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Scott Redd, K0DQ: The Biggest Gun of All

08/06/2009

Vice Admiral John Scott Redd, K0DQ (US Navy, retired) has, throughout his 36 year military career, helped to make the world a safer place. From postings in Uruguay to Iraq to serving as Commander of the Navy's Fifth Fleet as a naval officer, to becoming Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Redd has served his country with distinction. Earlier this year, President George W. Bush presented him with the National Security Medal in a White House ceremony for "his more than 40 years of exceptional service to the Nation, strengthening its intelligence capabilities and improving national security." President Bush called Redd "an innovator, a strategic thinker, an inspirational leader and a dedicated servant to the Nation, respected for his vision, courage and integrity." But intermingled in his Navy career was Amateur Radio. This year, Redd, an active DXer and contester, became the first person ever to win all six of the major HF contests: The ARRL International DX Contests (SSB and CW), the CQ World Wide Contests (SSB and CW) and the CQ Worked All Prefix (WPX) Contests (SSB and CW).

"Ham radio was my 'Internet' in the 1950s," he told the ARRL. "Growing up in a very small town (Sydney, Iowa, population 1000), ham radio was my window on the world that generated an interest in far-away places and a vision to do something beyond my home town. That turned out to be the US Navy, via the US Naval Academy. That changed my life. The Navy is a technological service and virtually everything in the military has a technical dimension. Electricity, electronics and especially, the electromagnetic spectrum, were key aspects of most of my seagoing tours and, indeed, even my later policy assignments. Being comfortable with technology -- having built kits, antennas and the like -- and being zapped with 110 ac more than a few times -- gave me a leg up."

Redd started out in 1954 as a DXer as K(N)0DQI; he had earned DXCC by the time he turned 13, "which I audaciously proclaimed on my QSL cards as the youngest in the world (no one ever objected!)," he quipped. "Climbing the DXCC Honor Roll died as a dream when I went to the Naval Academy in 1962, so the logical thing was to turn to DX contesting. I operated contests as a multi-operator from W3ADO for four years then, as CX2CO in 1967 for CQWW in Uruguay as a Fulbright Scholar. That was my first World Championship, competing in the M/S [multi-operator/single transmitter] category; that was also my last multi-operator experience."

In the early 1970s, Redd was on assignment at the Mexican Naval Academy. While there, he was "contesting consistently as XE1IIJ (with a number of aliases, including 6D1AA, 4C5AA and 6J9AA). In the 1971/2 contest season, I managed to win four of the five major contests: Both modes of ARRL DX, CQWW Phone and WPX SSB (there was no WPX CW in those days). I placed third in the world in CQWW CW. That set me on a personal quest to win all five (later six) of the major DX contests."

Redd pointed out that one of his many contesting highlights was working 10,000 QSOs in the 1973 ARRL International DX Phone Contest: "This was before 5BDXCC and 10 meter Novice phone and it was the first time that had been done -- it was also the last time I did a phone contest to any useful effect. I think that stands as the all time two weekend ARRL DX phone record (it's sort of like Babe Ruth's home run record -- it gets an asterisk)."

As his naval career progressed, he didn't have the chance to contest as much as he had before, "other than occasional contests from Lenny Chertok's W3GRF (now a Silent Key), QTH. Most were Top 10 finishes, but I only won the US once -- the ARRL DX CW in 1986. My next contesting opportunity was A92Q in 1995 when I was the Fifth Fleet Commander, homeported in Bahrain. By that time, there was a CW WPX and that contest was my first contest in almost a decade (and the first one using a computer to log)."

Six years later, after Redd retired, Jim Neiger, N6TJ, introduced him to Jacky Oduber, P43P, and "goaded me into going down to Aruba," he told the ARRL. "My first contest from Aruba was CQWW CW in 2001 as P40Q. I would classify this as a 're-learning experience,' but it resulted in a #5 finish in SOABHP [single operator, all band, high power]. Seven months later, I went back to Jacky's for WPX CW and won the World SOABHP as P41P. So I had now won the World in the SOAB category in five out of six of the majors, but I was still missing a CQWW CW win for the Grand Slam."

Calling the 2002 CQWW CW the "Year of Aruba" -- the three top scores in the contest came from there -- Scott placed second. "In 2003, I was going back into government and preparing to go to Iraq, so there was no contesting," he recounted. "In 2004, I headed back to Aruba for the CQWW CW, but I came up short as #3 WW in SOABHP. In spring of 2005 -- just after having been nominated by President Bush to be Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) -- I went back to Aruba and won CQ WPX CW in the Low Power category; I barely missed the SOAB LP all-time record. In the process, I found out I enjoyed the LP category. The next three years were completely driven by work at NCTC. I finally got back to contesting almost four years later when P40A's QTH was available for CQWW CW 2008. There were no amplifiers, so I entered SOABLP [single operator, all band, low power]: That resulted in the final piece of the puzzle falling into place."

Jeff Briggs, K1ZM, invited Redd to operate VY2ZM on Prince Edward Island for the ARRL DX CW Contest in February this year. "That was clearly right place (great low band antennas and near Europe) at right time (sunspot minimum), resulting in #1 W/VE, as well as top worldwide SOABHP," he told the ARRL.

"The 'bookends' for ARRL DX are almost four decades apart: The Mexican operations (winning the world on phone and CW in '72 and phone in '73) and, interestingly, winning W/VE from VY2ZM in this year's ARRL DX CW," he said. "That also turns out to have been the top worldwide score. In between, I've probably operated a dozen ARRL DX contests as W3GRF or, more recently, W4RX (or K0DQ from W4RX's station), all near Washington, DC and at great disadvantage to the New Englanders. Most were Top 10, but the only one I won before this year was the 1986 one from W3GRF (Dave, K1ZZ, must have had the flu that weekend, or maybe an ice storm hit New England)."

In 2008, Redd was inducted into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame. The CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame honors those individuals, whether licensed hams or not, who have made significant contributions to Amateur Radio, and those amateurs who have made significant contributions either to Amateur Radio, to their professional careers or to some other aspect of life on our planet.

Redd calls Amateur Radio "a magical hobby, even for me at 64. Although I would certainly have liked to have been more active over the years, absence did make the heart grow fonder and I still get a blast out of contesting, even though I feel like I'm always relearning old lessons which have receded in my subconscious."



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