Quite a bit of new and old ham gear is currently being auctioned by Schulman, including that mentioned above. When I saw the front panel of the KWM-380, I immediately remembered not only the rig, but the interior of the radio room at Pensacola's Corry Station Naval Base and the Submarine Base in Groton CT.
I was at Corry Station in 1984 as a brand new Navy squid, fresh out of boot camp and still saluting anything that moved .
Being a ham got me out of a lot of tedious watchstanding that consisted of this building or that sidewalk being under constant watch, 24/7, by someone pacing back and forth. I did my share of that, at all hours and in all weathers, both in Pensacola and in Groton.
At some point in Pensacola, I noticed a log-periodic array on a tower and asked if the building housed a ham club station. The short conversation went something like this:
"No, it's a MARS station, why do you ask?"
"I'm a ham."
"No, you're a MARS operator."
And so began my very fulfilling watchstanding conversion from guarding buildings to running phone patches for ships at sea.
Pensacola had the KWM-380; Groton had the S-twins and a 30L-something amplifier. Both had fantastic antennas on tall towers.
I could use the stations whenever I wanted, either as a ham or to make MARS phone patches. The stations were managed by retired Chief Radiomen and they were still looking out for their active-duty counterparts at sea - we were "strongly encouraged" to spend more time making phone patches than playing ham radio and everything was logged.
I think this is where I first heard the term "voluntold" as in "I was told to do it, therefore I volunteered".
The phone patches were fulfilling and I didn't have to be voluntold to stay off the ham frequencies too often. I left each session feeling like I'd done something that mattered. Lots of emotions were packed into many of those calls and I was required to hear every word in order to make the T/R transitions between "Overs".
A session would begin with me announcing my callsign (NNN0xxx) on some frequency just below the 20m band, and that I was available for the next hour or two. After a few minutes of this, a ship's radioman would call and give me the heading to which I should point my Yagi. He might mention that he had half a dozen guys who'd like to call home - could I accommodate?
That's why I'm here, buddy!
One by one, I'd call the Stateside phone numbers of the crewman's wife or parents and explain to them who I was and that they'd soon be talking to Billy at sea. Their reactions made the day.
I heard it all: pregnancies, illnesses and I-love-you's by the bushel. Every now and then, a wife or girlfriend would refuse to take the call - I just told the radioman at sea that no one was home to answer the phone.
In all cases, the gratitude was never lacking.
And ironically, it was a way of escaping the Navy for an hour or two - even though I was in uniform, on a military base and talking with Navy personnel there was no character of military regimentation at all - the entirety of those phone patches were emotional and familial in nature. Disconnecting the antennas at the end of a session and going back into the real Navy was often quite a let-down.
Two very different worlds existed on each side of that door to the MARS station.
Yep, that's how I remember Collins gear.