Soon after getting my degree, I had joined the U.S. Air Force and was signed up to be an "Electronics Computer Systems Specialist" but I had to go through basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX for six weeks. After the several years in college, that was a massive culture shock, but one I think I sorely needed! I had transitioned from being a long haired college student to being a military man in that six weeks. I didn't look back. The next stop was Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, for just over ten months. In addition to being the Air Force's Electronics Training Center, Keesler is also home to the Hurricane Hunters and the Keesler Air Force Base Amateur Radio Club, also known by its club callsign, K5TYP. The club QSL card of that time is pictured below.
Arriving at Keesler AFB with my new Technician Class license, I quickly found out about the amateur radio club on the base and joined. Soon they were teasing me about "When are you going to become a real ham?" meaning, of course, when are you going to upgrade to General or better? I went to work on upgrading. At that time, the General class license exam included the 13 wpm Morse Code requirement, and the tests were administered by the FCC only, which meant I had to go to New Orleans to take the test. Along with my Air Force technical training, and the other activities of the club, I was pretty busy. At first, the only trips to New Orleans were to go to the Heathkit store to buy my first 2 meter rig as a kit, the HW-2036, and to go to Mardi Gras, not the kinds of things you need to do to take a 13 wpm code test! Finally, I managed two trips to New Orleans to take that code test, but came back empty handed both times!
By that time, I had completed my technical training and had received my assignment to Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana. Once I got settled in at Barksdale, I went to the Base Exchange and bought a little Panasonic cassette recorder and ordered some code practice tapes from Ham Radio Magazine. There was no active club at Barksdale, unfortunately. I had nothing but the HW-2036 to talk to the local hams and a hilarious roommate in the barracks who teased my incessantly about "all those talking boxes!" I spent most of my non work time with those code tapes, determined to get that upgrade to at least General. Since the Advanced license had no additional code requirement, I decided to try for it. In Shreveport at that time, there were only two ham testing opportunities a year, when the FCC staff would come up from New Orleans to give tests. Otherwise, I had to take leave time to go to Dallas, so, the pressure was on. I got permission from my superiors at the base to take the morning off and go down to the Federal courthouse to take that test. I finally made it and got my Advanced class license in Shreveport, which is the class of license I hold to this day!
Now finally, I could play! I went to a hamfest and bought a converted sideband CB rig for 10 meters. The bands were hopping with activity at the peak of the sunspot cycle. I put up an end fed piece of # 26 wire from the barracks window to a nearby tree and went on the 10 meter band. I had a bit of a TVI problem, but managed to stay off the air when most were watching TV. I made contacts, including with a ham in Kings Mountain, NC, near where my mother was staying in Gastonia, NC. I gave him the number where she was, and he called her in Gastonia and we carried on a conversation for about a half hour. Not bad for my first HF rig connected to my first stealth antenna!
Soon I had joined the now defunct Shreveport FM Association to support its 146.82 repeater and the Amateur Radio Club of Shreveport, another repeater group that had its 146.76 repeater on the KSLA TV tower northwest of Shreveport. That repeater covered the territory like none other I had seen, until the 1,800 foot TV tower collapsed. It took nearly a year and some money to get that repeater back on the air. Probably the best thing that happened while I was at Barksdale was the formation of the Shreveport Amateur Radio Association. We now had a general interest ham club in town that put on hamfests and had a great Field Day every year after they started. This club took over the 146.82 repeater after starting out with the 147.03. It was a fun experience to be a charter member of this then new club.When I got out of the Air Force, I moved to Atlanta, GA, looking for my first real civilian employment. When I got some time, I turned on the HW-2036, still set to 146.82 and went on the air for the first time in a while. Soon I was talking to members of the Atlanta Radio Club and went and joined the club. At that time, I knew no one in Atlanta and joined the club because of its repeater's dial position. (What a way to pick a radio club!) As it turned out, the number 146.82 didn't lead me the wrong way. It was one of the biggest clubs in the area I got to meet quite a few people. In addition, they were doing Field Day every year at that time and were putting on one of the largest hamfests in the area. The ARC is the club that put on the 1987 ARRL National Convention. What a hamfest that was!! The only thing I had seen that was even bigger was the 1985 Dayton Hamvention to which I had gone with a number of ARC members. Putting on that hamfest was a lot of work, but it was a huge success for the club.