Hi! I’m Jeff WE4B and I would like to thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy day to read this to learn why I am running for a spot on the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors.
Before I get started, I would like to thank all members of the Board of Directors, both past and present for the leadership you have given to the organization and for spending your valuable time as a volunteer.
First, a bit about me. I have been involved with amateur satellites for two decades. My first satellite contact was on AO-27 using a whip antenna and a Yaesu FT-50R. It was a magical experience for me. Fast forward twenty years, and each contact that I make still gives me goosebumps. To put it simply, I love making contacts via satellites. I’m sure many of you also feel the same. I graduated from analog on AO-27 to digital working the Mir Space Station (R0MIR) and was a regular there. During those years, I served the public as a deputy sheriff and often worked Mir via packet from my patrol car. Once again, I love making contacts. I love amateur radio satellites.
I am the father of a 12-year-old daughter, W4AQT and a 7-year-old daughter who is studying for and will soon have her Technician license. My 7-year-old is already making satellite contacts using my callsign with me as a control operator and just this week received her first QSL card. My kids make contacts because they enjoy doing so, not because they are forced or enticed to do so. We don’t have web site or produce and edit videos, but I do enjoy sharing pictures of them with the community as I am very proud of them and what they have and are accomplishing. Hopefully, seeing pictures of what can be accomplished by a couple of average kids might help to inspire others and promote AMSAT-NA. My children truly enjoy radio for radio’s sake and I love spending time with them making satellite contacts.
I would like to thank the entire amateur radio satellite community for supporting my children and for helping to Elmer them. Each of you that has taken the time to work them on a satellite or to send words of encouragement. Some have even gone as far to bless them with equipment to help better their experience and to further their learning and development. As their Dad, I have been humbled by this experience of having a community come together to help me keep my children on the air. Rest assured, W4AQT and Myla feel the same way. The entire community has shown two YLs that, unlike the evening news would like you to believe, that there are so many good people in this world. All I can say is a simple “thank you” and to pay forward the kindness that has been shown to my children by the community.
Now, I would like to tell you why I have decided to seek a seat on the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors. I never planned to run for a Board of Directors position until W4AQT and I attended the 2019 Hamvention. To put it bluntly, W4AQT and I were basically ignored by most people formally involved with AMSAT-NA leadership and most of their close friends. At the time I didn’t realize why this was happening. I’m not talking about regular members of AMSAT-NA but rather those that are on the Board or those that are very friendly with Board members and insiders. I now know why people wouldn’t look us in the eyes or speak to us. It was because I spent time with a friend that is also running for a spot on the Board. What makes it so bad is that assumptions were made that I was also running for a position and due to that fact, W4AQT and I were shunned and ignored. I can assure you that before arriving at Hamvention, I had not even considered running for a position on the Board of Directors.
It’s a shame that many people formally involved with AMSAT-NA leadership and their close friends chose to go out of their way to avoid me and a 12-year-old who loves operating on satellites. Is this how you would like to be treated? Is this how you would like people to treat your children? It’s shameful that some adult, grown men that would not look us in the eyes and would look down or pretend not to see us. W4AQT may be 12, but she’s extremely intelligent and she knew something just wasn’t right as she/I had never experienced that type of behavior at any of the many ham fests that we’ve attended until Hamvention. It’s especially shameful, since we had already met many of you at the 2018 Symposium and we were not treated in that manner there.
We were treated that way because we were seen walking with, talking to and spending time with Patrick WD9EWK. I have no regrets spending time with Patrick WD9EWK. We had fun. We shared some good food and worked a couple of satellite passes in the parking lot of a restaurant the night before we came to Hamvention. We didn’t sit around and talk about an overthrowing of AMSAT-NA leadership. We just shared stories of satellites and mutual friends and talked ham radio and satellites, roves and roving. Patrick WD9EWK also helped share his knowledge of D-STAR since Marissa W4AQT received one from Icom for giving a satellite presentation at the Youth Forum.
If I were to do Hamvention 2019 over again, I wouldn’t change a thing other than possibly getting there a day earlier and spending more time with Patrick WD9EWK. He treated my daughter like an adult YL and didn’t treat her like a kid. W4AQT will always have fond memories of the people in the restaurant parking lot that were acting like idiots while Patrick WD9EWK and myself were both working two different satellites at the same time from about 20’ apart. We simply had fun and didn’t talk amateur radio satellite politics, nor did we plan an AMSAT-NA coup d'état. If it weren’t such a sad situation that so many were worried about an old, bald guy like me and a 12-year-old girl, it would almost be funny. Sadly though, W4AQT and I being ignored and shunned by certain AMSAT-NA Board members and their close friends, wasn’t funny then, or now.
I’ll say it again, it’s a shame that some people chose to make unfounded assumptions about me and by doing so made W4AQT very uncomfortable and confused. I never want anyone else to find themselves treated the way we were treated. I’m not grinding an axe by throwing my name in the hat. If you don’t want to be my friend, that’s fine. At least have the common decency to nod your head and say “Hi”. After all, we all share a common goal. If I am elected, I will do everything in my power to ensure that never happens to anyone else. I don’t care if you are 7-years-old or 70-years-old. I don’t care if you are an OM, YL or XYL. I don’t care your race, religion or creed. I will do everything in my power to make you feel welcomed and appreciated. I may not always agree with everything and everyone, but I can promise you that I will look you in the eyes and shake your hand, and not pretend that I don’t see you or look at the ground and shuffle away, so I don’t have to interact with you. Yes, that happened to us at Hamvention at the AMSAT-NA area of Hamvention 2019.
It’s shameful that some members of AMSAT-NA leadership made unfounded assumptions and then spread those assumptions to others. Did you really think that an OM like me and a 12-year-old girl could overthrow the AMSAT-NA empire? We just wanted to meet those that we had not yet met and enjoy fellowship with those that we hear on satellites. We were not there for any reason other than to be with those that enjoy amateur radio satellites.
There are many that may not like it, but the future of AMSAT-NA is in the hands of W4AQT’s generation. She truly does care about AMSAT-NA, even though she’s 12. She was confused about what was happening regarding us at the AMSAT-NA area of Hamvention as that was the only place we encountered such behavior. She was, however, so happy to meet so many non-leadership members of AMSAT-NA. I can’t count the number of times people met both me and her and took pictures with us. There were several times we were walking around Hamvention and we would hear people shouting out our names and calls to get our attention. It was awesome to get to meet so many people from all over the world. The general membership of AMSAT-NA are amazing people and those that took time to meet us and talk to us will never know how much that meant to both me and her. We loved meeting each one of you and putting a face with the voices that we hear beaming from the sky every day/night. Thank you so much for your fellowship. We can’t wait to talk to you on a satellite again and cannot wait until we get to meet-up in person again soon.
For the record, I’m not an EE or a scientist, but I am a well-educated, experienced businessman with an emphasis on operations, marketing and continuous improvement. You can view my career accomplishments on LinkedIn. I feel that my real-world experiences from sitting in boardrooms and walking warehouse floors gives me the experience to be a valuable member of the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors. I am extremely comfortable looking at P&L statements and analyzing them. I am also comfortable working with others of various skillsets. I am mature enough to be able to agree to disagree and find middle ground upon which to build. As someone that has a career which has a major focus on Six Sigma and LEAN, I would love to leverage my skillset in these areas to better the AMSAT-NA organization. As an educated businessman, that has been personally responsible for multi-million-dollar budgets, I also have the skills to objectively look at revenue flows for the organization and to help make rational, non-emotional, decisions. I realize that the engineering, building and launching of satellites requires those that have technical skills but an organization such as AMSAT also needs someone to look at it as a business venture. AMSAT-NA is non-profit organization but still has revenues. It doesn’t matter if an organization is for-profit or non-profit, organizations need people with business backgrounds to help lead them so that they remain solvent and relevant. In these times of rapidly advancing technology, relevance of an organization such as AMSAT-NA is of major importance.
So, as stated above, based on my experience at Hamvention, I have decided to run for a spot on the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors. Here are the issues I would like to see improved going forward and these are issues in which I would like to take an active role to improve AMSAT-NA:
- I have never seen or heard from what used to be called an AMSAT-NA Area Coordinator at any club to which I’ve ever belonged. I’ve always been the ‘satellite guy’ and now W4AQT is the ‘satellite kid’. We, now, are supposed to have AMSAT-NA Ambassadors, but after months and months of hearing about these Ambassadors, the program still is not active. Why? There are plenty of people willing to claim the title and would be excellent representatives of AMSAT-NA. What is it going to take to get the Ambassador program off the drawing board and into the real world?
- Youth. Let’s face it, amateur radio in 2019 is not what it was in years gone by. If you are under 40, you are basically a youth in our hobby/service. I’m glad to see folks younger than 40 utilizing satellites but want to get more high school and college youth involved. AMSAT-NA must take an active role to recruit these youth. Based on what I have experienced with W4AQT’s teachers, I can promise you that teachers across the nation would, more than likely, welcome with open arms some additional things to help stimulate young minds in STEM education. I’m doing all I can at a local level with my licensed daughter who talks to her peers, gives presentations and demonstrations and even does satellite related science fair projects. I feel that AMSAT-NA needs to find a way to reach more youth. When I say youth, I mean anyone 25 years-old or younger (middle school, high school and college age). I truly am passionate about getting kids involved in amateur radio and particularly into satellites. I would enjoy trying to develop a curriculum that could be used in a middle school or high school setting to teach young men and women about what is possible with amateur radio satellites. On a related note regarding youth and satellites. I saw some Hamvention attendees, both adults and youth, watching AMSAT-NA members work various satellites, but I never saw anyone ask them if they would like to give it a try and make a contact. It made me sad to see that those that came to watch were not invited to participate and were basically ignored. AMSAT-NA missed a great opportunity to ignite a spark in these observers by not asking them if they would like to make a contact.
- AMSAT-NA is no longer the only game in town when it comes to building and launching satellites. There are high schools, universities and other non-profits now building and arranging for the launching of satellites. Yes, AMSAT-NA may be the oldest, but I feel that AMSAT-NA may have become somewhat stagnant. GOLF would be wonderful but if all we can get is a launch for is a 1U FM LEO satellite, let’s make sure we have spares that can be readied for a launch as quickly as possible. I totally understand confidentiality and NDAs but there is little, if any, information reported to members about how AMSAT-NA may be trying to work with others to help and/or use our 50 years of expertise to get our satellites in orbit. Now, it is more important than ever, to find new partners, even if it’s a high school. There have even been Kickstarter campaigns which have been successfully funded to launch non-commercial satellites. Things have changed over the past decade and AMSAT-NA must also change and be able to change quickly to adopt to opportunities, even if they are non-traditional. Once again, AMSAT-NA is no longer the only game in town, but AMSAT-NA has the experience that other organization may not yet have. Make no doubt about it, other organizations are nipping on the heels of AMSAT-NA.
- I’m still waiting to see a failure analysis report regarding AO-95. Why hasn’t this been done and released to the membership. We know what happened to AO-85 and now we have AO-95 in orbit that is totally deaf. Did the two satellites have similar issues? As I’ve stated, I’m not an EE or scientist but I am smart enough to wonder why no data has been released about AO-95 other than the fact that it couldn’t be commissioned. Where is the failure analysis? Out of four Fox satellites, one was hard of hearing and one is deaf. Yes, space is hard. No doubt about it but are we learning from our failures and mishaps? Without a scientific failure analysis, we will never know. I may be totally off base but many members of AMSAT-NA I have spoken with also want some type of answer/communication about what happened to AO-95. Maybe the answer truly is “we don’t know” but the general membership has not been privy to any information other than the satellite couldn’t be commissioned.
- Transparency. AMSAT-NA must do a better job of this. I’m just an average guy that happens to be on satellites every day and, on most days, now has a child(ren) on the satellites. We aren’t members of the elite group of AMSAT insiders. Because I’m an average AMSAT-NA member, like most of you reading this, we must have transparency and frequent and formal communication from the Board of Directors. This could be done on the AMSAT-NA web site. Yes, I know there are some updates posted there but I have heard from several members that they want more information. Granted, some things must be confidential, but the membership does want more information of what’s happening within the organization.
- Speaking of the AMSAT-NA web site, if I were on the Board of Directors, I would try to find a way to have the site modernized and managed by a third-party. Would it cost money? Yes, it would, but this is 2019 and we still don’t have a functional database of members. I renewed my membership and that of W4AQT at Hamvention over two weeks ago. I paid cash but wasn’t offered a receipt. As of today, I still have not received an email or anything else in response to my renewal. I see complaints of this all the time on social media. This doesn’t reflect well on the organization. Once again, this is 2019, these types of things should be almost instant. As a comparison, I also renewed mine and W4AQT’s ARRL memberships at Hamvention and by the Tuesday after the event we both had received our new membership documents. I also ordered something from a vendor at Hamvention and have already received the item but still have heard nothing from AMSAT-NA regarding mine and W4AQT’s membership renewals. Yes, I know AMSAT-NA only has one full-time employee but what can be done to help expedite renewals and new memberships at major ham fests where AMSAT-NA has a booth? Online renewals and new memberships must be made a simple, flawless transaction. I heard the President speak of this at the 2018 Symposium, but it still has not occurred. After all, if AMSAT-NA is capable of building and getting successful satellites launched and commission, sure AMSAT-NA can get a function SQL (or similar) database functional on the organization’s web site. This must be fixed immediately.
- It has been my pleasure to have had a QSO with many of the Board of Directors via a satellite at least once, if not more. I’m fairly certain W4AQT has also done so. However, I’ve never heard the President on a satellite. Yes, I know you don’t have to use satellites to be a leader of the organization, but it certainly adds to the credibility of the position. AMSAT-NA isn’t the only amateur radio organization that has had this problem. The ARRL had similar criticisms and now has a president which is being promoted as being active on the air. AMSAT-NA needs a President that is an active operator. It’s one thing to read about issues, it’s another to hear them on the air and the President should be hearing what’s happening on the air via satellites. It would be an honor for myself and others to log his call via satellite in LoTW. I enjoyed meeting Joe in Huntsville and he treated my daughters like princesses, but the membership would love to hear him on the air as it would allow us to know that he experiences what we, the active members, experience daily.
- If I were to be elected as a member of the Board of Directors, I would set-up separate social media accounts for myself that would be used when I was speaking as a Board member. I would also post a disclaimer on my personal accounts that my personal account does not represent AMSAT-NA in any manner. Like it or not, if you are a Board member, you are viewed as such when posting from your personal account about matters related to AMSAT-NA, especially if you have not made it perfectly clear that your personal account is not an official AMSAT-NA channel of communication. Because there hasn’t been a separation of personal accounts from those of official means of AMSAT-NA communications, the waters of communication have been muddied leading to confusion from both AMSAT-NA members and non-members. I would encourage anyone currently on the Board of Directors or those in the future to create separate accounts for official communiques.
- FM voice satellites continue to remain the most popular type of satellite. Linear transponder satellites go largely unused by the masses. What can AMSAT-NA do to get more people to use linear transponder satellites? Yes, the cost is higher than what is required to use an FM satellite but if the masses will not migrate to these satellites where there are a plethora of satellites and plenty of bandwidth what makes us think that even more exotic satellites will be used? Yes, I want higher orbit satellites. Yes, I support GOLF, but AMSAT-NA should not forget that FM satellites are the way most amateurs enter the wonderful world of amateur radio satellites and, as such, AMSAT-NA should continue to develop LEO FM satellites using a U/v mode of operation. AO-92 with its capability of being able to be commanded into L/v mode is, most likely, the most popular satellite for contacts in North America. It allows amateurs to start with modest equipment then slowly upgrade to having a station capable of an L band uplink. Five and dime satellites advance the radio art, but AMSAT-NA should balance that capability against what most of their customers (members) want to use for satellite contacts. Before spending finite amounts of money, AMSAT-NA should poll its membership and find out what its customers (members) want to be researched, developed and launched. AMSAT-NA needs to use its budget both to advance technology while satisfying its customers (members). I am on satellites, both FM and linear transponders almost every day, depending on the weather conditions. On LEO FM satellites, I often find it difficult to make a contact due to the sheer number of stations attempting to access the satellite. On linear transponders, I often find it difficult to find another station in which to make a contact simply because there are very few stations that consistently use linear transponder satellites. This isn’t a subjective statement, it’s objective. LEO APRS satellites are also very popular and often overcrowded. This is something that AMSAT-NA should also poll customers (members) about as this is also a very popular mode for making contacts as evidenced by the APRS traffic via the International Space Station. I believe AMSAT-NA should spend the finite dollars it has in its coffers wisely, even if that means just LEO for now.
- If elected to the Board of Directors, I can promise that I would never act in a manner which could bring disgrace to the organization. If posting in an official capacity, it would be from a clearly designated account. I would never allow myself or AMSAT-NA to be compromised by making statements on obscure places on the internet discussing AMSAT-NA business and possibly colluding or conspiring with others. The internet is forever and doesn’t forget. This doesn’t mean that Board members could not conduct official AMSAT-NA meetings or business utilizing technology and the internet. Rarely is there a night on television news where we don’t see where a celebrity, executive of a business or politician is not in trouble for something they have posted on the internet. I would call for all members of the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors to sign a pledge stating that they would not participate in such activities. I would hate for someone to find where Board of Directors members were involved in discussions that could be considered libelous. After all, anyone elected to such a position should be mature enough to avoid anything that could put themselves or the organization in such a compromising position. I would be happy to sign such a pledge and think that all current and future members should also be willing to do so as well.
If you took the time to read this far, I would like to thank you for doing so. I realize that no membership driven organization will ever be perfect. I also realize that we all have our own opinions of how AMSAT-NA should be managed. Different points of view and diversity can be very positive and can lead to great synergies within an organization. After all, we all agree on one thing. We all want to see AMSAT-NA flourish and continue to be the premier amateur radio satellite organization. Since we all agree on that one fact, please when casting your vote, consider voting for someone that isn’t an incumbent. By doing so, you will allow new, fresh ideas to enter the organization.
Regardless of who wins positions on the Board of Directors, I will continue to support AMSAT-NA and I would ask others to do the same. The new board, regardless of whom is elected, will need the support of the general membership. I would ask those that are elected to please listen to the general membership and be responsive to them. It is important that those whom are elected be open to fresh ideas and criticisms.
I sincerely hope that all who read this will also continue to support AMSAT-NA and to ‘Keep Amateur Radio in Space’. If you would like to see some new thoughts and ideas brought into AMSAT-NA, I would encourage you to cast a vote for myself and other non-incumbents such as Michelle W5NYV, Patrick WD9EWK, Tucker W4FS and Howie AB2S. I appreciate your consideration for voting for me/us for a member of the Board of Directors for AMSAT-NA.