Wow!, what an amazing Christmas surprise to be nominated by #1, N3JT for CWOps Membership. A very big thanks to you and my sponsors, NJ3K, K1EBY and KK5NA who is mostly responsible for getting me here as my most excellent CW Academy Advanced Advisor and sponsor. I was deeply honored to see that I earned your sponsorship, Joe. Thank you for all you have done for me. In addition to Joe, I would like to thank Ron, VE3FXX, my Level 2 Advisor and Rocky, AE7US, my Level 1 Advisor. The three of you gentlemen have given me the gift of a new skill and passion that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
If we ever have an eyeball QSO, feel free to call me “A-Ray” as many friends do. On the air I keep it simple and go by the name my parents gave me, Aaron. I was first licensed as a Technician in high school in 2003 when a fellow Civil Air Patrol cadet and lifelong friend, David, KG6JOL explained to me that we could use our radios outside of CAP search and rescue activities legally by means of getting an FCC license. I owe much to my high school buddy who gave me a ride to my first test session. He even paid the fee after I failed it. Not easily deterred, I hit the books and persevered. I returned the favor of motivation to Dave in 2004 when I convinced him to join the US Air Force shortly after I got back from my own visit to the recruiter’s office. I left for basic training and wondered if I would ever see Dave again. Much to my pleasure, I saw Dave weeks later out of the corner of my eye, marching by in a passing formation. It was a struggle to keep my military bearing as I marched on in the opposite direction. Dave is no longer in the Air Force, but he had an epic career serving in Air Force Fire Protection and now continues service as a firefighter, medic and emergency management professor.
I still serve in the USAF today as a Senior Master Sergeant in the Boom Operator career field, which means that I refuel airplanes in flight and somehow manage to get paid to do so. Since 2012, I’ve served in the flight test community by testing new tankers, certifying receiver aircraft to refuel behind legacy tankers and functional check flight testing. I currently serve on a group staff servicing units spanning the country who perform these missions. In the years following my initial enlistment, I fell out of our hobby as many young people do, as I arranged my life and moved many times. In 2015, it was Dave again who motivated me to get on HF when he stopped by my house during a long road trip. After some catching up and a few social lubricants, Dave threw a wire in a tree in my backyard and hooked me again as he spun the dial of his FT-817. I have been at it ever since and this time it stuck.
My ham radio hobbies mostly involve CW. I very much enjoy QRP CW. SOTA, NAQCC events, other contests and CWTs continue to set the hook deeper for me. In the shack I keep it under 100w with my FT-991A, KX2 (sometimes with help from my KXPA100) or one of my other QRP rigs into an EFHW or fan dipole. When portable, I typically take a HT and my KX2 or something designed by the great Steve Weber, KD1JV. Non-radio hobbies include outdoor activities such as hiking, shooting, archery and BBQing. It’s hard to beat a meal that has been rolling in smoke for the better part of a day. If you ever pass through middle GA, drop me a line. I love cooking for friends. I am happily married with two young children who keep me busy. I am also their Cub Scout Den Leader. I may have used scouting once or twice to share the magic of radio with the kids. Both of my kids show interest and my daughter often sits with me to learn the characters.
If you’ve made it this far without falling asleep, I salute you. I promise I’m not usually this long-winded, but I felt that an honor this big was worthy of a few extra words. Again, thank you to all who have helped me get this far. My debt to you will be paid forward soon as I have already volunteered to be a CW Academy Advisor for the upcoming Beginner session.