Value of an Elmer

This day in age, No-code Licenses are flourishing beyond anyone’s imagination.  Not only that, Now anyone with an inability to pickup those “Dits,” and “Dahs,” of morse code can get a license by studying online, purchasing flash cards of examination questions and basically know anything and everything there is to know about an examination pool for obtaining an amateur radio license.  This all has a cost, in a form of monitory dollars and cents to achieve a basic license similar to a driving permit for an uneducated teen. Those monitory notes and book readings all lack one specific thing,  they can’t purchase first hand knowledge and experience.

That means an Elmer.

Having an elmer in Amateur radio is a new licensee’s second step, the first step is to get your license.  Understanding common practice, ethics and basic theory is what ARRL manuals and test questions attempt to teach perspective students. Elmer’s reinforce those teachings and provide advanced knowledge about those ways of life not taught by a standard set of books.

Take John for instance.  He got his calling into amateur radio one day while participating in an Ironman event. John witnessed an amateur radio operator talking on his radio and providing feedback to a net control station that was relaying information to someone in a unified command about status of participants in his race, while at a water stop.  Intrigued about this activity, he politely asked the amateur radio operator about his activity.

2 months later John got his amateur radio technician license.

“Now what do I do?” John said to himself. He got handed some brochures for a few local clubs in this area after he passed his exam, but he didn’t know the etiquette address such folk and was “afraid,” he would embarrass himself.  That is John’s first step in Amateur Radio, finding an Elmer to assist him in getting started.

Finding an elmer is an easy task to get you started, but is not one that will leave you with a silver platter, fork, spoon, cup and saucer, etc to take home and dine on immediately.  An Elmer is your partner, friend, mentor and guide through their teachings in amateur radio.  They will provide you some recommendations on certain theories that you maybe not considering or suggestions that are on that very tip of your tongue.  In any case, that first elmer is critical to your nurturing that become a fulfilling amateur radio operator and not a Citizen Band Monkey.  Sometimes, and most rare occasions, you may leave such a positive experience with your elmer that you may receive a tarnished silver platter to buff up and shine to eat off, one day passing it on to others you may elmer in your journey.

Back to our story:  So John went to that very meeting at a Amateur radio club and became a member. He was greeted with respect and dignity amateur radio operators give to newly licensed individuals. John could not believe  how may hams wanted to help him. Later that week, he met with Cindy and her husband Josh at their home and ham shack.  John learned so much that he went home with a small care package.

Several months later, John got his general license and learned to make HF antennas and even had help to put up those antennas. Josh helped John select his first HF radio as well.  John wanted to stay with older equipment just like Josh had in his possession and eventually purchased an older TenTec Omni D.  John loved that radio and made several contacts with just a 20M dipole, tuner and an that old TenTec.

You can see now how this story is going.  It just keeps getting better and better incrementally.  This is the way knowledge in ham radio grows; in steps and not in miles.  This eventually exhausts your first elmer’s knowledge on a subject matter, an amateur radio operator will soon find out and then will begin to understand that he may need other avenues to flourish.  This then enters other elmers on specific subject matters rather than one single over-arching topic and knowledge continues to build.  One will learn there is never a limit to knowledge in Amateur Radio. There are so many faucets that an end is never in sight.

2 years later, John got his extra, managed to squeeze through learning slow CW and experimented with digital modes.  Josh and Cindy were still in John’s back pocket and he always called those elderly folks to talk, ask questions and entertain one another on old QSO “War stories,” that each of them made.  John ventured into William’s instruction on modern radios and Karen’s graces as a beginner kit builder.  This all eventually snowballed into a circumstance where Nathan, a newly licensed ham, needed an elmer.  John being in his 30’s and Nathan being around 28 or so, found common interests and began teaching Nathan what Josh and Cindy first taught John 3 years ago.

One day, the instructed will become an instructor and teach others. This is the same way doctors, teachers, scientists, chemists  and machinists were taught.  We all are taught off of one another and begin from some point in time where we knew nothing and then before we know it, know more than we ever did at that one time.

The one thing Josh could never get John to stop doing was calling “CQ, CQ, CQ,” on repeaters.

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