- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

SEARCY, Ark. (AP) - There are “hams” all over the world.

Amateur radio operators - called “hams” - are part of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). They build and use their own radios to communicate with each other for fun, safety and other reasons.

There are several hams in White County, and many are part of the North Central Arkansas Amateur Radio Service (NCAARS), which held its annual Field Day recently at the Gum Springs Fire Department.

Every year for Field Day the club gets together, makes calls and tries to introduce new people to hamming. NCAARS Public Information Officer John Ord said everybody has a different reason for getting into ham radio.

“It’s people from all walks of life,” Ord told The Daily Citizen (https://bit.ly/1j0rceR). “Amateur radio is extremely diverse.”

For example, Ord said he is not really interested in the Morse Code aspect of ham radio, but he does like getting to meet people in other places.

“It’s kind of like genre,” Ord said. “You have people who like romances, and you have people who like horror movies. Ham radioing is kind of like that.”

Ord said some amateur radio operators like to contact people in other countries, others like the club aspect of getting close and working with one group, and still others like to radio competitively.

Ord said the local club sets up in Romance every Valentine’s Day and has people call them as a contest. The ones who get through win a certificate saying they called Romance on Valentine’s Day.

“It’s almost like collecting stamps or postcards,” Ord said of collecting call certificates.

Trey Ferguson, 20 from Searcy, said he got hooked on hamming at last year’s Field Day, and he was in attendance again this year.

“Last Field Day I actually got to talk to a guy in Russia,” Ferguson said. “It was hard to recognize the accent.”

Ord said in the local club, NCAARS, a lot of the members have emergency service backgrounds. And in extremes cases, like a natural disaster that knocks down cell towers and telephone lines, ham radio can be the only way to get in contact with the outside world.

One night, NCAARS member Larry Sicks of Searcy got a call on his ham radio from his daughter who was driving in Conway at night and got a flat tire. She asked him to go there and help her, but another ham radio operator heard them talking, said he was about 10 minutes away, and volunteered to help.

Sicks said his daughter cracked the driver’s side window, passed the key to the trunk to the man who had come to help. The man changed the tire for her, gave her back the key and left.

“A ham community is very strong and supportive of each other,” Sicks said. “There’s an endless number of stories.”

Besides the emergency aspect, Ord said there is just something special about radioing instead of making a phone call, even in these cell-phone infused days.

“It’s still kind of neat to be able to pick up the radio and talk to people,” Ord said.

Ord said he was teaching a local high school student and boy scout, Devin Pruitt, how to use a ham radio.

“In about 5 minutes he was able to talk to Connecticut, Florida and Texas,” Ord said.

Pruitt, 16 of Searcy, said it was an enjoyable experience, and the audio was “clear as day,” despite the long distance between users.

“It was pretty cool,” Pruitt said. “It’s actually better than a cellphone.”

Ham radioing is something scouts can do to earn a merit badge, and Pruitt earned his. He also said he is going to try to get his ham radio license and join the local club.

To become a ham radio operator, Ord said people have to take a test and get a license. Then the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issues a “call sign,” which is a unique designation of a radio transmitting station.

Ord said anybody who passes the test can be licensed, and he knows an 8-year-old ham. There are different levels of licenses, too, depending on people’s knowledge of hamming.

There will be a children’s ham radio class coming up in about a month, although the exact dates and the location have not been set yet, Sicks said.

The class will run for a few days or a week, Sicks said, and it will be free for any children who want to participate, although if children pass the license test, Sicks said the FCC charges $15 to issue the license and process the paperwork. However, Sicks said somebody in the club has agreed to pay for the first 15 children’s licenses. There will be no age restrictions associated with the ham camp, but children must know how to read.

Ord said the class will be sometime in late July or early August. He said once the class dates are finalized he will post them on the club’s website (NCAARS.org).

“It’s technology that we learn and we develop and we pass on,” Sicks said. “We’re unstoppable because it’s fun and we’re just going to keep doing it.”


Information from: The Daily Citizen, https://www.thedailycitizen.com/

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