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South Jersey

Monday, April 2, 2001

Volunteers restoring USS New Jersey's communications system

Courier-Post Staff

A historic battleship that once roamed the seas will soon establish worldwide contact again.

When the USS New Jersey was at sea, one of the general orders heard over the public address system was "All hands on deck."

The new cry on board will be "All hams on deck!"

Instead of sailors sending radio transmissions to other ships at sea, amateur ham radio operators will air that greeting in a worldwide broadcast from the deck of the retired battleship at a dock where it is undergoing restoration. The first broadcast is set for the Memorial Day weekend.

The recently established Battleship New Jersey Amateur Radio Station is one of two communications projects under way aboard the historic warship, which is being refurbished for a planned Sept. 2 opening as a floating museum.

"We love this. We hope to run an amateur station regularly once the ship opens as a museum and give tours of Radio Central - the ship's main radio room," said Peter Greene of Marlton, president of the New Jersey's amateur radio club and a lead engineer with L3 Communications of Camden.

The ham radio call sign will be NJ2BB.

The club is one of two radio projects under way on the battleship. The other involves the repair of all internal communications systems aboard ship.

L3 Communications, a defense contractor, is sponsoring both projects as a corporate gesture to the community. It is coordinating those efforts with the Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit group restoring the ship.

Engineers and others from L3 and Lockheed Martin of Moorestown already have some of the ship's internal public address system working.

Mayling Eaves, spokeswoman for L3, said the firm has given the club $1,000 to print brochures and is considering a corporate contribution to help restore the ship's main radio room.

"Our engineers have worked on Navy communications projects for more than than 50 years and we're so happy the ship has come," she said. "It is a perfect fit for us."

Alliance Executive Director Thomas Seigenthaler said the radio group is doing a "super job."

"The main interior communication system shipwide (a public address system) has been activated in several areas, allowing us to make some announcements, and some of the other systems have been partially activated also," he said.

Engineers such as Greene and John Saracen of Mount Holly have been busy studying the wiring system and reconnecting wires and screws, a tedious job that must be done with hand tools.

"The Navy intentionally cut much of the wiring that controls radio and public address communications on the New Jersey during deactivation so that it could not be used or misused," Greene said.

He said his group sought help from Dynalec of Sodus, N. Y., the builder of some of the original communications equipment. "They sent us their manual, which saved us hours and hours of work," Greene said.

John Goheen, a Lockheed Martin engineer who integrates combat systems for Aegis class naval destroyers, volunteers on the New Jersey on Saturdays.

Goheen pointed to a short-wave radio receiver to illustrate what has to be done. "We are working to locate replacement parts for ones that have been pulled out," he said.

He views the work needed to bring the ship back to life as a challenge.

"I'm dedicated to it," he said. "My wife refers to her as the `other woman.'"

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