Sending Packet/NTS messages was the easy part
Thanks to our VAPN prototype packet radio system, moving one message to the section manager and ten NTS radiograms towards various recipients was very straight forward. The most complicated part was collecting the message information from folks on field. Once transposed into Outpost PMM messages, sending was simply a matter of pressing the send/receive button on the program. The VAPN prototype had sufficient 2m coverage to easily close the link with our Field Day station using a Slimjim antenna hanging in a tree.
Field Day aftermath – What to do next?
After a week or so I accessed the VAPN system with my laptop to download the latest messages. All eleven messages came in along with a response from our local ARRL section manager.
Message to Section Manager – a breeze
The message to the section manager was composed and sent using the Outpost PMM program. A verbose message, it was sent as a regular SP message type addressed to the manager’s internet email address using BPQ32’s smtp capability. As VAPN currently connects with an outside MX machine, routing directly to the section manager’s email address made good sense. Indeed, the message was on its way through the internet email system minutes after it left our Field Day site. The section manager was quick with a confirming reply ensuring receipt of the bonus points.
Relaying NTS messages onward – a pain
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the NTS radiograms in my inbox. The easiest thing was to handle them myself, but I really wanted to exercise the NTS system to see what it is all about. Since I already had the messages in digital format, I hoped to keep them that way without a voice or CW step. Winlink seemed like the answer.
Request for Winlink/NTS help
Figuring surely there was an NTS operator or two on The Zed, I posted this request for help in the forums under the Technical Forums > General Technical Questions and Answers area. The answers were, as so often is the case on The Zed, useless. I did find an old 2014 forum thread on a Zed lookalike web site that offers a link to someone by the name of Earl showing this…
At least I found an actual, albeit quiet since August 2015, NTS forum. Continuing the search I found various other sites with 20th century web design, many dead links and various tips that hint towards a packet like zipcode@stateinfo address for NTS. So I formatted the ten NTS messages in the Winlink program, sent them and received no errors or acknowledgements. I wasn’t sure what to assume.
The only data point I have is no recipient reported receiving any message. One recipient was my mother, another a newly licensed daughter of one of our club members so confirmation would have made its way back to me. Silence.
If there is a “normal” way to relay NTS messages to the NTS “system” via Winlink, I couldn’t easily find it. Passing the message into the local 2m voice traffic net was an option, but I really wanted to “go digital.” At the end of the day, I forwarded the three messages with email addresses and wrote out the seven remaining messages on NTS radiogram post cards, stamped, and mailed them. Done. The post office even has a nice clean desk and chair to finalize things.