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John Kimmel is a member of the Kodiak Amateur Radio Emergency Service – also known as KARES – and coordinates the licensing exams. According to him, the organization tries to hold the exams frequently, but wasn’t able to over the past year.
“We hadn’t really had any for about a year during… COVID,” Kimmel said.
KARES members like Kimmel operate ham radios, which are small-band frequency radios that connect people all over the world.
KARES members can also be called up by local emergency services to assist with communications.
And they’re the only group on the island that administers in-person amateur radio licensing exams for the Federal Communications Commission – a requirement for those who wish to call themselves ham radio operators.
Kimmel says the group averages about six local examinees a year, but there isn’t a typical rhyme or reason to when they decide to test.
“Usually folks that are interested in getting their ham license have been in contact with one of the hams on the island and we’ve been working with them a little bit, know they’re interested,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel doesn’t currently know of any attendees slated for the August exam, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be last minute sign-ups; there are often late entrants who sign up for the test through the National Association for Amateur Radio website.
Between the Coast Guard base and Kodiak’s commercial fishing fleet, radio is a critical tool on Alaska’s emerald isle. And Kimmel says that ham radio operators tend to be a diverse bunch, and include men and women, young and old.
“We had one young man on island… I think he might be 14 by now. He was first licensed a couple years ago. So like when he was 12,” Kimmel said.
Those interested in taking the exam need to reach out to Kimmel beforehand, either at 907-942-0741 or at his email address, email@example.com. KARES is also planning to hold two more licensing exams this year in October and December.