The North American Center for Emergency Communications Inc.
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P.O. Box 174
Aurora MN 55705

Phone: 218.305.4100

NACEC Grew Out of The Desert Voices Project's "Reaching Out To Loved Ones Over 7000 Miles Away".

DVP Gate	Sign

During the buildup to the Gulf War the worry and stress felt by the families of U.S. service men and women began to grow quickly. Several of my friends and business acquaintances who had loved ones either on their way to or already in the Gulf began to talk about their fears for the safety of their loved ones. It soon became obvious that the stress was beginning to get to them. Especially, with a constant flow of up to the minute news flashes about attacks and military action. This fear was being compounded by the fact that mail was running so slow that weeks and months were passing without a word from their deployed loved ones and telephone service was not available to a majority of those deployed to that part of the world.

As a communications professional I began to look around for a resource that could solve their communications problem. I found there were virtually no viable faster communications options open to them as military families. The only option that I did find was a Department of Defense program called MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System). The MARS staff and volunteers were doing their best to move an overwhelming amount of radio message traffic called MARSGRAMS. I was told "there is so much radio message traffic we are having to move it by airplane." The MARS program is also authorized to handle radio telephone calls from the troops in front line areas using their units tactical radio equipment, but it had gone through budget cuts and had been downsized to the point where it only had one High Frequency radio station left in the U.S. that could reliably maintain communications over such a great distance, some 7000 miles.

I was introduced to Yvonne Minor the co-founder of a military family support group called SOCM (Support Our Courageous Military). Yvonne stressed to me the importance and dire need for some sort of communications link between those in the Gulf and their families back here at home that would not deprive them of the little financial resources that many families had. She also expressed to me that many of these families were under tremendous stress and needed help now. As I owned a communications system design. consulting and contracting company, I told her that I would give it some thought. After a week of going over option after option, a workable solution began to form.

On October 30th of 1990 I called Yvonne and told her that I thought I could build the communications bridge needed by the families, but it would be very large undertaking, expensive and that I could not do it alone. I also asked her if she felt there would be anyone out there willing to help me build this communications bridge. She assured me that she was sure that if I made the effort to build this dream, and let people know, people would come forward to help.

I then called the MARS contact I had made on the East coast back and asked him, if I were to build a communications system capable of reaching front line locations in the Gulf, make it available to them and the military families without charge and operate it until they put more of their own stations on line, would it help and would they use it. The answer was a resounding YES!

On October 31st, I talked again to Yvonne and then told her I would commit myself and do my best to move this dream into a reality, it would be called "The Desert Voices Project".

I started by talking to companies and found many willing to help by leasing or loaning the equipment, land and materials I would need on a zero dollar basis for use in the project, if my company, NW Antenna & Communications, would accept financial responsibility and guarantee its return by the first week in May at the latest, sooner if the project was concluded prior to that date.

I then contacted the media and informed them of my plans to build a communications center that would work as a temporary communications bridge between those serving in the Gulf and their families here at home. I also asked for volunteers to help me build this dream.

The phone began to ring almost at once. By the time 2 weeks had passed over 100 people had called wishing to help. The amount of work was limited to office work until we had secured the land that we needed to act as the communications center. Work proceeded on locating this land with all possible speed and on November 9th an old 26 acre Nike Missile Base was found in a rural location that was radio quiet and large enough to hold the two massive antenna arrays that would be the key to the projects success. That same day, the government entity that owned it was located, a walk through of the buildings and property was conducted and a lease request was made. They were willing to help but it had to go in front of their legal department, chain of command and a lease would have to be drawn up and signed, this would take at lease 8 weeks so they would get started on it right away. This would allow us to gain access to the base around January 4 if all went well. But this was not to be as it seemed their chain of command understood what we were up to and the importance of it, plus they wanted to do all they could do to help.

On November 19th , only 10 days later, we gathered at the front gate of the old Nike Base. Present were our volunteers, the representative from the U.S. Department of Interior, the media and myself. The keys to the base were turned over to me and the work began. I then made a plea through the media for volunteer radio operators from the Amateur Radio Community.

The building selected for the projects communications center had been unused for about 20 years, the paint was falling off, windows and doors were warped and would not open or close. The heating system had not been drained and through the past winters the pipes had frozen and burst. Underground heating fuel tanks had not been drained and the fuel had jelled and was contaminated. The place was a mess, but it was easy to see both the potential and the work that would be needed to bring it back into operation.

Communications Center Building Every day volunteers reported to the base to receive their work assignments for the day. It was not unusual to see 50 to 100 volunteers hard at work, bring the base back to life. The yard was cleared of brush and debris, then mowed. Hedges were trimmed. The building we had selected was given a thorough cleaning, a new coat of paint inside and out, and the windows and doors were either repaired or replaced.

Then the Electrical contractors arrived and rewired the building to accommodate the extra power needed by our transmitters. The Heating contractor arrived with their crew and went through the entire heating system fixing what they could and replacing what could not be repaired. The Heating Fuel supplier showed up with a new fuel tank and fuel, and the heat was turned on for the first time in about 20 years.

Drilling one
		of the pole holes Installing one
		of the 105ft antenna poles By December 6th, work on the grounds and building had almost been completed, but more important was the fact that our main antenna array was ready for testing. In just 18 days amongst all that was going on we had managed to build one of the most powerful long range HF radio antenna arrays on the continent of North America.

This array was capable of focusing all of our radio energy into a very tight very powerful beam which would bounce between the uppermost surface of the earths atmosphere, then down bouncing off of the earths surface then back up repeating this action, growing wider with each bounce until its 4th return to earth where it literally was coming down on the opposite side of the earth covering the entire Gulf War area and thus all U.S. military positions front lines and rear. View of
		North end of West rhombic antenna
On December 7th, with the help of over 100 volunteer radio operators from the Amateur Radio community, U.S. Army Reserve and Minnesota National Guard, the station began operating 24 hours a day 7 days a week, testing the alignment and calibrating our new very large antenna array. Installation of the rest of the communications equipment continued as it arrived at the base from around the country.

December 13th, testing was successfully concluded. The military station license was received and the radios at the center were switched over to Department of Defense frequencies and the first contact with a military station in Saudi Arabia was made at about 2:00 that afternoon.

The station remained in operation until May 1st, helping thousands of families by handling thousands of messages and radio phone calls from our troops in the Gulf to their families here at home. Messages were handled for families in all 50 States, Puerto Rico and 4 Provinces of Canada.

		Awards It was a good feeling to be able to help so many families, the tears of happiness, the cries of joy and excitement at the arrival of a new son and daughter, the wedding proposals and oh so much more, but none of this would have ever been possible without the help of more then 300 volunteers and 45 companies who cared enough to came forward and help build the dream. To recognize a problem, to dream of making a change, to help others, is not enough if you can't find those that are willing to join the team and help make your dream into a reality.
I would like to present to you a partial list of those companies that came forward to help. Not only to give them the recognition they deserve, but to give you some insight into the complexity of building this first military family support mission. I am very grateful to these companies and the many volunteers that had the faith in me and my vision to come forward and help make it such an overwhelming success.

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NACEC is a non-profit 501(c)(3), humanitarian and public service organization.