RRI advice use of (Winlink) Radiogram-ICS213 Template

By | September 8, 2020
Hello Everyone:

We had planned to wait a while before announcing this, as the project is still in the beta testing phase, but due to some inquiries being received, we should probably take a moment to introduce the new Winlink "Radiogram-ICS213 Template."

As most of you probably know, a couple of years ago, Radio Relay International worked with the Winlink Development Team to develop the "RRI Radiogram" template.  This template is part of the forms package in the Winlink program, which allows an inexperienced operator to format an operationally correct radiogram.  The operator is prompted for each field and the software prohibits unauthorized formatting.  For example, it forces "all caps," prohibits unauthorized punctuation, substitutes proper prowords the "@" in emails, automatically calculates the "check" (group count), and so forth.  This ensures that a radiogram originated via Winlink can pass into the traffic system with full compatibility (interoperability) for digital, voice, or CW nets.

As an example of how this works; yesterday, I relayed eight radiograms into Region 8, all of which were unique content (not bulk traffic).  One was from a gentleman in Puerto Rico congratulating his son on his recent graduation and future studies in biochemistry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  The addressee was very happy to receive the radiogram just a few hours after it originated and a reply message went into Cycle 4 via CW last night.  Others included "radiogram QSLs." which we have promoted in the "QNI Newsletter" and four messages addressed to ARRL emergency coordinators in Ohio.

RRI has also worked closely with the Winlink Development Team to develop appropriate gateways into the Digital Traffic System and manual mode nets to support interoperability.  This recognizes one of the advantages of the traffic system, which is the multiple delivery options and the improvisation available in a manual mode "last mile" routing and delivery process, as well as the ability to distribute traffic load to multiple delivery points, such as in the case of quantities of welfare messages from a disaster area.

Not long after the development of the RRI-Radiogram, Steve Hansen (KB1TCE) and the Winlink Development Team began working on a prototype Radiogram-ICS213 message that mirrors the Radiogram-ICS213 Forms 1701 through 1704 available on the RRI web page.  We set it on the back burner for a year or more to deal with more pressing matters, but with the pending Army MARS exercise, it was decided to accelerate the process and release the product.  It is now being beta tested by Army MARS personnel in advance of a forthcoming interoperability exercise with the traffic system.

There is really very little difference between the existing RRI Radiogrram template and the RRI Radiogram-ICS213 template.  The primary difference is that the latter template cues the operator to incorporate the required/optional fields specified in the NIMS ICS213 standard into the address and signature of the message.  The sequence between text and signature is reversed in the digital message to match that of the typical "general message" forms used in the EOC environment.

Conversion is simple and can be done "on the fly" during a traffic net or at time of delivery with no confusion.  All of the radiogram network management data is retained.

Obviously, the standard RRI-Radiogram Template should be used for most originations, whereas the Radiogram-ICS213 is intended primarily for agency/operational messages during disaster exercises or actual operations.  However, for our Digital Traffic Stations or Winlink-RRI Liaison stations who may encounter some of these messages, it is important that you understand the nuances.

In October, there will likely be an Army MARS interoperability exercise in which some Radiogram-ICS213 messages are injected into the traffic system.  The details have not been worked out yet, but active traffic operators may want to be familiar with the very simple conversion process to and from standard radiogram.  There's really nothing to it!  

Here is a document that gives three examples:

1. A Winlink-RRI Radiogram-ICS213 as originated and transferred by Winlink into the traffic system.
2. A Winlink-RRI Radiogram-ICS213 as converted to standard radiogram sequence.
3. A Winlink-RRI Radiogram-ICS213 (hard copy) as delivered to a served agency.

Also included are some tips on formatting official agency messages and problems to avoid.  Here is a link to the document:    http://radio-relay.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Instructions-for-Radiogram-ICS213-Relay-and-Delivery-2020-9-5.pdf

Again, please remember that the Winlink RRI Radiogram-ICS213 template is still in the beta testing stage.  Some small changes may be forthcoming.  Likewise, please also remember that the standard RRI-Radiogram template remains preferable for most purposes, such as routine and welfare messages, and either Winlink template and the traffic transfer arrangement are not substitutes for the normal Digital Traffic Net DTS function nor the usual cycle or nets, but rather another "tool in the tool box."  

There will be more forthcoming on this, but we wanted the traffic community to get a "heads-up" in case further questions arise.