We have been told by some that amateur radio is a thing of the past. If that is the case, why are nearly 50 people spending three Saturdays in a row learning about amateur radio at Post 187 in Wake Forest, N.C.?
The American Legion Amateur Radio Club of Post 187, with the cooperation of the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club and the Occoneechee Amateur Radio Society, is in the middle of a Technician licensing class. Next week is the last class and the exam.
The exam will be given by the local Laurel VEC group, and there is no cost for either the class or the FCC exam. The ringleader of this class is Chris Cancilla, W4CEC, who is the primary instructor. According to Cancilla, “Today is field day. What that means to me is my instructors will be having fun on the air and I am here trying to make new operators.”
When asked why there were so few instructors in attendance. “Last week, we had half a dozen instructors who cycled through the modules.” Cancilla continued. “This week they were forced to listen to me all day. Thank goodness one of the participating parents, Kris Zeek, KD7ZOT, felt comfortable enough to step in and assist in giving my knees and my voice a rest, not to mention bringing a new instructor into the course.”
Most of the class wants to get their amateur radio license so they can use it while camping with their Scout troop or Venture crew. A few want to get involved with their area REACT or ARES teams, but a couple of the younger ones are looking to get on the air. A father and his three children are in the class. The son is with a Boy Scout troop, and as of Feb. 1 his sister will be joining him in the troop. The other sister is a Webelos Scout who will soon cross over to the troop, where the father is an active member. Good thing too. Starting Feb. 1, young women are permitted to take merit badges.
This means that all of the Scouts in the class will complete their Radio Merit Badge and receive a signed blue card for their effort. A signed blue card is the completion certificate for any merit badge. At Post 187 there are several members of the post who are members of TALARC and members of the Scouting community and Merit Badge counselors. This is a good thing. Scouts wait for a while to take this class, because they are few and far between. TALARC 187 hosts a Radio Merit Badge class three times a year at the post, one of which is the Technician licensing class being held now.
Last class the Scouts were able to speak over a repeater to Scouts at Camp Durant in Carthage, N.C. The Occoneechee Camp is roughly an hour away from Wake Forest. Utilizing the Carolina 400 network, an interlinked repeater system, was valuable to demonstrate the service and value amateur radio provides to the community.
The last step for this class – which lasts three consecutive Saturdays – is the FCC licensing exam. It will be hosted by the Laurel VEC in the area. Several members of TALARC 187 are also registered VEs with Laurel and the ARRL. One of the students was very happy about the test, as Laurel does not charge a fee for testing, so the class and the exam are both 100 percent free.
After the test is completed, the Scouts and I will embark on the last piece of the Merit Badge puzzle, ARDF. Amateur Radio Direction Finding is a valuable skill to locate all types of interference, and with the use of a MicroFOX owned by the TALARC Post 187 club, and a directional antenna made from an old steel tape measure and PVC pipes, they will find that fox and complete that section, the last section, of the Merit Badge.
How does all this play out? American Legion Post 32 in Fayetteville, N.C., along with the Venture Crew they sponsor in the post, has asked us to put on one of these Technician classes for them. Possibly 30 people in the class, both young and not no young. BUT, they can and will all be new amateur radio operators. For this, Cancilla has contacted the Fayetteville Amateur Radio Club to offer support to the class, and ongoing support and partnership with the post and the crew as they discover the fun and excitement, and the many benefits, of amateur radio.