On the air: learn the art of ham radio communication

JACKSON, Wyo. — When emergency strikes, the people we see are the first responders — the firefighters, paramedics, and police. Who we don’t often see are the people behind the scenes communicating every detail to the people who need to know.

It’s an art and a science called ham radio, and Jackson residents can become certified ham radio operators. The Jackson Hole Area Amateur Radio Club (JHAARC) is offering a four-week licensing course starting Monday, February 24. The class is taught by JHAARC president Mick Dettmer.

Ham radio is a hobby, yes. The title technically means “amateur” radio. But local ham radio operators are anything but amateur. The radio opens up an entirely new world of communication — the one we knew before cell phones and the internet — and is a failsafe communication method when more contemporary means fail. It’s why emergency responders still rely on radio waves in the heat of the moment. Dettmer has communicated with people around the world and even out of this world — he once made a friend on the International Space Station via the radio.

The course will cover everything from electronics, to radio rules and regulations, to operating procedures. No experience is required — “just mine,” Dettmer jokes. And he has plenty to offer. Dettmer has been teaching the radio for about 20 years now and has been operating radios for even longer.

Some basic arithmetic helps, but any math involved in the class is pretty simple, Dettmer says. Morse code was once a requisite, but those days are over.

Certification is required to operate a ham radio. But at least as importantly, Dettmer says, the class and the club offer a chance to meet new people.

The licensing course will meet two nights per week for four weeks in town, Mondays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. Dettmer says it is important to attend every class, because each class covers a lot of material and it’s hard to make up. There is an exam at the end of the course. The course costs $50, plus a $15 exam fee.

Interested? Contact Mick Dettmer with questions or to sign up.

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