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John Kimmel is a member of the Kodiak Amateur Radio Emergency Service – also known as KARES – and coordinates licensing exams. According to him, the organization tries to organize the exams frequently, but has not been able to do so for the past year.
“We hadn’t really had one for about a year during…COVID,” Kimmel said.
KARES members like Kimmel operate amateur radios, which are low-frequency radios that connect people around the world.
KARES members may also be called upon by local emergency services to assist with communications.
And they are the only group on the island that administers in-person amateur radio license exams for the Federal Communications Commission – a requirement for those wishing to call themselves amateur radio operators.
Kimmel says the group averages about six local contestants a year, but there’s no typical rhyme or reason when they decide to test.
“Usually people who want to get their ham license have been in touch with one of the hams on the island and we’ve worked with them a bit, just know they’re interested,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel doesn’t currently know of any scheduled attendees for the August exam, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any last-minute registrations; there are often latecomers who register for the test via the National Amateur Radio Association website.
Between the Coast Guard base and Kodiak’s commercial fishing fleet, the radio is an essential tool on Alaska’s Emerald Isle. And Kimmel says amateur radio operators tend to be a diverse group and include men and women, young and old.
“We had a young man on the island…I think he might be 14 now. He was first fired a few years ago. So like when he was 12,” Kimmel said.
Those interested in taking the exam should contact Kimmel beforehand, either at 907-942-0741 or at her email address, [email protected]. KARES also plans to hold two more license exams this year in October and December.