Ham radio operators vital, and, kids - a cool option to 'Net

June 22, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - While ham radio enthusiasts admit it is challenging trying to attract new members, they say it shouldn't be.

"Whenever there is a disaster, it is always the ham radio operators who come in to provide communication when all else fails," said Alan Raskind, a member of the Opequon Radio Society.

Raskind and several other members of the local American Radio Relay League group set up Saturday at Martinsburg Mall to pique the curiosity of passers-by among the young and not so young.

He cited examples such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And during the current flooding emergencies in the Midwest, ham radio communication is vital since telephone service has been compromised.


A Californian who recently moved to the Eastern Panhandle, Raskind joined the Opequon club two months ago. He has been a licensed ham radio enthusiast for 50 of his 68 years.

"We hope that when we get a kid interested, we'll get mom or dad, too," said Jay Tabor, vice president and activities director of the Opequon club.

To become a ham radio operator, one must be old enough to pass a test to get a license. Knowing Morse code no longer is a requirement, Tabor said.

Introducing youths to ham radio gives them an alternative to the Internet, he said.

"Kids can go into their room, go on the Internet and talk around the world - parents have no control," Tabor said.

But with ham radio, someone always is listening in on broadcasts and that provides needed safeguards.

"We are self-policing because we want it to be safe for all worldwide," Tabor said.

Club members will be back at Martinsburg Mall near J.C. Penney on June 28 and 29- this time for a field day competition. Other area clubs also will participate in the event, Tabor said.

The club meets the last Thursday of each month at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on W.Va. 9. This month's meeting is Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the club, meetings and upcoming activities, call Tabor at 304-264-4009 or send an e-mail to

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To learn more about the American Radio Relay League, go to

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