A year ago I wrote about getting my first HAM licenses. I got the Technician license which lets you use frequencies suitable for local use. At the same time I tested for General which opens up the HF frequencies that let you communicate around the world.

My assigned call-sign was lame so quickly I went up on the FCC website to try to get a vanity call-sign. I was able to get W6DLN. Ryder got a technician license and we hooked him up with W8RAN. I didn't want to do something more creative than just using initials of our names.

We had some epic flooding last year in Louisiana. Local HAMs were able to help the Red Cross in Lafayette communicate with Baton Rouge and New Orleans because cell towers to our East were in bad shape from the flooding. I did a little bit of time for that and found it very rewarding to help out the community in an emergency.

To that end I have been getting involved in the ARES group in the local HAM club. Being a General licensee is good enough to participate but I wanted to get Amateur Extra before I started down the path of learning more about emergency operations.

Studying

I followed mostly the same procedure for testing as I did before. This time around I didn't make the same mistake of peaking too early. I peaked at just about the right time. I wasn't consistently passing until the week before the test. Then it was just about maintaining and focusing on a few things.

To review, here's what I did:

I have to say going through all those steps things didn't click right away. I think it's more about absorbing the information from different angles as best you can. If I'm being honest from there I went about just cramming and memorizing on hamstudy.

Testing

Our club Volunteer Examiners are a great bunch of gentlemen; very positive and welcoming. You study the entire question pool of 702 questions and when you take the test you have to answer 50 of those with a percentage of 75% or more to pass.

Indeed I did pass. I got a rough set of questions, I wasn't confident that I was going to make it, there was a lot of head shaking and sighing as I filled out my answers. I even brought enough money to attempt to take the test again. For each attempt you have to pay $15.

What's Next

At some point I'd like to pick up a Yaesu FT-857D. That model is capable, the user interface suffers because it's very portable. It's ideal for being mobile in the field. I have been listening on HF with the Yaesu FT-817. Being low powered at 5 watts my voice is too faint to make many contacts.

I'd also like to start taking the FEMA classes so that I could be more useful in an emergency. Right now the FEMA site is painful to register on, looks like that will be an ordeal on it's own.