N2SRK with Gordon West, WB6NOA at Hamvention 2018.

Elmer – [ EL-mer ] – Noun, someone who provides personal guidance and assistance to new and would-be amateur radio operators.

If there is anyone in amateur radio history that can get people excited about the ham radio service, it is Gordon West, WB6NOA. I have been fortunate to meet Gordon a few times. First time was in 1992, when I was first licensed. I met him in Valley Forge, PA, at an ARRL Convention. Up until that point, I only knew of Gordon through his ham radio study books. Today, you can really feel and experience Gordon’s enthusiasm towards amateur radio in his participation in the weekly Ham Nation series on YouTube. Through those books, Gordon was able to bring ham radio to life through easy reading and common language that allowed me to understand and put these newly learned principals into practice. Books and study guides are only half of the Elmer equation. As amateur radio operators, we are called to Elmer the next generation of operators, new licensees, and soon-to-be hams. Having a go-to person(s) that take you under their wings in the first formative steps in your amateur radio journey is invaluable.

Elmers, too, also need to be humble enough to learn new aspects of the amateur radio service. Growing up in Southern New Jersey, I was fortunate to have great Elmers that answered the most basic of questions I had, even when I felt embarrassed to ask those easy questions. Elmers serve an important role in that they guide us each an every stage of what may seem overwhelming, bewildering or mysterious. Elmers make it look easy, but what makes a great Elmer is that they, too, know the hard and bumpy road each of us traveled in passing our exam, learning morse code, or understanding a repeater CTCSS tone. Through this knowledge exists the understanding, as a seasoned Elmer, that learning never stops. Great Elmers also know that they, too, must learn new modes and incorporate what excites our new amateur radio operators and show the overlap. The Makers and Hacker movements are simply a couple of arenas that have amazing overlap into amateur radio. We simply need to show and demonstrate amateur radio’s capabilities in those arenas.

As the New Year is upon us, maybe you are thinking about your ham radio resolutions for the year. Although accomplishments of DXCC (Confirming 100 countries) or WAS (Worked All States) are good to set, have you ever considered the impact you have as an Elmer? There is something amazing when you elmer someone and the “AH-HA” moment hits. Maybe you have a great way to study for the FCC exam or know great resources; or maybe you have a knack for teaching Morse Code? How about programming radios or teaching and showing the key components in a repeater? Maybe you discovered a way to design and purchase QSL cards online that are inexpensive and easy to navigate? No matter your skill level or experience, offering a hand, support and encouragement is likely all new and prospective amateur radio operators need and you can play a vital role in a positive impact as an Elmer. Having a go-to person(s) that take you under their wings in the first formative steps in your amateur radio journey remains invaluable and my hope for you in 2021 is for you to answer that call and continually welcome in our newest amateur radio operators.

Dan – N2SRK
Parker Radio Association

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