7O6T and 6O0CW: All Things Considered

As the words of this story take form on your computer’s monitor, the teams of 7O6T (Socotra Island, Yemen) and 6O0CW (Galkayo, Somalia) have already landed home. That’s why what we’re discussing here is most appropriate – as operations came to an end (which gives us basic permission to reflect on any such expedition) along with the safe return of all operators – it’s apropos that we reflect on aspects of these two radio adventures which will certainly take their places in the annals of the first half of 2012.

First and foremost, we as an amateur community owe our thanks to these two teams, one a Russian-American led by Dimitri, RA9USU, the other an all Italian team captained by Silvano, I2YSB – thanks for their choice commitments, undoubtedly driven by their passion for DX, but also by elements anything but trivial in their initial assessment.

Sometimes, we as hams tend to forget how to be human. When placed in front of a map we see only colors which would indicate the rarity of a country to the extent which it would apply to DXCC. In regard to this supposition, the activation of Yemen and Somalia could be viewed like this. In the 2011 ranking of “DX Magazine” the first of the two entities was in 5th place worldwide (one down with respect to 2010 entries), while the 2nd was in 40th (destined perhaps to fall even more, considering that a DXpedition there had already been announced at the time of the compilation). In general terms, two activations – yet intrinsically different from one another (Yemen was but a mirage for decades in the world of radio, while Somalia wasn’t quite as elusive), but still interesting, especially for younger DXers, just starting their career.
However, we should keep the colors of the “Global Peace Index” in mind, the indicator which is calculated on the basis of 23 principle values (among which include the number of those in prison, total homicides, conflicts internal and external, respect for human rights, political instability and the export of arms) and an additional 32 indicators (participation in political processes, the balance of tourism, the literacy rate, infant mortality and unemployment) – allowing you to create a list of the safest countries in the world.

Now, even reading the report upside down (research of the world’s most dangerous places) you realize that the choice of our colleagues was a step that most of us would have struggled to emulate. The 2011 ranking of the “Global Peace Index” (created by “Vision of Humanity“) sees Somalia at the bottom of the list (ranked #153), which thusly conveys the unenviable distinction of “Most Dangerous Country on Earth.” Yemen, in contrast, is “only” 138th, while still in the top 20 worldwide.

Perhaps, in our pursuit of a new band or mode, we’ve not had time to reflect on the “how,” and “where” it is that Silvano and his colleagues found themselves; in this sense non-existant since 1991, the year that civil war broke out, a government with control of all national territory. Perhaps the effort of getting through a pile-up led us to forget and put aside the attack in 2010 by the forces of al-Shabab at a hotel, which resulted in the deaths of four members of parliament. Perhaps, when thinking of our colleagues on the continental mainland, it didn’t cross our minds, when two years ago, forty-nine boats, having crossed the waters after rounding the horn of Africa, were subjected to acts of piracy, with 1016 members of their crews taken hostage.

As we consider Yemen, we find ourselves focused on the fact that an amateur radio license had not been granted in the last twenty years (this was communicated by us at DXCoffee, thanks to a reliable source). However, even if the street violence situation looks better (but chances for potential terrorist attacks are still 5/5, by that meaning that such an eventuality is certain), we’re still talking about a country where visitors each year, seen numerically, account for 2% of the population. Investment in education of the population does not exceed 5% of the gross domestic product (adult literacy at only 60%) and where hostility toward foreigners is at level four on a scale of four.

Now we should turn our thoughts on the fact that all the above means, on a conceptual point of view, to leave for a DXpedition by accepting the fact that one’s physical vulnerability is not an absolute value, and practically, to plan a budget for supervisory / security personnel. Now, with the radio turned off, with Somalia and Yemen finally in the log (the numbers achieved by the two expeditions allow us to presume that anybody really interested managed to work them), we can exercise a little intellectual honesty and ask ourselves whether, in spite of our passion, determination and even a modicum of folly (for ham radio), we would have agreed to leave for one of those two locations.

You can bet that in at least eight out of ten cases, the answer would be “no.” This does not mean that the teams of 7O6T and 6O0CW are made up of senseless and reckless individuals, with no mind to how this might affect their families. We should give back in like measure for that which has transpired, by way of thanks and gratitude to the handful of radio stars involved in the activations of Socotra Island and Galkayo. They have willingly made possible for each us to conquer one more piece of the DXCC puzzle. There was an implicit acceptance of risk of sufficient magnitude.

Some may argue that the stars of such operations are deserving of a page in the history book of amateur radio and that, for an objevtive such as this one, some risks are worth taking. To such individuals must be said that an OM can be inhuman (the license qualifies us as operators, not necessarily as “courteous people”), but if a human being stopped being like this, alas, he could no longer be a ham. Responsibility is the first real virtue of an OM, and our search for those famous “fifteen minutes” (although in this case the duration of 15 days) is not enough, in spite of our freedom to choose; and individual motivations should remain unchanged in justifying even the slightest conditon relating to our physical security.

So, the “no” that many of us would have uttered, faced with the question of living such an experience, should respectfully bear in mind the reflections of others in our reading over the past several days, the alleged communications restrictions (we have not heard from the team regarding this) in contacts with Israeli stations imposed by Yemeni authorities on the team of 7O6T.

Starting with the fundamental assumption that the Amateur Service is not put into operation by divine investiture, rather by permission of a government entity; in light of its acceptance and in light of norms which might include specific rules (and normally there are even if it’s easier not to read them) for contacts with other countries. This matter of factly begs for an objective approach to the question. What is needed is the ability to look at the issues devoid of shabby moralization and far out solutions, such as calling for non-acceptance of the DXpedition by DXCC (even under the tear jerking premise “that another new one would fall off my list.”)

DXCC does not assign values to the level of democracy of an entity; it’s not Amnesty International. It recognizes that an activation has occurred in accordance with procedures and requirements and makes it valid for the achievment of the given award. If the license is legitimate and the DXpedition has been conducted with all the necessary elements, recognition is granted and no other element should become subject to evaluation. If, in order to obtain a license, the team is required to accept certain restrictive conditions for certain contacts, we may consider such unethical. However, from our point of view, and we must somehow not allow ourselves to pretend to forget that if these provisions (issued by a competent authority and approved) had not been signed, we would not be here discussing 7O6T because, quite simply, the license would not have made it past the offices of the Ministry of Telecommunications. Politics has no place in radio (behind the microphone) – and this is an inviolable principle and one to defend – but it’s impossible, given the nature of a government action, that this does not influence the development of dispositions which regulate radio (which we may not like, but are bound to accept when we are guests of another country).

All the same, talent and creativity are like raging waters: when they storm down into the valley, not a single thing or person is in a position to stop their advance. For this, some have dared suggest the possibility, for the team, not to observe the practice once the station has been activated, and far from the ministerial offices after having formally accepted the provisions, to more or less come up with clever stratagems to circumvent them. Perhaps, somebody didn’t notice on the expedition website that the “Yemen Support Team” included the Republic’s Minister of Information himself. Let’s say frankly that violating a rule with a government official in the room would be suicidal. Furthermore, ask yourself if in a country, given the situation we discussed a few lines back, you were to risk a criminal offense out of deliberate inobservance of a rule, what would happen. My guess, once again, is that you would reply with a simple “no” – the kind of answer which would satisfy the question.

The author wish to thank Mark Kelley, W0BG, for his unvaluable assist with translation.

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2 Responses to "7O6T and 6O0CW: All Things Considered"

  1. Adam says:

    Both dxpeditions where good, my only grumble is the huge and pointless split frequency operation they use, its not really a fair way of doing things, especially when the operators just says “listening up” up where? so the task of calling back in one place and wasting lots of time ensues!
    In future perhaps they should call by numbers ten up this is a more productive method than the wide split going nowhere.

  2. Stuie VK8NSB 4W6SB says:

    Adam, I would guess that you have never been on a Dxpedition before mate, up 10 listening for numbers … Your Joking when Thousands of Nr ones are call you, best way is too just say listening up and give a point , example – Tx on 21295 and say up pse to 21320 , really thats the only thing you can do mate ..


    VK8NSB / 4W6SB

    4W6A Team leader

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