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Continuing the Legacy of Amateur Radio

06/25/2008

We Amateur Radio enthusiasts already know all about the value, fellowship and gratification of the hobby. But how do we interest other people; how do we continue the legacy of Amateur Radio? And how do we turn interest into passion, into lifelong participation?

One answer is planning and commitment on our part.

Nothing shows the value and fellowship of Amateur Radio like Amateur Radio in action. In early January 2008, a massive wind and rain storm drenched Yolo County, California, knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses. Even the Yolo Red Cross chapter house in Woodland, was dark, without power or phone service and with only spotty cell phone coverage. As the storm continued to reduce the county to a state of emergency, Yolo Red Cross and Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) members Ken Wilson, K6WLS, and Bob Jordan, KI6BZR, quickly set up a radio station and started contacting ARES members to gather information. Yolo Red Cross moved to set up shelters in four locations.

Yolo ARES was asked to provide communications for logistics between the Yolo Red Cross chapter house and the four shelters scattered around the county.

After 4 days, power was restored to most areas and the shelters were closed down. During the shelter operations, a great deal of interest was shown in Amateur Radio. Yolo Red Cross volunteers who had been deployed to Katrina and the Southern California wild fires had seen Amateur Radio working in those places. And now they had seen it working here at home. Many volunteers asked how they could get their license. This was a perfect opportunity to promote Amateur Radio and help interested people become licensed and active participants in the hobby.

In response to this opportunity, Red Cross Resource Technology Coordinator Gary Matteson, WA6TQJ, and Yolo ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator (AEC) Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, developed a three part program for people interested in Amateur Radio. The program required a commitment by existing members of the Amateur Radio fraternity and careful planning involving members from the Yolo Red Cross, Yolo ARES, the Berryessa Amateur Radio Klub and the Yolo Amateur Radio Society.

As the details of the program evolved, Gary and Greg realized that it wasn't enough to expose program participants to the public service aspects of Amateur Radio, to equipment operations, to the fellowship of the hobby. What was needed was a way to keep new operators involved in the lifelong rewards of Amateur Radio after the thrill of licensing. Gary and Greg hit upon the happy idea of pairing new operators with mentors.

The program was presented in three sessions:

1. Introduction

The introductory session was 3 hours. The session had 14 participants and six instructors. The session focused on exposing participants to various aspect of Amateur Radio, providing them with licensing manuals and lists of online resources to study at home.

2. Technician Licensing and VE Testing

The Technician licensing and VE testing session was 8 hours. The session had 20 students, of which 17 passed the technician licensing test. The three who did not pass had not attended the introductory session and only showed up on a whim at the last minute.

3. Operator's Training

The operator's training session was 3 hours. The session had 14 newly licensed Amateur Radio operators. The session focused on hands-on activities and pairing the new operators with mentors from the various radio groups in the area.

The outlines and slides used for the program are available at the Yolo ARES Web site. This three part program worked extremely well. We not only have enthusiastic new Amateur Radio operators in Yolo County, but we have given them the help they need to stay involved in the hobby.

We'd like to thank all the members from Yolo Red Cross, Yolo ARES, the Berryessa Amateur Radio Klub and the Yolo Amateur Radio Society.

Gary Matteson, WA6TQJ, an active Amateur Radio operator for the past 46 years, has a background of Emergency Coordinator, Radio Officer in the County of Yolo, in California. Gary is presently a Net Manager of the Noon Net, a net that coordinates information of interest to the Amateur Radio operators who provide emergency communications for federal, state, county and city governments, and various public service organizations in the greater Sacramento Valley area of California. He is also the Resource Technology Coordinator for the Yolo/Lake County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT, an elementary school teacher for the Travis Unified School District and Assistant Emergency Coordinator for ARES, was instrumental in preparing the class plans for the Introduction and Operator Training classes. He was also a VE for the cram/test portion of the series.

All photos courtesy of Gary Matteson, WA6TQJ

Gary Matteson, WA6TQJ, and Greg Kruckewitt, KG6SJT



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