA3AUU and Andy UA3DPX provided a Yagi for 20 and 15 meters, as well as a number of wire antennas. Regretfully, all the equipment-antennas and a total of five rigs-which we had used on the

Spratly

expedition

I flew back to Moscow on December 23rd, I found myself payrng Aeroflot (my favorite airline) an extra $tsOO for 77 pounds of additional luggage and fllng from Totyo to Moscow. In the bags were ICOM-726, FL-2100 amplifier, Tono RTTY unit and a 6-element 6-meter again come to my aid! When

Yagi. But a hearty thanks must go to the Japanese groups that offered funds for the Afghanistan operation, and especial-

in '89 ly the following: JAIELY,

(1S0RR/1S1RR) had been left behind in Vietnam. During the time I was plan-

ning the YA expedition, I didn't even have a radio of my own in Moscow. What to do? Rigs

A month before the scheduled beginning of the expedition, I made a business trip to Japan, planning to see my friends from the XVZA and 3W5JA

operations. Japanese amateurs had collected funds to help with the Spratly expenses and I found that they once

JGIOUT, KH2H, JH3DPB, JATJPZ, JATDRM,

JATSGV, JRTOWD, JA3AUQ, JA3PFZ, JJ3AFV, JA3MNP, JO3GAH, JRIRCQ, JA3DLE, JA3UB, JA3AYU, JE3MAS/

5H1HK, JA6LDD, JHIROJ, JAsAQC, JE3MYG, as well as other amateurs from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th JA districts (they really know how to party in the 7th JA district!). Thank you guys! Money

My appeal for financial support was quickly responded to by the NCDXF and The DX Bulletin.I would like to

thank the NCDXF membership, Rusty Epps W6OAT, and Bruce Butler W6OSP. Special thanks also goes to Chod Harris VP2ML. These people had trust in the success of the expedition, at at time we were still doubtful about it ourselves. After a discussion with Yuri Brazhenko, the expedition received a healthy $3,000 infusion of funds. Not only that, Yuri then offered me unlimited credit line in rubles for the trip. How come you never have enough money when you need them most? U-DX-Csent 1,000 rubles and Larry RA4HA donated 20,000 rubles. Unfortunately, rubles aren't worth much these days...

Operators It was obvious I couldn't go by myself.

It would

have been hopelessly

inefficient and would certainly eliminate

6

the possiblity of round-the-clock operation. There was also the little detail of 660 pounds of hardware to lug along. After reviewing the candidates, I chose Larry YL3CW, the second chief operator of club station YLIWW. The correctness of my choice was born out during the operation-throughout the trip we didn't have a single argumentand compatibility among operators dur-

ing DXpeditions is of greater importance than operating abilities. Larry consulted with his'boss,' and after some hesitation, his wife gave him permission to go. The team was now complete.

Coordination Even before I received my approval

from the DXCC desk and even before anyone knew of this undertaking, I spoke to Ed NT2X if he wanted to coordinate all efforts for this expedition worldwide. Ed reacted with surprize, excitement and happiness. He immediately agreed to help and went into action-we needed someone to help find support and at the same time be our spokesperson. Ed did his job well. Meanwhile, in the USSR, preparations were being coordinated by RA3AR'

RW3AH, YL1WW, RA3AUU,

and

UZ4FWD. Everything was ready now, even though it could have gone a little more smoothly. We obtained visas through our own channels and purchased plane tickets to Kabul. Through every step of the way difficulties to be overcome-that's life in the USSR. The Adventure Begins

About a day before the deParture, our office at MBI became a lab-AndY RW3AH, Dima UA3AGW, operators

from UZ3AWO, Andy UA3AB, Igor RA3AUU, Larry YL3CW (who just arrived from Riga by train) and myself were all testing equipment, making up low-band antennas and trying to stuff all the antenna parts into 3 boxes when 6

boxes would have been hardly been enough. With three hours left before departure, Eugene RA3A'{ drove us to the airport, where we called ourwives to say goodbye and heard once again what

sweethearts had come to think about radio in general and their crazy husbands in particularl Now it was time to board the plane-Yuri had managed to sneak our 'luggage' through a diplomatic 'back door'- since none of us wanted to to explain to customs that we aren't in the business of exPorting 'unlicensed merchandise.' At 3 AM on December 31, the plane finally took off. We were looking forward to landing in Kabul in a couple of hours. We were in

our

for a surprise. Elsewhere

In two hours we were landing ... in Tashkent. Our cargo was taken into the warehouse, while we were told to wait

for the next semi-military plane that would take us to Kabul. Too bad, we were hoping to QRV few hours before the New Year. We greeted our New Year in some 'hotel' in Tashkent, acc.ompanied by rats and roaches. Two bottles of cognac couldn't do much to lift our spirits. Only on the 2nd of January were we invited to continue the journey, by that time we didn't know what to think. And here we are-landing (or rather - falling) in Kabul, a city in

between the mountains. Well, our adventures were just beginning and we didn't even know it ... Afghanistan.

O* tru tpr*tlrg positions. Larry YLjCIV sits on the floor, to avoid bullets if they

Kabul - Elevation, 5000 feet above the sea level. Temperature, minus 13 degrees centigrade. The windows of the airport building are broken; our DXpedition was nothing more than a pile of boxes containing all our equipment and antennas. No one came to meet us. The DX Magazine

Soon

it began to get dark and the area

seemed full of shabby-looking characters

in the contents of our luggage. Then, we had a lucly break: I met Said, an Afghani who studied in the University of Simferopol, my home interested

town! Said declares us his guests and the would-be predators scattered with disap-

pointment on their faces. In Kabul, Soviet citizens are allowed to walk on the streets only until 9 P.M., and only with an armed escort. Curfew begins at 10 P.M. After 10 P.M., pedestrians are shot at sight. Questions, if any are asked later. By some miracle, we and our boxes managed to fit into two taxicabs. We went to the Soviet compound: a place controlled by the Soviet government and protected by the Afghani military. We had expected some

of the people from the compound to meet us at the airport, but when we got there at 2 A.M., we found that no one even knew that we were coming.

A huge German

Shepherd dog which has been around since the beginning of the war, sniffed our boxes for explosives, and, finding none, left us in peace. We were given a room which had

been rearranged by an artillery shell during the previous April. No problemwe decided that it was good luck, since

One of our QTHs near Kabul.

there would be less chance of recurrence of the same phenomenon in the near fu-

about the political realities of contemporary Afghanistan, so that the reader may

ture. Unpacking our boxes, we discovered that while in Tashkent someone stole the WARC band dipoles, quad Ioops for 10 and 15 meters, a gas pistol and few other items. Oh, well, it could

better understand our problems. There

have been worse.

I

Politics would like to sav

a few

words

exist several completely independent military formations in Afghanistan, and they all control each other. These include the army, the security forces, the Ministry of Internal Affairs forces, and the National Guard, which consists of former Mujaheddin freedom fighters. Last year, the army started a coup which was later suppressed by Internal Affairs.

In addition, one must take into account the anti-goverment rebels who surround the city. They were mere 18 miles away, having moved to the mountains for the winter.

A

similar situation exists in the countqy's political life, withvarious political formations giving rise to one resultsuspicion everywhere. More politics On January 3rd and 4th we're trying to win permission to raise our antennas.

"We can't give you permission to put of Communications told us. 'Besides, we are surprised that you even have a liantennas up,' officials at the Ministry

cense, since many listed frequencies are

Romeo 3\V3RR operating.

August, 1991

currently used by the military.' But our license carried a lot of weight, since it

I ne su rmporls the most lmPorAgriculture riculture rs iotal area is about 64Vfi00..J11t s$cf9{;pfAt" economy' supporting an exchange r*t le smailer than the rtahYtff"utkUy'iYd ihe population and ac- /i$$1 which has anistan is bordered by the counting for about one-third of all ex{

Ut

AfghaniStan

f China-Iran, 1;

Pakistan,

and ports'

the USSR.

-f

ll .-O,qnlY#rT ot Tllro

fixed since 1982. total of 9.6 km m Kushka

(USS\) to ( of toal"grain pro- t pHardtnsbfii thirds of the popikbFrt ith*ft*d*dnters and hot su is a total of 21 ing livestock for a major Am a terrain of mostly rugged km food. SheeP and their income of tains with plains in the north and reated gravel and goats are the principal sourceglglfi5pf . The natural environment 6,550 are uni r in meat. The war has been more disruptive i damaging earthquakes which to farrn oroduction than industriat outthe Hindu Kush mountains; Inland wate put.ffitfshttFIfrH. a 257o increase ion, desertification, overgr Amu Darya ( he in industrial output for 1985 forestation, andlqnSfqn. navigable water) which h The fripulation is about with 1980, while agriculture rose by o to about 500 metric up 14,825,013 (July 1989) with a There are 38 airpo rate of about2.37o. The life rniture, usable and 9 with production of textiles, birth is 43 years for males a runwals. nt; handwoven fertilizer, and shoes, for females. nications there For telecom and copcoal, The two main religions semiarid diet, ma

\

60Vo

il-

i

limited telephone,

Sunni Muslim 747o, and Shi'a M s

:

15Vo.

Languages spoken are Vo, Afghan Persian 357o, Turkic and thirty minor languages up the last 4Vo. The literacy rate is

ages'1,"1,Vo,

was issued by one of the most influential

men in the goverment. In spite of the petty harrasment, the Ministry didn't try to challenge our license. Afghani bureaucrats have a healthy respect for political clout. But political connections couldn't guarantee us and our antennas safety. Putting an antenna up where it was visble automatically exposed everyone to very real danger in the form of a rocket or mortar attack or perhaps a grenade thrown into your building 'just in case.' Who cares if you have a license then?? So where could we stay?

Migration

fupi,futa.oro

ere are 31,200 teleimal husbandry; wheat, duced in 1 re 5 AM stations and phones. The fruits, nuts, karakul pelts, wool, mutton; for radio, 1 TV station and an illegal producer of opium poppy FMpaU cannabis for the international drug 1 we, the Red Cross are doing!' It was a no-win situation. On Janu-

ary 4th, I decide-with Larry's

concurrence-that we have to act independently of official organizations, which might have guaranteed us some personal security. So, we moved to the outskirts of Kabul and obtained some firearms, which were deemed an absolute necessity. On the 5th, I was keeping a close eye on the surroundings near our new location to make sure it was safe to set up the station. When all seemed okay Larry made a loop antenna for 10 meters and

hung

it 10 feet off the ground so it

The Soviet ambassador in Afghanistan: 'I don't care where you

wasn't too visible. Putting up a quad or yagi would have been suicide.

operate from as long as it isn't from the Soviet compound. I will not expose my people to the danger of shelling because of your antennas!' Red Cross representative in Kabul:

We turned on the rig and were overwhelmed with joy-the band was

'We can't offer you any of our villas, since you work in in conflict with work 8

adcast servi

aph, and radioelevision was int

open. The first QSOs were on L0-meter CW, with 100 watts and our loop. 'My guys'from Moscow had been monitoring around the clock and we soon worked

Igor RA3AUU, who then called our

wives and spread news that we were all right. When propagation finally died, we made a loop for 15, but this time we didn't fair as well. We needed to get one of the linears on the air, but the voltage was too low at 190 V.

Late into the night, we wanted to put up something for 40 meters, but it was too risly. We remembered a piece of advice from Gene UZ3AU-'Cover the long wire with pieces of burlap and rugs-make it look like a clothes line!" We continued to operate, but it wasn't working out. A generator was needed, but we couldn't turn it on-the noise would have immediately attracted the attention of the military. It soon became obvious that we couldn't continue like this; after a short conference, we decided to move to a new location. I can't divulge anything about our hosts-it could hurt them. And I don't want to name people who opened their houses and their hearts to us-it's not The DX Magazine

important. It's not even important whose

side they're on.

I'm not political

and

these people were simply Afghani to me.

People equally

on both sides provided help to us during our DXpedition.

During the operation we had changed a 14 locations in 21 days, travelled by helicopter and private armored vehicle, used mains AC as well as generator power, and lived in comfortable houses, shanties, and holes in the ground. We did everything humanly possible to make

total of

as many QSOs as possible and come home alive. And to those who didn't work us: please forgive us, we did everything we couldl

Stats Ninety percent of all contacts were made on a long wire 66 feet long. Our 'Afghani Special' turned out to be a great antenna on all bands except L60 and 6 meters, since it worked well without an antenna tuner, which we didn't have. Perhaps it worked so well because Kabul's elevation high in the mountains. A few days before we were to QRT we managed to put up a 10/15 meter quad,

and that's when we really worked the Americans! We had a 2O-meter yagi up for a few hours, but took it down quickly to avoid an unpleasant confrontation. On the third day, the receiver in TS-440S went, leaving us with only one remaining radio. And at about this time, both tubes in the FL-2100 linear blew out. But we were used to situations like this, having experienced them before on Spratly. T\e 1C-726 worked incredibly well, under all AC voltage fluctuations, and in all surroundings. We put an Icom rig and our homebrew Soviet linear amplifier together*you had to key the mike and press on the amp pedal simultaneously, but they worked! For 6 days

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terrific and unexpected conditions on 75 meters into Japan, with a wall of JA's with 59+20 signals for four hours. In the following few da1s, LZIAP would put together a list for me on 75 meters, and I would work the Soviet stations split on 3645 kHz, with the help of RW3AH, RB5FV, and UA4NJ. Unfortunately, the Soviet phone sub-band on 80 meters was blocked in our Japanese-made rig, so when we were fininshed with the the Russians, we would go back to LZ1KDP and run Europeans.

It

was a nice tempo!

A first long-path 80-meter

QSO with the USA was with W5UYD and Larry couldn't get over it! Later, we were amazed to log K1MM and VO1SA on 80. On every band we tried to give

the Americans a chance-East

Coast

would come through fine, but California was heard for only 2-3 days-and then completely disappeared, as if it had gone off the map. Later on, when propagation

at one of our locations, we had a 6meter yagi, but no QSOs were made.

returned, we tried to compensate by working twice as many W6s. On the 6th or 7th day we finally got on 20 meters,

There was no propagation.

using the long wire. There were no long-

At first, and for the first few days, we operated CW only, so as not to shock our Afghani hosts with the sounds

of the English August, 1991

language.

We

found

PA 19058

PA

U.S.A.

to 249 and 18 Mhz, but couldn't get out. Switching back to long wire, we found that it worked fine! It became necessary to change loca-

tion again, but this time we're out of luck. Temperature was minus 8 celcius and there wasn't any heat! We drank a

lot of

cognac,

but it didn't help! Our

Honda 2800 generator was behaving well, so we decided to put up a long wire for 160 meters, but they just couldn't hear us. Nevertheless, we eventually made several hundred QSOs with the USSR and Europe, including, of course, contacts with OH1XX and ON4UN. At about that time we ran out of money and had to sell the generator. At our next location, the AC varied, and even with the linear, we could only put out about 150 watts. It didn't seem like nearly enough, but we carried on anyway. Surprisingly, they heard us on the other end. Then the voltage dipped to 180 V-the radio and the amp continued to work, but the keyer only gave dots,

and no dashes. Soon after, it was time to move again. And again. And again.

path openings! Larry then tried WARC

Up until this time, we had been afraid to run RTTY for fear that we'd kill the

bands and got a nice pile-up going on 10 Mhz. Later, using single loops, we went

amplifier with a full duty rycle. Barefoot, our first QSO was with TG9VT-and he

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_ _

Sigrrature: callsigrr --

Print your name,

State

seemed huppy, too! We had good success with Japan on 40 meter RTTY;

there are some good ears over there. Larry and I took turns at the keyboard, and so as to give an amplifier a rest, we moved to WARC bands, CW. The AC voltage increased to 210 V and we were suddenly getting 700 watts out. Larry and I immediately knew what we wanted to do-QSY to 10-meter phone!

And what a pile-up-I've

never

heard anything like it in my life! We were forced to listen on a wide spread, between 28500 and 28580 kHz. Later, we did the same on l5-listening between 21300 and 21400. A narrower spread wouldn't fit the immense pile-up and we couldn't have picked out any calls. So, dear colleagues, please don't get upset with us for the above. If we had gone with a 20-30 kHz spread, our rate would have been two to three times slower. This expedition learned from Spratly trip to repeat every call worked in order to avoid duplicate contacts.

10

are (expletive deleted)-' Larry finally blew his top and in good English told the anonymous caller what he thought of him and the other 'breakers' on freTo any and all who thought we did it for the money, the fact is that we lost money, just as we did with the 1S0XV trip.

Callsign

Wrap Up

Z\p

The operation was over on January 27, and, Larry and I flew back to the USSR the same day. We couldn't believe we were going back home until we landed in Moscow, 360 pounds lighter, having left antennas and some equip-

Address

City

cans to make monel',' and that'Russians

quency!

y:

Name

tion, or the the tenuous propagation to North America or Japan might have simply closed down. But every time I called 'QRZ USA,'LK2F:CC came back with a blasting signal--*ix times in a row -and covered up weak DX signals. Or another Italian station with a fat signal and no callsign began telling Larry for ten minutes how Russians 'call Ameri-

Misbehavior There were a few unpleasant moments. I personally can't understand why

a number of well-known hams in the USA and Canada were compelled to make 10-14 QSOs with YAORR, on the same band and on the same mode. There are at least 3 kinners'who managed 6 QSOs each in two hours! These people knowwho they are and so do we. We plan to let the amateur community

know about these 'rotten apples.' My anger is gone now, but how many others didn't get through because of such selfish behavior? Overall, however, our pro-

verbial 'black list' contains no calls from the USA or Japan. Larry, nevertheless, repeated how he never heard so many undisciplined JAs and Ws! Our list is, however, full of Europe-

ans. Why is

it that some people

just

don't get it-US and JA openings are short, while Europe is heard around the clock on every band! At any moment we might have lost power, or might have been forced to move to another loca-

ment behind. We were very disappointed missed Jacky F2CW, who ar-

to have

rived in Kabul on the 20th, but we had been operating from the mountains and

wouldn't have been able to reach the city in time without putting ourselves at great risk. Some of our memories are fading, but I know that Larry has his own story to tell, and so does Ed NT2X. The expedition brought back 31,128 QSOs on all bands except 6 meters. 4,500 QSOs were made with the US, about the same for Japan, the rest being with Europe and the USSR.

The sole QSL route is: Romeo Stepanenko, Box 812, Sofia 1000, Bulgaria. I don't wish a repeat of a difficult situation with Spratly cards, when cards were delivered much later. I plan to print the cards myself and mail them out of Sofia to all amateurs. Logs will be computerized and 'DX hogs'with multiple QSOs on the same band/mode will be waiting for their cards at the end of a l-o-o-o-o-o-ng line. The DX Magazine

The same will be done with future expe-

UA3AB, WA2IKL, W2MIG, W2JGR,

ditions, if and when they take place. I wish to thank Don WB2DND for the donation of his logging program.

W6PQS, K2WR, N2KW,Tri-State Pack-

surprise came several seconds later, when he asked me to assist the expedi-

et

tion by being a coordinator and

Pirates

A word about pirates: there

were about seven that were active beginning December 23. As was reported by monitoring stations, they were operating out of Central Asia, the Far East, and Israel. When I worked one of them, he almost convinced me that his name was Romeo!

Roll Credits I

would like to thank all amateurs and groups that helped us with dona-

tions, special apeciation goes to: Moscow-Boston Intl, Ltd., NCDXF, HIDXA, INDEXA, DX Bulletin, U-DX-C, EU-DX-F, U-CW-C, Danish DX Group, DDXA, Shizuoka DXA, Rigaradiotechnika, 59 Magazine, RA4HA, AAsME, WsBOS, W3ACE, VP2ML, Lone Star DX Association (Texas), Mile Hi DX Club, TG9VT, K2ON (SK), JA3GM, N6HVZ, LIDXA, Acadiana DXA, CDXC, DX News Sheet, West Jersey DXG, JA3DLE/l. Our gratitude also goes to: NT2X,

RW3AH, RA3AR, RA'3AUU, UA3AGW, LZIKDP, YL1WW, August, 1991

Cluster, UQ2-037-1,1,6, UQ2GA, RA3AA, YLIZW, YLZPZ, UT4JWJ, LZLPO, LZ1.JY, UZ3AWO CIUb, UA6CL, W6OSP, W6OAT, WK6E, UA3DPX, UV3GM, UV3DCX, UJ8JLT, UV6HRR and to all who helped with equipment, antennas, and advice.

The authors would also like to thank Peter KU2M, who edited and collated this material and did his best humble best to translate it from Hamese into English. Thank you, all and we'll see you from another location!

YA0RR-the Other Side Part II by Ed Kritsky NT2X There were many events that took place throughout the Afghanistan DXpedition. I'm trying to reconstruct these happenings, as they were remembered by the participants. When Romeo found me on the air

in late November of 1990, he told me, matter-of-factly, that he had a license for Afghanistan operation. I remember thinking to myself: 'No, you don't, it can't be, who is he kidding?' But a real

a

I nearly fell off the chair! Of course, I'll do it, it is an opportunity

spokesperson.

of a lifetime, no occupation in the world can prevent me from getting involved in the expedition of this importance and magnitude! By now, I'm accustomed to the quick

by Mr. Romeo 'Unstoppable' Stepanenko. This one was no exception-they wanted to have everything completed by the end of December and get on the air by New Year's Eve. My attempts at persuading to give me more moves

time for fundraising and information dissemination were unsuccessful, partially because airline tickets to Kabul would

increase in price twofold on January 1. My only desire is was: 'Don't let it become another crazy Spratly trip!'

We immediately agreed upon

an

on-going meeting place: 2121.0 kHz, every morning 12:30 GMT. Fifteenmeter propagation was really good to us-we haven't lost a single 'rendezvous' in over 30 days because of a bad opening. Our group consisted of Andy RW3AH, Toivo RA3AR, Igor RA3AUU, and Alex YL2AG operating

1.1

j

from YLIWW. On occasion we would get others helping or dropping by, but our consistent presence guaranteed that virtually all matters would be subject to discussion and any problems would be tackled. Romeo was almost unavailable to be on the air, so most of the time I spoke to Toivo or Andy, who then called

Romeo on the telephone, when he was in the office and not around the radio station, and later relay what was taking place.

And there were many things taking place. I was to get the word out to the amateur community that something was in the works and that help was needed urgently. The trick was to get the word out to as many people as possible. How? Not enough time to run articles in magazines. However, just about enough time to get your PR in the DX bulletins.

Practically all of them were contacted, in this country, Canada, Japan, Europenobodywas forgotten. All amateur radio magazines were mailed letters, urging them to give this matter publicity. Then came the DX clubs, societies, and associations. In order to find who they were and where they are located, some detec-

tive work was needed. Chod VP2ML was kind enough to supply me with a rather extensive list of DX ciubs in this country and elsewhere
QSL cards collection to obtain data on

individual amateurs club affiliation-in the USA, Europe, Japan-and came up with about 40-50 club names. All of them not on VP2ML's list got my letters.

What surprised me a great deal was how very few responses I got. Out of about 300 letters mailed, only 8 or so organizations responed. And I'm not just

talking financial support, I'm talking common courtesy. I realize that many clubs have limited budgets and others may be inactive. But all of them? I had some good responses from groups locally-and some of them are very small. To me it was the moral support that made all the difference. Am I the only one who cares if this expedition is to be? No, there are amateurs who do, and I thank them for letting me know that they too, cared. If you stop and think, getting an

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Ftru;e

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for hb erpedition to hetnam. The DX Magazine

expedition organized is a long lonely climb where only you at the time know what you are going through. I'd still be interested in learning why I didn't get more responses. Donation size isn't the issue here-indifference is. Majority of responses came from individual amateurs from all areas and walks of life. Over 200 responded, with large and small donations. It truly warmed my heart to read little notes of appreciation and wishes of luck to the upcoming trip. 95 percent of those responding were Americans, only 3 responses came from individuals in Europe. Certainly, something to think about. While gathering information about possible sponsors, I came to an interesting conclusion-there are very few of us DXers who are regularly going on DXpeditions and even fewer who organize such trips on a major scale; I'd venture to say there 20 or so people worldwide. A large number bring the radio station with them on vacation, recreational trip, or an overseas assignment and very few do it on a grand scale of OH2BH or VK9NS. There is no ready-to-use 'pool of knowledge' to draw from. One has to develop his own strategies, based on particular circumstances surrounding the expedition. I had to invent the wheel, no matter how simple it could have been. Fundraising is an interesting matter. I've never done it in 'real life.' So where do you get sponsors? I tried clubs, I sent letters to amateur radio stores aroutid the country-and why not?-I even tried to speak to a well-known QSL manager, who had done such fund drives in the

past. He gave me some good advice, however refused to give me any leads, citing'proprietary client information.' It took him years to develop 'his calls' and people who donate understand that this info will go no further. Oh, well, let's do my own homework. I tried calling my amateur radio friends around the country and asking to spread the word. Another thing that was tried-alas, unsuccessfully, was 'direct mailing.' A list of August, 1991

calls was created and Romeo and his team were going to prepare letters to about 2,000 hams worldwide. However, it seems that someone at the Soviet post office stole a parcel with 2,000 stamped envelopes, sent from Moscow to Romeo's dad, UB1RR, who was supposed to do the mailing. Too bad, I was really hoping to see the effects of that one.

Toivo, RAitAR: 'When Romeo asked me to assist him in preparation for the YAORR expedition, I immediately agreed. We had a daily sked, because Andy Rr,V3AH had problem with his rig and Romeo had no time for the radio so I handled most of the traffic. A tremendous number of letters were written and sent to various amateur radio organizations and individual hams. 'Romeo had a lot of trouble leaving tl-,e Soviet Union for Japan for at least three weeks. It was excruciating. First it was getting a Japanese visa, which took inordinary amount of time. Then it was getting an airplane ticket. No one knew exactly what was going on. I was getting calls from JAIELY, who was worried.

I

spoke with JH3DPB and

JA2JPA, they were also awaiting Romeo's arrival. Telexes, faxes and phone calls exchanged, on-air converations held, everyone was concerned.

"While Romeo was in Japan, I received a call from Yuri Brazhenko. It

Yuri talked about 'antenna trouble at the border.' If we couldn't count on yagis coming from was late at night in Moscow.

Bulgaria, what could we do? Should I call Japan and see if Romeo can get anything on board the plane? Calling TokTo from Moscow is very difficult: it takes booking and Romeo was about to leave in a few hours. A quick call to Toshi-san JAIELY. Romeo just left for the airport, too late!!l Toshi promised to

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there, it's a big holiday. Later I learned that a Japanese ham, working for Lufthansa (German airline) did see and speak'with Romeo at the airport, while Romeo was on board the plane ready to take off. This amateur tried to help.

Unfortunately, I don't know who he was-he must have been Toshi-san's

'connection.' After I spoke with JA1ELY on the telephone, I called my friend, Joe Sand K2GX. He runs a PacketCluster in NYC. Aside from being a great guy, Joe

is our 'chief consultant' on radio matters,

I don't think

amateur his phone

ever stops ringing. 'Joe, do you think we

can get an antenna to Moscow in 2-3 dals???' He doesn't think so and neither do I. It's Christmas time in the city... Tough, very tough... 'An antenna must be found in the USSR. The next morning our frequency

on 15 meters sounded more like

an

emergency net than a DXpedition round

table. YLIWW, RA3AR, RW3AH, RA3AUU, myself and a few otherswere looking for a solution. Where can you find antennas? YL1WW had antennas, but a major snafu [email protected] on their end as well. They are located in a major factory in Riga. Unfortunately, in 1990, for the first time under the communist

shipped out of JA at around New Year

rule, they were celebrating Christmas as a state holiday in Latvia. The factory is closed. In order to take anything from

time would be rather difficult (read

-

the territory of the factory even ham

impossible), most companies are closed

equipment, you had to get some manag-

get hold of him. Getting

antenna

13

er to sign off on

ij

$

it

and he was away, vacationing someplace. Good opportunity is lost. I started digging through my phone book, looking for some phone numbers to call in Moscow, Leningrad, and other cities. There is a factory someplace in UA6 that makes antennas but no one knew their phone. Guys are on the phone all the time, reporting to the frequency occasionally.' Igor, RA3AUU: 'I was at home when Andy, RW3AH called. 'Igor, we need antennas, in a hurry!' Six months ago UA3DPX and I built a 6-element Yagi (3 elements for 20,3 for 15). We used it in IARU Championship and wanted to help Romeo and his expedition. In a two-day time the boom was cut to fit the box, everything was checked to the last nut'n bolt. We also had a goo{ mast for an inverted vee, a lot of coax and wire (spent several hours trying to undg the mess). Later we 'hired' an ambulance car and safely transported it all io Romeo's MBI Ltd, office.'

'AIex YL2AG came up with

a

number for someone who had a collapsible quad in Riga. Alex and Igor couldn't hear each other and later talked on

the phone. First problem

appeared

solved.'

Igor, RA3AUU: 'After we saw the

boys to the airplane, I spent a lot of time listening. Being one of a privileged few, I knew all the sked frequencies, and listened daily. Alas, nothing but pirates. On January 5th got up early, turned on

the radio and on 28.01.9 heard something '..0RR,' very weak. It's them! I tried to move loud Europeans away and then called myself. Right away, I knew it was them -'Hello, Igor, this is Larry [email protected]'Phoned many locals and they all got in the log. In the following days made skeds to pass info and handled various requests.'

Andy, UA3AB: 'The

emotional 'high'of those days will live in my memory for a long time. First time in my 12 years as an amateur I was participating

t4

in a real DXpedition. Romeo came with equipment donated by generous Japanese hams and tickets for Kabul were purchased for the December 30th flight. We were meeting Larry YL3CW at the railway station in Moscow. He brought

repeated QSOs will be discouraged, quick rotation of call areas would be implemented for the sake of 'lids,' mali-

a TS-440S and a home-made PA, anten-

cided on alternate sets offrequencies, in case of jamming or another e4pedition.

nas, a ton of cable, and a lot of necessary things. Half an hour later we were working like crazy trying to test and pack it all!! Larry sat down and soldered connectors until he was all through. Igor RA3AUU prepared dipoles and consult-

ed Romeo and Larry on yagi assembly. I made sure the lC-726 worked with the FL2100. A real test of equipment capability was a barefoot QSO with NT2X on a 9-ft piece of wire hung on the wall.

Andy RW3AH tried RTTY reception and delivered the 'final product'to the 'clients,' with cheering from everyone present. We put everything into wooden boxes and grabbed a bite to eat (courtesy of Dima UA3AGW and his mom).'

cious jammers, and ham police (the less

they have to wait for their call area to come up, the better). We had also de-

Hungarians were ready (or so it seemed

at the time) to start Z[-operation and we were concerned not to kill bands for

any other activity. and verified that

'Ntth

I

found FlA0-station

YA wouldn't interfere

ZA, if it takes place. Tactics on

pileup control were discussed. Larry is an experienced op, but we wanted to have complete understanding on everything. We have also agreed to stay within the US phone bands, where applicable. As with so many other operations, there are unfortunate souls out therel who get mixed up in their buttons and inevitably wind up transmitting'...out of the band, you dummy!...' To summarize:

I spent a lot of time thinking about the upcoming expedition and wanted to see it flawless, free of errors and omissions that took place during the Spratly effort. We all have our own individual operating.rary-I"., so what's good for the contester isn't always good for a DXpedition operator. What should the strategy be to maximtze the results? On behalf of the operators, Chod VP2ML ran the

the 'rules' were posted on packet and

for the YA-trip. I

was in error and took much explaining on my part. Edward W2MIG was my conduit of information to the world. You could be sure, that at 6:30 am the terminal will beep with: 'NT2X de W2MIG: Good

Miniprop forecast mailed and faxed that info to Romeo.

Chod had also suggested the best times

to work North America, because these openings were short and marginal at best. I got on our Tri-State Cluster system and posted a message to all, requesting input how to streamline the operation, in their view. Many responses came back, some with commen thoughts and some with original innovative ideas. Combined with my own thoughts on the subject, and after discussions with Larry, it became 'the guidelines' for the expedition, sort of "do's and dont's." We decided that no one will be worked closer

than 5 kHz to the transmit frequency,

clearly defined what should be expected from the ops and what the ops wanted to see from the rest of the world. We

tried.

Operating frequencies were

also

finalized and posted. However, a station from the USSR tried to spread its own set of frequencies which heavily 'col-

lided'with my information. That info

morning, Ed, are you up yet?'-an ever-hungry-for-information early crowd on 14165 kHz was ready for the next scoop of news.

Bulletins were posted on K2GX PacketCluster. Jules W2JGR provided invaluable assistance by re-posting them

on non-cluster packet and RTTY HF bulletin boards for world-wide distribution. We had decided to provide good picture of the upcoming events. The The DX Magazine

'back door' concept is a very sound one.

When you sit in front of that radio for many da1s, the only information about the rest of the world only comes to you only in a form of '59 and T[.J,'one can't objectively judge his own operation. There should always be someone who could say: 'You're missing the long-path

opening..'

or 'Many

complain-not The enough CW..'. 'U-gang' had daily skeds with YAORR, so such issues were

addressed. All of the information [email protected] operators were getting was

coming via the radio. The 'Desert Storm' operation caught them by surprize, as the number of military patrols on the Kabul streets increased dramatically. Larry at the same time was worried about political upheaval in Riga, Latvia, where he left his wife. Sometimes questions are raised dealing with difficulties operators are going through. By not talking openly about them makes the ops look inept at best. In my experience, these difficulties get magnified a thousand fold, if the only source of information is rumors. Rumors make or break the expedition. If the rumor says the operation is good, well, then it is good, but if the rumor mill claims it's faulty, no amount of operating skills or good conditions will overcome the 'popular consent.' It still amazes me how many choose to dwell on rumors instead of of going to the source of information-in this case, a source located in the USA and easily reachable by phone, if need to be. Repeating rumors is easier, but it breeds some crazy scoops. My friend Bruce AA6KX got so fed up with the 'wild stuffl on his packet system in CA, that he finally picked up the phone and said:

'Ed, I had enough nonsense, now what do you really know???' With an abundance of light on the subject, rumors, like mold, got no place to grow. Believe me, it's better this way. A rumor, started by a certain OE2, stated that according to his sources, they arrived and were met in Kabul airport August, L991

on Dec 31. There were no sources and they didn't arrive, of course. This is an excellent example of how the rumors start. Rumors were also flfng about how they went back to the USSR and operated from some place in UH8. When Romeo was in Afghanistan

operating, Alex at UZ4FWD told me how Romeo was extremely upset with me and how he asked me 'not to do it!'

'Don't do what?' Alex didn't

know. Much later I learned that according to the rumor, I found an Afghani colonel, serving there and was trying via him to

reach Romeo

in

Afghanistan.

I, of

@urse never had any such intentions

and didn't know an Afghani colonel. The boys, however, were scared out of their wits, since the following troubles could have followed if a call from the USA took place (a choice of one or more): imprisonment, confiscation of equipment, expulsion in 24 hours, military assault on their current residence. Before the expedition begun, pirates were a real menace. There was

RW3AH who told him that I'm calling, too. Romeo in Russian told me where I should be and I made my only contact with Afghanistan. After the QSO, my

own 'clear' frequency bluzzed like

a

beehive full of UAs and East Europeans

calling YA0RR. It was interesting to learn that in view of YAORR upcoming expedition the FCC cancelled all leaves and vaca-

tions for their monitoring personnel, according to an inside source, expecting one hell of a mess, much like Bouvet. Their fears, however, never materialized. The operators were very consistent in appearing on the same frequencies at approximately the same time. In view of their constant 'moves' it was extremely amazing. I was able to provide amateurs with proper information on the 'operating habits' of YAORR. One memorable QSO took place in the last few days of

the operation: Hank Myers W3ACE worked Romeo. Hank, who at one time

held a call of YAIAM,

needed

Afghanistan for a new one. Toshi-san JA1ELY had a question

someone in UA0Q who was consistently

to me on the phone: 'Ed, how come

up on 21 MHz at the time

Romeo is so loud on CW , but when he

when we weren't supposed to hear YA on the East Coast. JAs tried to work him, until Jim Smith started consistently chasing him away. In the first 3 days of operation over a hundred people called

gets on voice, he whispers???' The oper-

showing

real YA0RR a pirate. In the future we intend to use some sort of password identification for CW. My own QSO with the expedition wasn't without some difficulty. For hours I tried to listen and couldn't hear anything; the signals were just too weak. RA3AUU and RW3AH worked them daily, Alex from UZ4FWD was making me sick with stories how they worked them everywhere, but 160. And then one morning, on 15 they came up with a nice loud signal. YL2AG came on frequency and informed us that Romeo is on. I

jumped. European pileup was going mad. I tried and tried and tried, to no avail. Then I heard Romeo working

ators didn't want to scare their hosts with the sounds of English speech at first. But how was I supposed to know about their 'housing situation?' One evening I got a call from Angel WA2VUY in New Jersey. He was with Alex UZ4FWD, and Alex had something to say to me. With a 3X3 signal Alex told us that Romeo was on the move (this was at the beginning) and that they were going to Mazar-e-Sharif, by military vehicle. I looked at the map and nearly flipped out-several hundred kilometers through the war zone! These men must be absolutely insane! What is Mazar-e-Sharif, IVe never heard about this town before. Anyone with informa-

tion? Turned out, it's a famous place-for its opium trade. Another source told me local tribes like to shoot

at each other during the winter,

the 15

crops are gathered and there is nothing else to do. Well, it all made me pretty

I knew they were really going out on a limb, to give us a QSO with a new one. I love amateur radio, but not

sick, for

enough to sacrifice my life

for it. These

guys were about to. Were they brave or

just got carried away chasing their ;l

dream? I don't know and, frankly, don't care, just glad they got through it alive' Otherwise uneventful expedition was

complemented by these hapPenings: Larry was slightly shocked by 2000 volts from the amplifier. Romeo was kicked and almost bitten by a local jackass, after the former attempted a climb on the latter's back. Larry wanted to get it all on film, but Romeo rebuffed requests

for a'double.' Romeo lived to tell the story and so did the animal. Interestingly, but in the last few days of the operation, the YA0RR operators

felt that most European and

Soviet operators had enough ofthem and were

calling every other QSO to ask when were they going to be on 160, SSB, AM, other bands... One amateur from UA3 simply ordered them:'Immediately QSY to 14 MHz CW, I still don't have a QSO over there, what are you waiting for?' From the USSR they came with ques-

QSL card for LSLXV and lSlRRfrom the Spratly Island DXpeditiort

tions about their signal quality. What about: 'Could you listen for me, I'm going to try 3 antennas for 5 minutes, tell me which one works better into Afghanistan (!!!)' Someone from the Soviet Union asked them this question: 'Can I work you if I didn't fight in Afghanistan as part of the Soviet occupational force in the 80's???' Romeo no-

ticed that fewer people had expressed

Now Available! The 1991 Edition of The Kl BV DX Awards DirectorY The 1991 edition of the comprehensive, up-to-date directory includes details on 1729 awards from 117 countries around the world. Each award has been carefully researched, with direct letters to the sponsors, to ensure ac'curacy and timelineis. Award details include lists of club members' where applicable' In addition to the award details, this 240-page loose-leaf directory includes many hints and suggestions for earning and applying for awards, such as a sample application form, general certification rules (GCR), QSLing tips, award hunting in contests, using QSL bureaus, and much more' The 1991 K1BV DX Awards Directory is available for $17.50, postpaid in the US. Overseas cost is US$16 by surface mail, or US$23 by airmail' Send check or money order to: Ted Melinoska K1BV DX Awards Directory P. O. Box 960-D Keene NH 03431-0960 USA

L6

their gratitude for the expedition on the air, only about 15. Spratly was for some reason better received.

I'm happy this very difficult expedition is over. To me it once again proves there is always an opportunity for some real adventure and excitement, it doesn't matter which side of the pile-up you're on. We DXers are adventurers by nature. Working that rare one is like looking beyond the horizon, into the impossible corner of the world, where no man had ever been before. We await expeditions with all the excitement and antici-

pation of warriors, ready to enter the battle. And we love to savor sweet fruits of our victories. We are dreamers, too, living in the world between two headphones. The adventure continues-and I look forward to another one, soon. Copyright L991 by Romeo Stepanenko and Edward Kritsly. All rights reserved.

The DX Magazine

DX Magazine Vol III #8 Aug 91-YA0RR.pdf

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