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Bob LaRose on Liberia

Recently we posted some material about the Liberian Rural Communications Network. Thanks to Bob LaRose of California who has sent along these comments on the shortwave radio scene in Liberia.

"I was general manager of the communications division of an export management company in New York during the early 1980s, just after Samuel Doe took power, and when the LRCN project was getting conceptualized by USAID. The company also had a broadcast division and they were looking at bidding on the program. I met several of the people that were involved both in the US and when I visited Liberia. I moved to California by the time it went out for bid so I don't know whose equipment and services they ultimately bought. Here is a link to a study about the project that somehow miraculously still survives on the Internet http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pdaav451.pdf.

 "My group sold and installed a VHF-FM communications system for the Liberian government in the major cities and also HF-SSB equipment to provide direct links to communicate between the major cities. While in Liberia I had the chance to visit the VOA, ELBC and ELWA facilities. I've attached surviving pictures that I took at the VOA. It was a first class facility. ELBC was a different story. At that time the SW transmitter was down and the NVIS antenna was in terrible shape. As mentioned in the study, they had intended on using that transmitter to link programs to the rural sites, but I guess they gave up and bought a new 10 kw. SSB transmitter (or maybe used one at VOA?). We drove through the ELWA compound, but for some reason I remember we were in a hurry to get somewhere so, unfortunately, we didn't stop.

"One of the interesting side stories is that our in-country dealer, as a young man, was somehow "discovered" by one of the VOA staff as having an excellent technical capability. I'm foggy on the details, but someone, either the VOA employee or the VOA itself, paid for him to receive technical training in Munich. I'm not sure if part of the deal was for him to go to work for the VOA for a certain number of years, but by the time we linked up he had started his own company to provide local technical training and also act as a dealer and installer for communications equipment. There's no sign of him on the web now, so he may have been caught up in the Civil War that followed.

"It was a big deal when VOA Monrovia came on the air, using transportable 50 kw. units until the station was built. They really put some powerful signals into ECNA, especially on 15445 kHz. Another bit of trivia I remember is that, as far as I can remember, Liberia was the only overseas VOA site with call letters - 5MVA. It was used in the on-the-air ID for some period of time, maybe in the beginning when they were still operating from the transportables."