Many thanks to John K4BAI for nominating me for membership and to Dave K1VUT, Jim N3JT, Hank W6SX and Mike N8DNA for sponsoring me. It is an honor to be a member of CWops.
My start in this great hobby was in the early 70s while still in high school in NY. First as a Novice, then progressing to General and finally to Advanced class before graduating. In the mid-80s, after graduating from college and settling down in upstate NY, I went QRT for a bit as my career and marriage began to take over my time. In 2000 I was able to become active again as AG4EA while living in NC and finally moving to SC, my current QTH.
I have always been a casual CW operator, preferring to rag chew more than anything else. Since I traveled quite a bit for my job, I also operated a lot of QRP CW, both mobile and portable from parking lots. I especially enjoyed operating portable on vacations and from our camper at the lake.
After I retired at the end of last year, I decided I would try to improve my CW skills. Up until this point, although I was CW only, my comfort level was at 20 wpm and primarily with rag chew QSOs using a bug. I discovered the CW Academy and the online lesson plans. So, I self-studied the Level III class by following the plan and also added a set of paddles to the shack. About 8 weeks later, by following the lesson plans step by step, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could now operate comfortably at 25 wpm and a bit higher if I stretched. I had also discovered the weekly CWTs and since the lesson plans told me to participate in them, I did. At first, I resisted since I never have been much of a contest operator. But I started with a single session and survived, even though most of the code was so fast it was a blur. But over time I found that my CW skills did improve, and the CWTs are so much fun that I quickly moved to participating in all of them each week (gotta love retirement!).
These days, I still prefer a good rag chew more than anything else. I am also trying to continually improve my CW skills and participate in as many CWTs as possible each week. I enjoy being able to choose between using my bug, paddles or even a straight key for QSOs. I like helping others learn CW and improve their skills, so I try to participate in many of the SKCC events as well. Now as a member of CWops, I am also looking forward to helping out in the CWA as an advisor.