Charleston and Columbia Road Trip Radio Report and Visits to Patriots Point and the Riverbanks Zoo; 29/30 November 2021

On Monday and Tuesday, I took my last overnight road trip of 2021, visiting Patriot’s Point in Charleston, SC and the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC.

Amateur Radio

Both Charleston and Columbia have active amateur radio communities and are well covered by amateur radio repeaters, so there’s no shortage of something to listen to or use for hams visiting either city. I-26 between the two cities is also well covered by repeaters, so you’re in range of at least one while driving between the two. Additionally, many of them are linked via a variety of systems, so you’ll hear hams from throughout the Lowcountry, other parts of South Carolina, and North Carolina depending on what repeater you’re using. On this trip, I actually did some transmitting instead of just listening to amateur radio. On the way to Charleston on Monday morning, while between Beaufort and Charleston on US-17, I talked to W1SRR near Orlando on the 145.480- (KL4LNJ-C) DStar repeater in Green Pond, SC. Later on Monday, I did something I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while. I took the Anytone AT-D878UV on board the USS Yorktown (CV-10) at Patriot’s Point and had a QSO through the 146.790- (PL 123.0) repeater that’s on board the ship. I talked to KK4WWJ and N2OBS for a few minutes and picked up some information about the linked repeaters while talking to them. Later in the day, after settling in at the hotel in Columbia, I used the 440.6125+ (CC1) Downtown Columbia Repeater to talk to KO4MOU in Augusta, GA on the PRN talkgroup and got some good information on amateur radio DMR in Augusta for the next time I visit there.

While on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown (CV-10) at Patriots Point in Charleston, I talked to KK4WWJ and N4OBS on the 146.790- (PL 123.0) repeater which is located on the ship.

Below is a list of the repeaters that I heard active during my trip. As you can see, whether you just use analog or like to use DStar or DMR as well, there are plenty of choices in both areas. The route I took to Charleston was I-95 and US-17 and it was well covered by amateur radio repeaters. As I mentioned above, so is I-26 from Charleston to Columbia. On US-321, which I used to drive back to Savannah from Columbia, there are gaps in repeater coverage, becoming more prevalent the farther south you go.

145.1300 (PL 88.5) - Beaufort
145.4500 (PL 123.0) - Charleston
145.4800 (DStar - KJ4LNJ-C) - Green Pond
146.6700 (PL 156.7) - St Matthews
146.6700 (PL 156.7) - St. Matthews
146.7300 (PL 123.0) - North Charleston 
146.7450 (DCS 315) - Little Mountain
146.7600 (PL 123.0) - Charleston
146.7900 (PL 123.0) - Charleston, USS Yorktown
146.8650 (PL 123.0) - Ladson
146.9100 (PL 156.7) - Whitehall
146.9400 (PL 123.0) - Knightsville
146.9850 (PL 123.0) - Summerville
147.0450 (PL 103.5) - St George
147.0600 (DCS 315) - Wedgefield
147.2700 (PL 123.0) - Jedburg
147.3300 (PL 156.7) - Columbia
440.6125 (DMR CC1) - Columbia (Downtown)
441.5750 (PL 123.0) - Charleston
442.4625 (DMR CC1) - North Charleston
442.8750 (DCS 315) - Columbia
443.5000 (DStar - AK2H-B) - Leesville
443.6500 (DCS 315) - Blythewood 
444.8750 (PL 91.5) - Columbia
Portable monitoring from the hotel room – from left to right: Anytone AT-878, Whistler TRX-1, Uniden BC125AT, BCD325P2, and BCD436HP. There’s also a Mode-S/ADS-B dongle behind the laptop.

MilCom and Aviation

There was plenty of MilCom activity to listen on this trip. Last week and the weekend were the Thanksgiving holiday, so the military was getting back into its training routine on Monday. Although I didn’t hear as much as I expected from the Charleston based C-17s, I did hear a good bit from the Shaw AFB and McEntire JNGB based F-16s. Notable catches from the two days’ listening were a United Arab Emirates C-17 going into Joint Base Charleston and some VFC-12 F/A-18s going into MCAS Beaufort. A curious catch from while I was in Charleston was DEVIL 01 flight; they sounded like a flight of USN MH-60Rs or MH-60Ss, but I wasn’t able to ID them (it’s been suggested that they could have been from VX-31).

While I was in Charleston, I let the Whistler TRX-2 in the car record and log traffic on the USAF (57) TRS that is used by Joint Base Charleston and Naval Support Activity Charleston. It recorded something quite interesting that I hadn’t heard on previous trips: what seems like a patch between a Charleston County fire dispatch talkgroup from the Palmetto 800 TRS and a USAF (57) TRS talkgroup. TG 986 was traffic from Charleston County’s automated dispatch system. Since it was recorded traffic, I wasn’t able to figure out which Palmetto 800 talkgroup it was coming from so that will be something to look for on the next trip to Charleston.

MCAS Beaufort
125.125/292.125/123.700/269.125 - App/Dep    

AMBUSH 4# (F/A-18, VFC-12)

USMC TRS (MCAS Beaufort & MCRD Parris Island sites)
 TG 1432 - MCAS Beaufort/MCRD PI Unknown; enc
 TG 2401 - MCAS Beaufort/MCRD PI Unknown; enc

Joint Base Charleston/Charleston IAP
126.000/239.000 - Joint Base Charleston/Charleston IAP Tower
134.100/349.400 - "PALMETTO OPS"

BRONZE 04 (C-17A, 95-0102, 300th AS)
UAF 1226 (C-17A, 1224, United Arab Emirates AF)

USAF (57) TRS (NSA Charleston site)
 TG 751 - JB Charleston FD Dispatch?
 TG 752 - JB Charleston FD Tac 1?; enc/unenc
 TG 753 - JB Charleston FD Tac 2?; enc/unenc
 TG 860 - JB Charleston Police 1; enc
 TG 862 - JB Charleston Police 3; enc/unenc
 TG 881 - NSA Charelston Unknown; unenc
 TG 884 - Unknown; enc
 TG 887 - Unknown; enc
 TG 920 - Naval Nuclear Power Training Command; unenc
 TG 950 - NSA Charleston Unknown
 TG 951 - Unknown; enc
 TG 954 - Unknown; enc/unenc
 TG 966 - Unknown Maintenance
 TG 984 - Unknown; unenc
 TG 986 - Patch to Charleston County FD Dispatch?

Shaw AFB
125.400/318.100 - Shaw AFB TRACON
273.700 - 77th FS Ops "GAMBLER OPS"
262.000 - 77th FS Air-to-Air
274.875 - 77th FS Air-to-Air
314.100 - 77th FS Air-to-Air
320.525 - 79th FS Ops "TIGER OPS"
276.150 - 79th FS Air-to-Air
299.300 - 79th FS Air-to-Air

SLOT (F-16CM, 77th FS)
JAGGER (F-16CM, 79th FS)
BENGAL (F-16CM, 79th FS)
STORMY (F-16CM, 79th FS)
UNRULY (F-16CM, 79th FS)

Columbia/McEntire JNGB
132.400/253.500 - McEntire JNGB Tower
119.500/257.800 - Columbia Metro Airport Tower
124.150/133.400/285.600/338.200 - Columbia TRACON
120.475/235.775 - North Field CCT
298.300 - 169th FW/157th FS Ops  "SWAMP FOX OPS"
141.825 - 169th FW/157th FS V14
140.125 - 169th FW/157th FS V15

MACE 1# (F-16CM, 157th FS)
VIPER 2# (F-16CM, 157th FS)
EPIC 31 (C-17A, 90-0532, 145th AW)

Fort Jackson
US Army TRS (Ft Jackson sites)
 TG 577 - Fort Jackson Unknown; enc
 TG 612 - Fort Jackson Unknown; keyup no audio
 TG 737 - Fort Jackson Range Control; unenc
 TG 780 - Fort Jackson Central Issue (per RadioReference)

Ranges/Op Areas
264.700 - Poinsett Range Control
343.750 - Bulldog MOA Discrete
127.725/228.750 - Doubleshot Primary
258.400 - Doubleshot Discrete
279.725 - Doubleshot Discrete

Aerial Refueling
324.600 - AR-207

BRONZE 04 (C-17A, 95-0102, 300th AS)
TOPCAT 05 (KC-135R, 62-3544, 108th Wing)

269.550/124.700 - Jax Center Columbia Low
278.300/134.975 - Jax Center Ridgeway Ultra High
281.550 - Jax Center Georgetown High
317.550/134.375 - Jax Center Charleston Low
319.200/127.875 - Jax Center Aiken High
354.075/120.125 - Jax Center Knemo Ultra High
363.200/132.925 - Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low
370.950/133.625 - Jax Center Georgetown High
307.050/126.425 - Atlanta Center Dublin High
322.325/128.100 - Atlanta Center Augusta Low

CIGAR 13/14 (KC-135R, 62-3498/57-1502, 6th AMW/927th ARW)
DEVIL 01 flight (T-34C, SFWSL); 246.900 a2a
PAT 461 (C-12V, 95-00088, 6-52nd)
RANGER 41 flight (KC-130J, 169018/168073/166473, VMGR-234)
REACH 509 (C-17A, 00-0177, 105th AW)
SHADY 33 (MC-12S-2, 09-00642, 224th MI Bn)


Charleston, being a coastal and port city as well as home to Coast Guard Sector Charleston, has plenty of US Coast Guard activity. Unfortunately, much of it is encrypted on their P25 VHF and UHF frequencies, but there is still some activity in clear on occasion as well as unencrypted traffic on Marine VHF frequencies.

156.800 - Marine VHF Ch 16
157.050 - Marine VHF Ch 1021
157.100 - Marine VHF Ch 1022

171.2375 ($293) - CG 127, Sector Charleston; enc/unenc
413.0000 ($293) - CG 410, Sector Charleston Air Ops; enc/unenc

Public Safety

The vast majority of the public safety communications in the Charleston and Columbia areas is on the 700/800 MHz Palmetto 800 P25 TRS. There are still some county agencies using VHF and some state agencies still use VHF as well, but for the most part – if you want to listen to public safety – you’re going to need a digital trunking capable scanner.

159.4050 (DCS 155) - SC Forestry Cottageville
159.3300 (DCS 271) - SC Forestry Lake Murray

155.6250 (PL 91.5) - Orangeburg County FD Central Dispatch

Palmetto 800 P25 TRS
 TG 704 - Beaufort County FD Dispatch 1
 TG 1040 - Berkeley County FD/EMS Dispatch
 TG 1045 - Berkeley County FD/EMS Incident 4
 TG 1078 - Berkeley County FD/EMS Ops
 TG 1398 - Goose Creek FD Dispatch (Berkeley Co)
 TG 1399 - Goose Creek FD Fireground 1 (Berkeley Co)
 TG 1413 - Hanahan FD (Berkeley Co)
 TG 1575 - Charleston County FD Rescue Dispatch
 TG 1577 - Charleston County FD Rescue Talk
 TG 1628 - Charleston County Incident 7
 TG 1721 - Mt Pleasant FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1771 - St Paul FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1805 - North Charleston FD Ops (Charleston County)
 TG 1851 - Isle of Palms FD Ops (Charleston County)
 TG 1871 - Sullivans Island FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1893 - St Johns FD Training (Charleston County)
 TG 2030 - Charleston FD 1 Ops
 TG 2049 - Johns Island/St Johns FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 2051 - Charleston County FD/EMS Dispatch
 TG 2057 - Charleston County Incident 4
 TG 2066 - Charleston County FDs Ops A
 TG 4141 - Dorchester County FD Incident 2
 TG 4141 - Dorchester County Incident 2
 TG 4165 - Dorchester County FD Dispatch
 TG 4166 - Dorchester County FD Incident 1
 TG 4360 - Summerville FD Ops 1 (Dorchester Co)
 TG 4365 - Summerville FD Dispatch (Dorchester Co)
 TG 4410 - Dorchester County Incident 7
 TG 6541 - Jasper County FD Dispatch
 TG 10394 - Meducare Helicopter Flight Control
 TG 20022 - SC Regional Government 1
 TG 23541 - Kershaw County FD Dispatch
 TG 24531 - Lexington County FS Ops 1
 TG 24532 - Lexington County FS Ops 2
 TG 24536 - Lexington County FS Ops 6
 TG 24542 - Lexington County FS Dispatch
 TG 24566 - Lexington County EMS Dispatch
 TG 25053 - Orangeburg County FD Dispatch
 TG 25057 - Orangeburg County FD Page
 TG 25552 - Columbia FD Dispatch
 TG 25553 - Columbia FD Ops 1
 TG 25554 - Columbia FD Ops 2
 TG 25555 - Columbia FD Ops 3
 TG 25556 - Columbia FD Ops 4
 TG 25557 - Columbia FD Ops 5
 TG 25562 - Columbia FD Fire Prevention
 TG 25565 - Richland County EMS 1 Dispatch
 TG 25566 - Richland County EMS 2 Med
 TG 25567 - Richland County EMS 3 Talk
 TG 25569 - Richland County ESD Hazmat/Fire Marshal/Coroner
 TG 26101 - Sumter County FD 1
 TG 27505 - DHEC Hospital Net Main
 TG 28101 - SC EMD Call
 TG 28606 - SC Lifenet to Prisma ERs
 TG 28609 - SC LifeNet (Medevac Helicopter)
 TG 32065 - Hampton Co FD
 TG 51704 - MedTrans SC Helicopters


I also monitored some activity that doesn’t pigeon-hole into the categories above, so I’ve grouped them here. First, Charleston is home to a busy port, so Marine VHF Ch 14 and 13 are busy with port related traffic. Patriots Point is right across the harbor from the South Carolina Aquarium, so the gear picked up communications from it as well. While visiting the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, I also listened to their communications – mostly from the Zoo Ops frequency used by the keepers and veterinary staff.

156.7000 - Marine VHF Ch 14; Charleston Pilots
156.6500 - Marine VHF Ch 13; Charleston Harbor Navigation Safety

451.4000 (DCS 245) - South Carolina Aquarium Admin  
451.6250 (DCS 245) - South Carolina Aquarium Guest Services
452.8750 (DCS 245) - South Carolina Aquarium Aquarists/Vets?    

453.3250 (DCS 071) - Riverbanks Zoo Ops
453.3125 (DCS 051) - Riverbanks Zoo Maintenance
462.5250 (DCS 125) - Riverbanks Zoo Public Safety

Patriots Point in Charleston

On Monday, I visited Patriots Point in Charleston before going to Columbia in the afternoon. I had planned on visiting the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site in Charleston before leaving town, but I spent longer than expected at Patriots Point and decided to put it off until my next visit to Charleston. On this visit to Patriot’s Point, I decided to take the Captain’s Tour of the USS Yorktown for $15. It takes you into several areas of the ship that aren’t on the general admission tours, so it was well worth the admission on this trip.

The Captain’s Tour takes you to several parts of the USS Yorktown that aren’t on the general admission tours. You get to see the fo’c’sle (forecastle), Captain’s quarters, the Captain’s galley, and the Admiral’s galley. Additionally, you get to climb up inside the B-25 Mitchell on the Yorktown’s hangar deck that is used to represent Doolittle’s Raid. On the tour that I took, our guide, Mike, provided plenty of good historical information about the ship and the Pacific Theater of World War II. The tour really is worth the extra $15 and I highly recommend it, particularly if it’s your first time visiting the ship.

Since I’m such an AvGeek, the hangar deck and flight deck of the Yorktown are among my favorite parts of the ship. The hangar deck features well restored examples of the type of aircraft the Yorktown carried during WW2 and the Korean War. On her flight deck are aircraft that operated off of aircraft carriers during the Cold War. There are also some Vietnam War area helicopters on display at Patriots Point’s Vietnam Experience Exhibit.

Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia

Tuesday morning in Columbia started out cold, but it warmed up rapidly once the sun came out and it turned out to be a great day for visiting the Riverbanks Zoo. The skies were clear and the sunlight made for nice photos in the areas out of the shade. I ended up spending three hours at the zoo, a lot of it spent watching the Western Lowland Gorillas. They had just been fed and were spending the morning on the sunlit hillside of their habitat. The kangaroos were also enjoying the warm sunlight, laying out in the sunny spots of their habitat. The lions and rhinos were doing the same. This visit to the Zoo also coincided with a training session for the sea lions and harbor seals; it was fun to see how enthusiastic and into the training the sea lions and seals were.

This was my last overnight road trip for the year and I thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a good opportunity to wind down after a busy and stressful Thanksgiving holiday weekend. My next road trip will be in mid-January when I go back to the Space Coast of Florida; this year I’m hoping to get a chance to the see the Saturn V exhibit at Kennedy Space Center (it was closed due to Covid earlier this year but has since re-opened).

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