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History and Philosophy

First the Earth Cooled, and then came...

The Mount Greylock Expeditionary Force, or MGEF for short, is an offshoot of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Radio Club (W2SZ). The group started in June of 1969, when several hams got together and operated the ARRL June VHF Contest from Slide Mountain (in the Catskills) using the call of W2SZ/2. In September of the same year, the same small group of hams, including still active members Dick Frey WA2AAU and Fred Lass K2TR, ascended Mt. Greylock in western Massachusetts and operated in the September VHF Contest in a collaborative effort with the Berkshire Hilltoppers. When the two groups joined forces, the Hilltoppers 6 and 2-meter equipment was augmented by RPI's 220, 432 and 1296 MHz equipment and operated as a group under the call of W1KZS. The following year, June of 1970, the joint operation took place on Mt. Greylock under the call sign of WA1MUG. At this time the FCC required the use of the portable designator or /1 to be added to the callsign if a station was operating away from its licensed address. As the case was, W2SZ would have had to sign W2SZ/1 where WA1MUG was already amended for a station license located at the top of Mt. Greylock, eliminating the need for a portable designator.

The Dawn of W2SZ/1

In the following years, the WA1MUG group grew and performed very well in contests. Around 1973 Dick Frey, then WB2BXP, undertook a project to build a replacement 1296 station for the group, rather than continuing to borrow the equipment lent graciously by W1WID. Dick based his design on a 440MHz 2-way FM Progress line transmitter strip, utilizing a tripler to generate 1296MHz. This configuration produced about 10-20 Watts at 1296 MHz. A few years later, the output was increased to about 100 watts with an additional PA. After the September 1975 VHF contest, the original group of WA1MUG contesters decided that it was time to part ways as there seemed to be little new challenge to the contests. With the group having almost disintegrated, Dick Frey approached several members of the RPI radio club and built support for a contest operation on Greylock. The next June, Dick Frey, Bob Olson WA1NWG, Dave Cipolle WA1UGE (now W1SZ) and Don Huntington K1DH operated from Greylock. This contest marked the first time W2SZ/1 was used, now the call is recognized as one of the most successful VHF contesting groups in recent history. However, it always was not that way...

Zed and the Art of Microwave Mobile Maintenance

In the late 1970s, as W2SZ/1 was rebuilding the team, W1DC (sometimes W1FC) dominated VHF contesting. W1DC operated from Pack Monadnoch near Peterborough, NH with many members employed by Microwave Associates. They introduced the idea of microwave portable stations, and sent those microwave stations to many nearby sections. (In those days, the contest used ARRL sections, not grids. Also, you could work a station from only 1 QTH (grid)... there was no provision for moving from QTH (grid) to QTH (grid) as rovers do now.) With that approach, they just killed THE COMPETITION (everyone) with sections no one else could work. In the early 1980s, W2SZ/1 began building our own set of microwave portable stations to counter W1DC. When completed around June of 1981, W2SZ/1 shifted the balance of power and once again began winning contests. The introduction of microwave portable stations is considered by many to be the groundwork for the modern day Rover operation. With the large size of the two groups and the ability to make many microwave portable stations, it seemed nearly impossible for other stations to compete and have an opportunity to beat W2SZ or W1DC based on the limited resources other stations had in comparison. In the following years, smaller stations began to lobby the League to create a class of station that could operate from more than one ARRL section (now grid square) with the same call. This competition between W2SZ and W1DC was one of the many factors considered by the League, which led to the creation of the modern Rover category. In the following years, W1DC eventually stopped contesting, but many other groups have formed and have not only provided excellent competition but have been instrumental in advancing communications technology in general.

MGEF Today

W2SZ/1, our present call, is currently recognized as being associated with one of the most successful efforts in recent VHF/UHF contesting history. How did we get that way? Since the 1970's, the MGEF group has seen considerable growth and change. Initially, the group was comprised primarily of people associated with RPI and RPI Alumni. As time passed the core membership of the group grew and became comprised of both RPI and non-RPI affiliated members. Participation in MGEF has always been open to anyone with an interest in VHF/UHF contesting, who is willing to work hard under adverse and less than desirable weather conditions, be available for the contests, and be an integral part of a winning team. In its most recent incarnation, MGEF includes folks from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations. Although the group still has a core of RPI alumni and RPI students, it has grown to include RIT students, communication systems professionals, retired hams, and other enthusiasts. Anyone that has an interest in VHF/UHF contesting would be a fit for the group. The geographic locations from whence the membership hails are also as varied as the members that make it up. The group has members from New York, Vermont, Virginia, Texas, New Hampshire, Colorado, Massachusetts, Connecticut and more! The group has even recently had guest operators from Europe!

The Secret to our Success...

Perhaps the largest contributing factor in MGEF's growth and success is the group's strong commitment to the advancement of VHF/UHF/SHF communications technology. The group prides itself in its technical knowledge and skills, resulting in many ground breaking firsts on the VHF/UHF+ bands. Another significant accomplishment for the group is that a majority of the equipment that is used in the MGEF operation has been "home brewed" by our members! MGEF also prides itself in supporting other amateurs in the community who share a common interest in VHF/UHF operation. Numerous amateurs who have shown an interest, whether they wish to become members of the group or not, have received the assistance of MGEF in the effort to promote the advancement of VHF/UHF+ technology. Many of the folks that have been "elmered" with the help of MGEF and now have very impressive VHF/UHF home and rover stations. In the end, MGEF is always looking for new ways to push the technical envelope and break new boundaries for the advancement of Amateur Radio. The secret to our success is nothing more than HARD WORK! It is that simple! We have no secrets despite the beliefs of many others.

So, What Does MGEF Do?

As you explore the MGEF web page you will see many notable accomplishments of the group such as:

  • being the first group to break the 1 million point mark in a VHF contest (June 1995)
  • breaking of the 2.5 million mark in June of 2002 and the 3 million mark in the September 2001 contest
  • Claiming VUCC #1 for 3, 5, 10, 24, 47, 75, 122, 145 and 241 GHz
  • North American and Wold distance records for 122, 145 and 241GHz.

These accomplishments are examples that reflect the skill, knowledge, dedication, hard work and relentless pursuit of excellence that our members embody.

We hope you enjoy our web page and welcome any comments and questions.

73 de The Members of the Mount Greylock Expeditionary Force