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I'm listening to the 40m band during Field Day and I keep hearing things like "You are THREE ALPHA in Virginia," or "do you hold me ONE ALPHA in Eastern Pennsylvania?", or "you are TWO ALPHA Maine."

I have no idea what they're talking about, can someone please explain?

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First, some background on general amateur radio procedure:

Field Day "is not a contest", but acts a lot like one. In any contest contact, the "exchange" is whatever information is communicated, beyond the call signs of the participants and the procedure of making and confirming the contact.

In many contests, but not Field Day, the exchange is a signal report — telling the other station how well it is being received by the station sending the report. Standard signal reports have 2 digits, or 3 for CW; the best possible report is "59" or "599", respectively.

This is where the phrase "You are", which is appropriate for a signal report but rather backwards in the case of Field Day, comes from — contest operators sticking to their practiced phrases.


In Field Day, the exchange consists of two pieces of information (per rule 5):

  1. The operating class (entry category) of the station transmitting, which consists of:

    • the number of simultaneous transmissions the station is using (essentially the number of radios/operators), and
    • a letter denoting the type of station as defined in the rules.

    For example, "3A" ("three alpha") means that the station has three radios (and probably three or more operators) and that it was set up specifically for Field Day ("must be located in places that are not regular station locations and must not use facilities installed for permanent station use").

  2. The "ARRL / RAC section" in which the station transmitting is located. Here is a list of them; they are generally no bigger than a US state but in many cases subdivide a state. The section is given either as its full name or its abbreviation in the list.

    In your examples, Virginia is one section, but Pennsylvania has two, hence specifying "Eastern Pennsylvania".

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