The Ham Radio “Elmer” - Are they being killed off?

For several years now, I have tried to learn as much as I could about the various aspects of amateur radio that interested me. And, some other hams saw what I was doing, and asked for help in teaching them to do the same things. And, I did my best.

I also have tried to maintain a personal amateur radio web site that details things I have learned in my journey, so that others could freely use that information to help themselves. And, I have tried to help new hams in my local area.

But, are Ham Radio “Elmers” being “killed off”? There have been a good number of folks that have taken the information I have given them, used it, found that information to be correct, and let me know how it helped them. But, lately, the new breed of amateur radio operator seems to have the attitude that “I got my license, there's nothing I need to know from you”. And the sad thing is, many of these new hams leave the hobby after a short time because of frustration. And, much of that frustration could have been eliminated if they had only sought out or at least listened to seasoned hams that are experienced, and can help them learn to solve their problems.

Do new hams really know everything they need to know? Well, let's look at some questions.

First, the tech license exam can be passed once just about anyone spends one month reading questions with the correct answers. But how much real knowledge is in the study guide, and how much is retained by the student?

Second, how many new hams have even listened to amateur radio communications before they got their license? How many know what goes on in their local area? In their state?

Third, how many understand that a VHF / UHF handie talkie is very limited in what it can do? How many know what kind of antenna to buy or build for what they want to do, of even how to put it up?

Fourth, for the tech class ham planning to go on to general or extra, how many even know about propagation, frequencies, HF antennas, grounding, etc, etc, etc? How many even know how to find that information?

The Elmer knows the answers, because he is experienced. If he doesn't know the answer, he knows how to find it, or knows someone who does. Why ignore such a great resource?

I am reminded of a teacher I had in high school. He was a ham operator. But what I remember about him was how he taught. He was the Vocational Agriculture teacher, and taught not only agriculture, but also welding, wood shop, mechanics, electricity, etc. If you listened to him, he would groom you to start to be a person who could make it on their own.

He was also a leader in our school's Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. He was the “advisor”. And here is what he said when asked why he was stationed by the Owl:

“The owl is a time-honored emblem of knowledge and wisdom. Being older than the rest of you, I am asked to advise you from time to time, as the need arises. I hope that my advice will always be based on true knowledge and ripened with wisdom.”

He has been gone for a few years now, and he taught me 38 years ago. I have never forgotten his response to why he was by the owl, or the lessons he taught me. He lived those lessons.

Amateur radio Elmers are the “wise old owls” of the craft. A new ham can seek out their knowledge, and put it in to practice, or, they can “kill off” the old owl. Which do you choose to do?

I have recently taken the time to thank the Elmers who helped me. Their input was and is why I enjoy the amateur radio hobby today.