Pueblo West residents who want to get in on the fun of “hamming it up” as amateur radio operators can try an upcoming class offered by the Pueblo West Amateur Radio Club.

The General Class License Preparation Course is open to all operators wishing to upgrade their Federal Communications Commission license from the entry-level “technician” status to the medium-level “general” status. Those who already have achieved the general level also are welcome if they wish to review procedures.

The class will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each Thursday night for eight weeks starting Jan. 10. The class is held at the Pueblo West Fire Station Number 3, 729 E. Gold.

“Amatuer radio operators have to have an FCC license which requires passing a test. You can’t just buy a radio and go on the air legally until you’ve got the license,” said Frank Dunn, a club past president who will be one of the instructors.

“A license is required for use of all bands associated with amateur radio,” Dunn said. “Usually a person starts off at the technician level which means they can talk locally with the help of the 2-meter repeaters in the area and then later can upgrade depending on the frequencies they want to use.”

For instance, those who just want to use a low-wattage hand-held radio and chat locally among Southern Colorado ham operators can get the technician status license. Those who wish to talk with others throughout the world will want to upgrade all the way to “extra” class status which is the third and highest level of license for amateur radio operators.

Dunn himself just turned 80 and has been a ham radio buff for five decades. He holds the extra license.

“The club does not have one master teacher. There are 10 to 12 people willing to share with the instructions,” Dunn explained.

Today the Pueblo West Amateur Radio Club has 60 members. Members use radios that range from $25 hand-held radios all the way up to $2,000 radio systems and “everything in between” Dunn said.

"We do offer a free one-year membership to newly licensed hams in the Pueblo area," Dunn said.

Local club members have diverse interests when it comes to ham radio operating. Some members are part of the Amateur Radio Emergency Services group and travel where help is needed in times of emergency such as a forest fire or natural disaster when regular communication systems are knocked out or unavailable due to the remote location.

“Some will go to any state that can use their help. Really for just about any interest you have you can think of some way to work in a ham radio,” Dunn explained.

Local ham operators also help with communications for several competitive run events in Pueblo West.

The big day for the hams is Field Day - an international event held the last weekend of June. In Pueblo West the Field Day is held at Lovell Park where local amateur radio operators set up solar batteries and temporary antennas so they can practice their imergency radio skills during a 24-hour period.

There is no charge for the course, however a $20 textbook, published by Hamradioschool.com, is required. The class also will feature a slide show presentation put together by the school.

There is no deadline for registration and interested students can even show up the first night of class. Those who wish to get the book and study in advance can do so by registering with Dunn at 719-406-0617.

tharmon@chieftain.com