Give the Gift of Mentoring

Successful License Class Student
Successful License Class Student

I have been thinking a lot lately about what is most important to care for the future of Amateur Radio. There are many different views on the answer to this question. Some would say it’s about increasing participation in emergency communications and public service activities such as ARES, RACES, or the National Traffic System. Others would say it’s about protecting our bands. Those who live in HOA or covenant-restricted situations would emphasize the need to enable Hams to install antennas at their homes. Contesters would say that making contesting more accessible to a broader group of people is the most important thing to focus on. And there are many more views as well I am sure.

I have been working with others at the ARRL on a project to update the ARRL’s strategic plan for some time now and our working group has put a great deal of effort into answering this question. At this point in time, the average age of a licensed Amateur Radio operator in the US is about 75 years old. Another important piece of information to consider is that only about one in five people who earn their first Amateur Radio license will be active and on the air after a year. When I think about these points, it seems pretty clear to me that the first thing that we all need to focus on to ensure a strong future for Amateur Radio is the development of the next generation of Amateur Radio operators. 

This one thing underpins all of the items that are mentioned at the beginning of this article. EmComm and Public Service activities, the future of contesting, and our ability to exert the necessary influence to protect our bands and overcome HOA restrictions all depend on an Amateur Radio service that is vibrant and growing.

How Can We Help?

The simple answer is that we need to license younger people and help everyone who gets a license or upgrade to learn about and participate in Amateur Radio to the fullest extent possible. This is all pretty obvious but the question that you are probably asking is “How do we do this?

In my experience, success here begins with a commitment to Mentoring. We have found through surveys that one of the top reasons that new Hams get licensed and do not participate in Amateur Radio is that they lack mentors who will help them learn and get started. 

What sort of help does a new licensee typically need? It’s usually pretty basic things – help to make their first QSO, help to choose an affordable VHF/UHF rig and get it installed and programmed, and help to learn their radio. For a new General, it’s about getting a basic HF antenna up, choosing an HF rig and getting it on the air, understanding how to deal with lightning protection and grounding issues, and learning to operate on the HF bands.

So how do we find ways to engage new Hams and provide mentoring? I have found that VE sessions and club meetings to be excellent opportunities to work with new people. How many times have some of us been part of a VE session where folks are getting licensed and observed that the VEs do not engage the candidates more than to complete the paperwork associated with their exam? This is a huge opportunity lost. Anita and I have been involved in licensing folks for quite awhile now and we helped over 400 people to earn a license or an upgrade. We always take some time with each person that we work with to understand what they hope to do with their license or upgrade and we try to either provide mentoring to help them or to connect them with others that are local to them to do this. 

Similar situations sometimes occur at club meetings. A new Ham attends a first club meeting looking for folks who will share their interests and help them to get started. The club members usually don’t know the new person very well and don’t always engage them to understand how they can help. As a result, the new Ham moves on and may or may not pursue steps to use their license. Successful clubs often go out of their way to make new Hams feel welcome and actively try to find ways to mentor. There is one club here in Eastern Massachusetts, for example, that provides loaned radios and equipment along with mentoring to help new folks get a station together and get on the air. By the way, the clubs that proactively reach out and mentor new folks are usually growing and enjoy some of the largest membership rosters in their area.

Perhaps you are not a VE or involved with a club so what then? Well, let your friends know that you are willing to talk to and work with new folks to assist them. When you are on the air and you encounter a newly licensed or upgraded Ham, spend some time talking with them about what they want to do with Amateur Radio and try to actively help them. You can also engage in Amateur Radio websites and social media groups and answer questions and help new folks there as well.

Where To From Here?

I hope that you’ll consider giving the gift of mentoring. In my opinion, there is no single thing that we can do to help ensure a strong future for Amateur Radio. I would respectfully ask and challenge each of you reading this to choose a way to mentor that you would enjoy and give the gift of mentoring to a newly licensed or upgraded Ham. I think that you will find that the gift that you give will be more than returned in the form of appreciation on the part of the new Ham. If we can all make an effort here, I am sure that we will collectively create a much brighter future for the Amateur Radio Service.

Fred, AB1OC
ARRL New England Division Director

Providence RA Adds Storage Space

Providence Radio Assoc logoKudos to members of the Providence Radio Association in Johnston, RI, Wrapping up 2023, the PRA completed a challenging project: providing additional long term storage at the W1OP clubhouse.

A foundation was carefully measured and constructed by volunteers. Then a multi-purpose container and was delivered to the site and installed on the foundation. 

Writes PRA President Dave “Tess” Tessitore, K1DT, “Thanks to all who worked on this project for several weeks, especially our House Chair [Bob Hart], KC1NAB!”

(via Facebook, photos by Gil Brown, N1BBM)

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TAPR To Hold Online “Mini-Digital Communications Conference,” December 9, 2023

TAPR logoFrom The ARRL Letter, November 22, 2023:

Tucson Amateur Packet Radio, Inc. (TAPR) will hold an online Mini-Digital Communications Conference on December 9, 2023, from 1700 to 2230 UTC (1200 to 1730 EST, 0900 to 1430 PST). Log in details for the conference will be available at prior to December 9. TAPR is an international amateur radio organization that was founded in Tucson, Arizona, in 1981 by a group of amateurs interested in developing a terminal node controller (TNC) for amateur use. Presentations during the conference will include:

  • TAPR Software Defined Radio (SDR) Development Progress and Challenges by David Larsen, KVØS
  • Developments in KA9Q Radio by Phil Karn, KA9Q
  • An Open Source Wideband HF Receiver Design by David Witten, KDØEAG
  • An Inexpensive Global Positioning System Disciplined Oscillator (GPSDO) for HF Receivers by John Ackermann, N8UR
  • Current Open Source Digital Voice Techniques by Walter Holmes, K5WH
  • A Low Cost FreeDV-based ESP32 Radio Interface by Mooneer Salem, K6AQ
  • ESP32 Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) and Long Range (LoRa) Hardware by Jason Rausch, K4APR

CT ARES Training Class Offerings

ARES logoConnecticut DEC Douglas Sharafanowich, WA1SFH, writes on the ct-ares mailing list:

HAPPY Thanksgiving Day. As you relax today, here is serious question to ask yourself…


GET ARES TRAINED (Registration info Below)

ARES has advanced into the 21st Century, and new skills and capabilities are required to meet the needs of the day.
As a result, ALL ARES members are now being requested to complete the national ARES Individual Operator Task Book: LEVEL 1 & LEVEL 2.
And, for those interested in Leadership positions, to complete LEVEL 3.

PRACTICAL Encouragement
In order to assist ARES members in meeting some of the KEY requirements and help be better prepared for a BLACK SKY event (i.e.; “The Next BIG ONE”), a series of FREE monthly Training Classes (on Saturdays) are being held in Region 2.

Training Classes being Offered (details below)
• Introduction to VHF Winlink (Part 1)……………. Dec. 2, 2023
• Introduction to VHF Winlink (Part 2)…………… Jan. 13, 2024
• Introduction to FEMA Message Forms…………. Feb. 3, 2024
• Introduction Net Control Station Operations…… March 2, 2024
• Introduction to HF Winlink……………………….. April 6, 2024

When: Saturday Mornings (8 am to 11.30 am)
Where: Various locations in Region 2

Training Classes (Details)
These classes include basic concepts, but more importantly also focus on helping you become functional in each area… IF YOU DO YOUR PART.

Introduction to VHF Winlink (Part 1)
Date: Dec. 2
Where: Guilford Fire Department
390 Church St., Guilford

In this Class you will learn about Winlink, How to Set-Up Winlink on your computer, and How to send messages via TELNET. You will also learn what you will need to bring with you to “PART 2” in order to send messages via RF using your VHF/UHF radio.

Your laptop/notebook computer (Windows preferred) with Winlink loaded onto it, a paper Notepad, pencils/pens

Introduction to VHF Winlink (Part 2)
Date: Jan. 13
Where: North Haven Fire Dept. Company #4
366 Washington Ave., North Haven

During this Class, you will connect your computer and radio to an antenna to send Packet Winlink messages over the air through a local WINLINK GATEWAY, and do Winlink P-2-P (Peer to Peer) messaging.

Your laptop/notebook computer, your VHF/UHF mobile radio (5-50 watts), 12v Power supply (Battery, or AC/DC with short ext. cord), connecting cables, Computer to Radio Interface: Terminal Node Controller (TNC), or a Sound Card Interface (SCI) with a TNC Emulator loaded on your computer, and a mag mounted VHF/UHF antenna with a metal pizza plate/baking plate, paper for notes, pencils/pens.

With Christmas rapidly approaching, best to tell Santa to bring you the gear you need for this class.

Introduction to FEMA Message Forms

Introduction to FEMA Forms
Date: Feb 3
Where: Quinnipiac Valley Health District
1151 Hartford Turnpike, North Haven

You need to know what Forms our “served agencies” are using, where to find them in Winlink and how to send them. During this class you will be introduced to the common forms that are in use, and send a few via TELNET.

Your laptop/notebook computer with Winlink loaded (and set-up), paper for notes, pencils/pens.

Introduction Net Control Station Operations
– Basic skills in running an efficient Net, plus tips for Staying Organized when the SHTF.
Date: March 2
Where: Quinnipiac Valley Health District
1151 Hartford Turnpike, North Haven

I have heard it said that in the USMC: ‘Every Marine a Rifleman’.

In ARES: Every ARES operator is a Net Control Station Operator

Imagine this:
One day, the situation will arise when you will be thrust into taking over a Communications Net as a Primary or Reliever Net Control Station operator.
– It will be at this exact moment that you will wish you had been at this class and taken advantage of periodically practicing the skills during CT ARES weekly Nets.
THIS IS IMPORTANT – Don’t miss it!

Your laptop/notebook Computer, a paper Notepad, pencils/pens

Introduction to HF Winlink
– You need to send Winlink messages, but no working VHF Winlink Gateway is nearby.
Date: April 6
Where: North Haven Fire Dept. Company #4
366 Washington Ave., North Haven

GOT General, Advanced, Extra license? Then, this class is for YOU!

In this class you will learn how to send HF Winlink messages successfully and practice sending a few over the air.

Your computer, connecting cables, a 100 watt HF radio, 12v Power Supply (Battery or AC/DC with ext. cord), a Sound Card Interface (SCI) if not built-in to the HF Radio, paper for Notes, pencils/pens.

HINT #2 (Repeat)
With Christmas rapidly approaching, best tell Santa bring you the gear you need for this class.

Bottom Line
If you are serious about getting the training you need to be effective in ARES, then you need to make the decision to do it.



* Reservations ARE Required
– If you just show up without a reservation, don’t expect that there will be space for you.

Please register using the Google Sheets document (link below).
Enter your information and put a “1” in each class you will attend.
(The program automatically SAVES your input. So, just close the page to exit.)
I will confirm you Reservations with a reply email.

73, Douglas Sharafanowich – WA1SFH
ARES District Emergency Coordinator (DEC)
Region 2 – Connecticut Section
email: wa1sfh “at” arrl “dit” net

Communications Assistance Request: Sutton (MA) Chain of Lights, December 2, 2023

Sutton Chain of LIghts trolley stopFrom

President Valerie Moore, KC1COQ, of the Worcester EmComm Team writes:

Craig Shea from the Sutton Chain of Lights is again requesting assistance with communications to coordinate the trolleys for their annual event. We’re looking for about 10 amateur radio operators to ride the trolleys and help keep them on schedule moving people around between stops. [Full story]

WCAX: Made in Vermont: W1SFR

Screen image from W1SFR story on WCAXSteve Goldsmith, W1HS, writes on the Twin State RC and Connecticut Valley FM Association mailing lists:

Nice story about a local ham . . . and a great gift idea for the holidays . . . i.e., show it to your family and hope they get the hint and buy you one. -)

SUDBURY, Vt. (WCAX) – Steve Roberts spends a lot of time messing with metal, making Morse code keys.

“HAM radio is a very tight community really, and you have friends like all over the world, people you’ve never met,” said Roberts, whose call letters are W1SFR.

His side hustle is key for the community, and it’s not something you accidentally start doing. Roberts’ journey into dots and dashes began in Vietnam.

[Full story]


Meriden ARC/Wallingford ARG “Santa” QRV for North Pole Contacts, December 9, 2023

Meriden (CT) Amateur Radio Club writes on Facebook:

Come see Santa and talk to the North Pole with ham radio!

Santa will be onsite at the Yalesville Fire House at 143 Hope Hill Road between 10 AM-1 PM. Crafts and activities for the kids and a goodie bag and certificate from Santa (while supplies last).

Please bring a nonperishable food donation for Masters Manna.

Meriden Santa announcement