After some six months of planning, preparation, clearing, cleaning and gathering materials and equipment together for The American Legion Amateur Radio Club's shack, we finally "threw the switch" on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at approximately 1930Z. Our first QSO was with a New Jersey station. Marconi could not have been more proud of or pleased with his first transmission than we were with ours.
Early on, the National Headquarters staff set a target date of Veterans Day (Nov. 11) to be up and operating. We came close. All in all, we did well considering that we started with nothing but great enthusiasm, big ideas and no equipment. The club's membership continued to grow throughout the process of formulating and formalizing things. It is interesting, if not somewhat amazing, that we had several hundred members before we had the first transceiver in place. And it is because of a handful of those members, and their "dedication to mutual helpfulness," that we got donations of new and used equipment.
The shack itself, once a 1950s-style darkroom, is slowly coming to be a new-millennium communications room, complete with computers, printers, telephones and – of course – various radio components, not all of which are yet integrated into the system. But we will get there.
Working 20 meters, we got our first QSO with Ron, WU2B, in East Orange, N.J. He gave us a barefoot "5-7" report that was very pleasing to us, since without a tuner we were running only about 20 watts; it delighted the folks at HQ who rigged the antennae and ran the cable down five stories.
Things are coming together, but we have a little ways to go. The shack, when empty, looked very accommodating. It's slowly filling up. But I suppose it's no different than what we all experience at our own stations. Things just seem to spread exponentially in the available space.
If you haven't seen the pieces, either in QST magazine or on FOX News, about the recent interest and growth in ham radio, take time to seek them out. It is very encouraging news, especially in light of the Legion club and the opportunity it provides to bring those Legion family members with an interest into our hobby.
We hope you are directing those interested to the club Web page (legion.org/hamradio). The page is a bit sparse right now, but in the next couple of months it will be well-populated with amateur radio information, links, FAQs, and maybe just a bit of the Legion's history of formal involvement with amateur radio, which goes back nearly to the beginning of the Legion itself. Keep in mind, too, the club forum at (www.legion.org/forums/ham-radio). Stop off there when you can and share what you and your group – as members of TALARC – are doing to promote amateur radio and benefit the community in which you operate.
In the meantime, the staff here has more gearing up to do by reading manuals, programming equipment, and adjusting to the equipment we're not yet thoroughly familiar with. Keep an ear out. We'll be talking with you soon!
Marty Justis, W9WMJ
Here is the news everyone has been waiting for: the first American Legion Amateur Radio Club net is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 2100 Hrs Eastern. Craig Roberts, Vice President of TALARC, W3CRR, will serve as net control for the club, and you'll find him on 40 meters, at or about 7.230MHz. Additional email notification will go to members this week.