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Learn more about ham radio at upcoming classes
Doyle Gantt makes a test call on his portable ham radio. Gantt is a member of the Lanierland Amateur Radio Club, which is holding a class this Saturday on operating the radios. - photo by Tom Reed

Ham radio licensing classes

When: Saturday, Jan. 17 and 24
Where: Chattahoochee Baptist Association building, 1220 McEver Road, Gainesville
How much: $35, preregistration required
More info: 770-967-4397

They've talked to people in outer space and overseas and helped respond to some of the biggest emergencies in U.S. history, including the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

We're not talking here about diplomats or widely known agencies such as the American Red Cross.

This is Hall County's Lanierland Amateur Radio Club.

"In a way, it's a hobby, but it's also a service," said the group's president, Phil Loggins.

The group, which has 100-plus members, is trying to stir up more interest in amateur, or ham, radio operation by offering classes, including an entry-level class set to start this weekend at Chattahoochee Baptist Association's offices at 1220 McEver Road.

The license course, which costs $35, covers three four-hour lessons, followed by an exam.

Successful completion means a license and receiving call letters. Loggins identifies himself as K4PDL and course instructor Doyle Gantt, also a member of the club's board of directors, goes by W4DJG. The club's letters are W4ABP.

The two men, both retirees, said people are drawn to the hobby for different reasons - such as being able to talk globally with others - and come from all walks of life.

Another attraction is its relatively low cost. Loggins said for about $150, people can start the hobby with a hand-held radio. Other equipment, such as antennas, antenna tuners, VHF/UHF radios and other communication devices, could drive the cost up to $1,000 or so.

Loggins said a friend got him interested in the hobby and then he learned that his daughter and son-in-law had gotten their license.

"She said, ‘Dad, we could talk to each other easier if you got your license,'" he said.

He has enjoyed the hobby now for 12 years, talking frequently with his daughter.

"I wish I had gotten into it a long time ago," Loggins said. "It's been an excellent hobby. I've really enjoyed it. I can use my hobby to give back in emergency services to help other people."

He recalled the group's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"They were without phone service in New York City, and we went up and stayed about two-and-a-half weeks (helping with) handling the communications for them for Red Cross, Salvation Army and so forth," Loggins said.

"... You hated to have to be there for that time, but we were glad we were able to be there and be able to help with communications."

Gantt said he became interested as a preteen and wasn't able to fully explore ham radios until much later.

"I had to wait to get my family raised and kinda settle down a little bit," he said, with a laugh.

In his pursuits, Gantt has been able to reach someone aboard the International Space Station and has become friends with a ham radio operator in Belgium.

"I can exchange Christmas cards with him every year," he said.

He said his biggest pleasure, however, is working with children.

"I like to see the spark in their eyes," Gantt said. "You never know who you're going to touch and maybe change this hobby big-time some day."

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