07 November 2020

Smart Book

In the Army we had smart books for everything. A 'smart book' is nothing more than a highly condensed set of instructions or references a Soldier needs to do a particular task. We had smart books for inspectons, for combat operations, for vehicle maintenance, for barracks cleanliness. for change-of-command ceremonies. Heck, we even had smart books that told you how to make a smart book. No joke.

For years while assigned to 18th Airborne Corps and the 1st Cavalry Division I carried a smart book in my BDU cargo pocket that contained all refrences I might need to give impromptu briefings on garden spots such as North Korea and Iraq. Old habits are hard to break, and when I got serious about portable radio operations I decided I needed to put to gether a smart book that held important references for things like radio configuration settings, frequency allocations, net scripts, band plans, operating schedules, etc. 

If you are having difficulty conceptualizing what a smart book should be, the best examples I can give are the National Interoperability Field Operations Guide (NIFOG) and the companion Auxillary Communications Field Operations Guide (AUXFOG), both put out by the Department of Homeland Security. Small, compact, stripped of fluff, but stuffed full of useful information in a logical and easy-to-use format. The NIFOG and AUXFOG are smart books extrodinaire. Sadly, both of these publications are no longer printed by the US Government Printing Office and are only available in digital or PDF formats - not much use in a grid-down scenario. 

My smart book is far less polished, but just as useful. In keeping with the military theme, I use surplus Flight Crew Checklist books, which are simple ring binders with clear sleeves sized to hold 5" x 7" index cards (after you do just a wee bit of trimming). Nothing fancy here - the idea is you develop and add your own content to meet your specific needs. 

Our unit supply guys would buy these by the dozens and hand them out as needed, so I managed to leave the Army with a few spares. But, they are still easy to find from on-line sources like aviation supply houses and eBay. The books are about 6" x 8" and the thickness is determined by the number of pages you add. They are not 'pocket sized', but are a good compromise between portability and usefullness. The idea is, you scribble or tape your important information to 5" x 7" cards, slip them into the clear sleeves and there you have it - a personalized smartbook!

I actually use two smart books, one for Amateur Radio/ARES operations, and a separate one for Army MARS operations. The smart books sits at my operating position in my shack and are heavily referenced almost every day for things like radio settings and net schedules. Highly recommended.

W8BYH out

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