SATERN’s 30 Year History

It’s amazing to think that ham radio operators have had such a remarkable impact on the world thanks to SATERN (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network). The lives saved, families reunited and vital information relayed by this international fellowship of amateurs are beyond measure. Time and again, these volunteers are often the only link to the outside world during a disaster.

But before there was SATERN, there was SAROF – the Salvationist Amateur Operators Fellowship. Lt. Colonel Carl J. Lindstrom, W9JSF, was the Founder and Coordinator of SAROF.

[Editor Note: Lt.Col. Linstrom was an avid ham radio operator. He also spoke fluent German. He often extended an invitation to other German hams in the U.S. and Germany where, at the time, the publication known as “Die Zietschrift Der Heilsharmee”, (roughly translated as: The Salvation Army Magazine) appealed to amateurs in German – (very roughly translated):

  Amateur radio wanted!
  Lt. Col. Carl J. Lindstrom
  (W9JSF) would like to contact you
  to call on medical soldiers.
  the interested amateur radio are:
  110 Woodland Heights Manor
  Rhinelander, WI 54501 USA
– from the German War Cry October 1985

Carl J. Lindstrom, W9JSF (SK)

The original name of the net was “Salvationist Amateur Radio Operator’s Fellowship”. Years later that was changed to “Salvation Army Radio Operator’s Fellowship”, which seemed an easier acronym for the uninitiated in The Salvation Army fraternity. Colonel Lindstrom was the Community Relations and Development Director for the Central Territory and part of his responsibility was disaster services. He was an avid amateur radio aficionado.

The program began with the common purpose of “Strengthening those bonds of Faith and Common Interest which link us together as Salvationists and Amateur Radio Operators”. While the term “Salvationist” in strict interpretation in The Salvation Army refers to those who are members or soldiers in the organization, in SAROF, it meant all those in The Salvation Army fraternity, including Soldiers, adherents, volunteers, advisory board members, disaster workers, supporters, etc. In short, all those who were interested in The Salvation Army could be part of the world–wide SAROF Net.

As early as December 1959 ham radio operators were joining together to aid others in service with SAROF. This article appeared in "The War Cry":

It was two days before Christmas, several years ago, when Major Carl Lindstrom, Territorial Public Relations Secretary for the Central Territory, U.S.A., received an urgent telephone message. The caller was the father of a missionary stationed in Peru.

His daughter had been on the mission field for six years, and she had not seen her parents during that period. She had written to say that on Christmas Eve she would be in the home of an amateur radio operator in Lima, and she was hopeful that her parents could contact her through a “ham” operator in Chicago.

The parents had heard that Major Lindstrom was a licensed operator. Could he help?

Although he knew neither the call letters of the South American “ham” nor the frequency upon which he would be operating, the Major invited the missionary’s parents to come to his home the following evening.

On Christmas Eve, Major Lindstrom sat in his “ham shack” (the room which houses his amateur radio equipment) and placed a blind call for Lima, Peru. “I put in a CQ, Lima, Peru, on ten meters”, said Major Lindstrom, “then stood by to tune the band.”

Within a matter of moments we heard a Lima, Peru, station calling W9JSF in Chicago. The operator said, “I have Miss Malmstrom here. Do you have her parents there?”

Parents and daughter spoke to each other for more than half an hour. All three parties were enthusiastic in declaring it was the finest Christmas present they had ever had.

This is but one of the warm hearted services which Salvation Army &dlquo;hams” are able to render as a result of their hobby.

Aided in Disaster

In addition, Salvation "hams" have been active participants in amateur radio networks in time of disaster. Last spring when a devastating tornado hit the Colfax area of Northern Wisconsin, Major Lindstrom was instrumental in helping to organize communications for Salvation Army personnel operating in that area. In this effort more than 150 Wisconsin radio amateurs took part, handling health and welfare messages and relaying reports and instructions from the divisional office in Milwaukee.

Note: The 1958 Colfax, Wisconsin tornado outbreak was a deadly tornado outbreak that struck portions of northwestern Wisconsin on June 4, 1958. The tornado started in central Minnesota killed at least 28 people, all in Wisconsin, one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever to have struck the state.

Maj. Pat wrote of SAROF in a special edition of an early version of “The SATERN Ring” which was published initially by Maj. Pat:

“ The early SATERN nets began as an adjunct to SAROF. Harold Gibson, VE3NKU, and Ernie Reid, VE3BIX (now deceased) hung around after the SAROF Net along with Art Evans, KA9KLZ, (now N9KQ, was the first National Net Director of SATERN), and me [WW9E], for the first SATERN net.”

SAROF was active until late in 2016 when it was discontinued and the SATERN International SSB Net extended its’ schedule to include a less formal Saturday session.

June 1988

QSL card from WW9E
Capt. Pat McPherson, WW9E

SATERN is the brainchild of (then) Captain Patrick McPherson, Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) coordinator for central Illinois and Eastern Iowa in the Heartland Division. SATERN’s first network consists of Pat, EDS volunteer Arthur Evans and two Canadian Salvationists. The possibility that the fledgling network could accommodate international emergencies begins to dawn on its founders.

September 1988

Two months after its inception, SATERN’s first international response occurs. Hurricane Gilbert batters the Caribbean for nine days, killing 341 people. Pat and Art work with radio operators in Atlanta and Jamaica to relay information.


Major Pat McPherson is named the Metropolitan Division’s EDS director. Patricia Duce becomes the division’s first radio liaison. A week later, a horrific F5 tornado hits Plainfield, IL, killing 29 people and causing $200 million in damages. The network requires 64 operators daily for 11 days. Other operators get on the air to help the SATERN volunteers.


Art Evans opens the door for SATERN’s evolution into a high–profile global response network by contacting international networks. The Metropolitan Division holds the first of several disaster seminars; SATERN members from across America attend.

The early SATERN nets began as an adjunct to SAROF.


A thousand miles of Mississippi River flooding require a multi-state SATERN network. The SATERN website is launched thanks to a member’s grandson.



SATERN responds to the American Eagle airline crash in Indiana; 68 lives are claimed.


Maj. Pat publishes the Jan–Feb issue of “The SATERN Ring” describing a brief history of SATERN. You can see that issue HERE (PDF CAUTION! 9.4 Mb).  He also published a paper called "Origins Of SATERN" found HERE (PDF 32 Kb). A SATERN operator and canteen are sent to earthquake-stricken Kobe, Japan. Measuring 6.9, the quake is among Japan’s most devastating—5,500 are dead, 26,000 injured. 1997 SATERN responds to the extensive Grand Forks flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota.


Bill Feist, WB8BZH distributing food to survivors in Grand Forks, ND


The Salvation Army, assisted by SATERN, aids recovery of flood victims in the Grand Forks, ND flood disaster. Shown in this photo from that event, is SATERN National Liaison Bill Fiest, WB8BZH distributing food to survivors.


During Hurricane Mitch, the Atlantic’s second deadliest, the FCC designates SATERN’s radio frequency for official emergency use. Honduras and Nicaragua report 11,000 dead and 8,000 missing. SATERN begins using the internet for missing person requests. SATERN is named an official Salvation Army program and receives funding. Major Patrick McPherson is officially appointed national director.



A quake measuring 7.9 strikes Turkey. Over 300 aftershocks leave 14,000 dead and 200,000 homeless. Operator Dick Montgomery, who made the first voice contact into Turkey on another band, asks SATERN if he can help relay information. Dick later joins SATERN and is its Eastern Territory coordinator at that time.


SATERN Called on by HWN

Hurricane Keith was an Atlantic hurricane in October 2000 that caused extensive damage in Central America, especially in Mexico and Belize. It was the fifteenth tropical cyclone, eleventh named storm, and seventh hurricane of the 2000 Atlantic hurricane season. Keith developed as a tropical depression from a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea on September 28. Shortly thereafter, Keith began to rapidly deepen, and peaked as a Category 4 hurricane. Keith then began to meander erratically offshore of Belize, which significantly weakened the storm due to land interaction. By late on October 2, Keith made landfall in Ambergris Caye, Belize as a minimal hurricane. By late on October 5, Keith made its third and final landfall near Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico as a moderately strong Category 1 hurricane.

Much of Belize was declared a disaster area following Hurricane Keith. At the request of the Hurricane Watch Net, the SATERN 20–Meter net went into emergency operation mode. Over a period of the next few days, it handled all relief and health and welfare traffic. When the actual threat had passed, it remained available as needed. All told, SATERN took more than 120 Health and Welfare messages.



The Salvation Army and SATERN were on site April 2001 for a mock vehicle accident. The exercise was staged at the Monrovia Jr/Sr High School in Monrovia, Morgan County, Indiana. The scenario, a simulated head–on collision between two vehicles with underage drinkers, was performed on school grounds before the entire student body, both as a rescue drill and as a graphic reminder to students of the effects of drinking and driving.

Involved in the drill were at least forty emergency personnel: Monroe Township Fire–Rescue, Gregg Township Fire Department, Brown Township Fire Department, Morgan County Sheriff’s Officers, Morgan County K–9 Unit, Indiana State Police, Lifeline Helicopter Service, Morgan County Coroner’s Office, the Morgan County Prosecutor, and eight student “victims”.

The scenario utilized the skills and equipment required in a real–life accident of this magnitude. The Jaws of Life were used to extricate trapped victims; triage was performed on the scene; the Coroner was contacted for dead victims; one victim was to be Lifeline’d to an Indianapolis hospital; a canine drug sweep occurred; and the surviving drunk driver was given a field sobriety test and arrested. Local pastors were called to the scene when witnesses to the accident became distraught.


SATERN at ground zero 2001

SATERN personnel provided radio communications between rescue workers, school personnel, and the Salvation Army canteen, which gave cool drinks and respite from the day’s stresses. This exercise was considered a complete success.

Little did they know how much this would portend coming events.

SATERN springs into action September 11th. Operators coordinate emergency responses, including linking a California blood bank to one near Ground Zero. A SATERN North America Command is set up at Central Territorial Headquarters. Australian and German stations check in to help with “Stand by for America.” SATERN facilitates divisional EDS responses as wildfires engulf portions of Western states. Afterwards, the SATERN Western States Net is established. The National Association for Amateur Radio produces a video narrated by Walter Cronkite highlighting the work of The Salvation Army and SATERN.



Bermuda corps officer and radio operator Major Rick Shirran relays data to SATERN from the midst of Hurricane Fabian. The Metropolitan Division opens a leading-edge EDS facility containing a high-tech communications center for the SATERN North American Command.


SATERN volunteers at a mobile command center during recovery efforts from Hurricane Ivan.


Four hurricanes blast Florida and the Bahamas. SATERN is nationally heralded for its missing person operations (over 1,000 requests). As a Bahamian operator transmits from her docked sailboat, other operators hear the wind howling.

Hurricane Ivan was a large, long–lived, Cape Verde–type hurricane that caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and United States. The cyclone was the ninth named storm, the sixth hurricane and the fourth major hurricane of the active 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Ivan formed in early September, and reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenada as a strong Category 3 storm, heavy damage to Jamaica as a strong Category 4 storm and then Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands and the western tip of Cuba as a Category 5 storm. After peaking in strength, the hurricane moved north–northwest across the Gulf of Mexico to strike Pensacola/Milton, Florida and Alabama as a strong Category 3 storm, causing significant damage. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it progressed northeast and east through the eastern United States, becoming an extratropical cyclone. The remnant low from the storm moved into the western subtropical Atlantic and regenerated into a tropical cyclone, which then moved across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico into Louisiana and Texas, causing minimal damage. Ivan caused an estimated US$18 billion (2004 USD, $23.3 billion 2018 USD) in damages to the United States, making it the seventh costliest hurricane ever to strike the country.


EDS arrives in MS to set up recovery efforts after Katrina.


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast leaving 1,800 dead and $81 billion in damages. International SATERN runs full force for 20 days. Using all available modes of communication, operators save lives during the flooding by directing emergency personnel to people trapped in houses or on rooftops. Over 61,000 missing person requests come in at a rate of 20 per second; amazingly, SATERN locates 25,508 people! Major Pat McPherson comments, “It appeared the entire amateur radio population of the United States pitched in to assist, including 50 operators from the Texas National Guard.” SATERN acquires 600 new members. For the first time, an emergency call sign on a federal frequency is assigned to SATERN.

Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly tropical cyclone that was one of the costliest natural disasters and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. As Katrina made landfall, its front right quadrant, which held the strongest winds, slammed into Gulfport, Mississippi, devastating it.

This hurricane was the costliest US disaster until 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit the United States Gulf Coast. It was the eleventh named storm, the fifth hurricane, and the third major hurricane of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm originated over the Bahamas on August 23 from the interaction between a tropical wave and the remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. Early the following day, the new depression intensified into Tropical Storm Katrina. The cyclone headed generally westward toward Florida and strengthened into a hurricane only two hours before making landfall at Hallandale Beach and Aventura on August 25. After very briefly weakening to a tropical storm, Katrina emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26 and began to rapidly deepen. The storm strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29, in southeast Louisiana.

The storm caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge and levee failure. Severe property damage occurred in coastal areas, such as Mississippi beachfront towns where boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland; water reached 6–12 miles (10–19 km) from the beach. The storm was the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and hurricane Camille in 1969. Overall, at least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods, making it the deadliest United States hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Total property damage was estimated at $108 billion (2005 USD), roughly four times the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 in the United States.


The Department of Homeland Security assigns call signs to three SATERN members: Major Patrick McPherson, Dick Montgomery and Joseph Fratto. With a membership of 3,800 trained operators, SATERN stands ready at a moment’s notice to serve The Salvation Army and the world. Over 40 net meetings are held weekly, along with frequent training classes, which are listened to by thousands more around the globe. – Reprinted from April, 2008 Central Connection


In June of 2011 Maj. Pat retired from his position in SATERN and The Salvation Army. In his absense Maj. Rick Shirran, VE3NUZ assumed the position where he served until 2016.


Sadly, in 2016 our founder, Maj. Pat McPherson went to be with Jesus. His passing was met with mourning from SATERN and The Salvation Army alike. He will be sorely missed.

Late in 2016 Bill Feist, WB8BZH was named as the National SATERN Liaison. Bill created and submitted a new stratagic plan for SATERN. The plan was approved in Dec. 2016 and a national committee was formed to implement it.


Aug. 2017 - The strategic plan implementation committee meets for the first time in a teleconference. Sub-committees were formed to address major points in the strategic plan.

Warren Andreasen (K7CWA), Host Manager and Ken Standard (AD5XJ), WebMaster, begin to revise the website to fulfill one of the goals of the Strategic Plan. began a relaunch in October 2017. Major enhancements were undertaken and a new style was introduced. The WebMaster and Host manager also updated and consolidated much of the hosting equipment and software.

In the National Leadership Counsil meetings, a plan was created to launch a celebration of SATERN 30th anniversary.


January 2018

In celebration of SATERN’s 30–year anniversary, has published a special edition web site with all new pages and new information, not published on before.

June 2019

SATERN logged some 3 days of service during and in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

August 2019

SATERN once again went to Delta II status for Hurricane Dorian.