The Amateur Amateur: Three (or Four) Words About ARES
By Gary Hoffman, KB0H
I just attended the monthly meeting of the
St Louis County Amateur Radio Emergency
Service (ARES) group. We had a social get-together rather than a business
meeting. It was a way to unwind, talk to people, meet some
long-suffering spouses and eat some fattening food. For me, it was
also an opportunity to reflect on how the group fared this year.
December 27, 2006
Barry Mayer, KC0QYM, brought this cake to the ARES get-together.
There was a dramatic increase in the number of field stations that we could
Steve Wooten, KC0QMU -- our leader and our guide.
As it happens, it was a banner year for our ARES group. We
increased not only our membership roster, but more important, the
number of active
people in the group. We dramatically expanded
the number of people who can handle formal traffic. We saw a surge in
the number of field stations that we can deploy. We conducted a
record number of exercises, including our first-ever Simulated
Emergency Test (SET). In addition, we started serious negotiations
with a potential served agency.
was a lot of work. But it was a labor of love. And really, it has to
I was wondering,
though, just how we got it right
this year. Three words came
to mind: Growth, Team, and Leadership.
seem obvious, but it's not. We went through a hard, dry spell when it
seemed like we would never get another recruit. We thought of all
sorts of promotional gimmicks. I, personally, must have stamped out a
gazillion buttons. Every time I heard the crunchy sound of the
button-making machine I would think, "One down, nine hundred
ninety-nine to go."
In the end,
though, I think it was more subtle things that brought people into
the group. First, we were always there. The weekly net ran every
Wednesday evening, even if there were storms, the power was out or it
was Christmas Eve. Second, we were professional. I don't want you to
think that we were rigid
, but people listening in could tell
that our nets and activities were not social events; they were
serious. Third, there was no clique at the top of the group. It had
no small "band of buddies" doing all the fun stuff and
excluding everyone else. Everyone
was encouraged to jump in
and try most everything.
also had a second meaning. It meant personal growth.
members of the group had virtually no experience with ARES or
emergency communications. At first this seemed to be a big detriment,
but in many ways it has served us well. There was no one in the group
who could say, "I know it all, I don't need to learn any more."
All of us, including the Emergency Coordinator, freely admitted that
we needed a lot
of training. And once we conceded that point,
we further realized that we could never stop
was always something else to be learned, some new certificate that
had to be obtained, or some course we'd already taken had been
updated and needed to be taken all over again.
training and learning gave us better rapport with new recruits. It's
difficult to have an air of superiority when we we're all
also sound like an obvious concept, but I think people have different
ideas about what it means. I have been involved with far too many
organizations in which "We're a team" really meant, "I'm
too important to do this, so you do it."
was just a synonym for making the boss look good.
Our group's idea of team
was actual cooperation. Group members
played to their own strengths, but were always available to teach and
help others. That's one reason that the number of functioning field
stations burgeoned, and it's why we are currently seeing a sudden
increase in the number of members who can handle digital
modes/formats. We didn't have specialists
so much as we had
teachers of specialties.
And that leads me
to the last word, Leadership.
To many people,
just means commander.
But if you think of a
leader as one who leads,
you soon grasp that a leader is also
one who guides.
So a leader doesn't just give commands, he/she
Is that too
subtle? Think about it this way. A leader occasionally
commands, but is continually
giving guidance. He or she does
this by setting the tone for the whole group. Is the leader aloof? If
so, the upper echelon of the group will also be aloof, and the lower
ranks will be very thin indeed. Finding new recruits for the group
will be all but impossible. If, however, the leader is open and
approachable, that attitude will permeate throughout the group.
Coordinator for St.
Louis County ARES
is Steve Wooten, KC0QMU. We've been
very fortunate, because Steve, in addition to being a strong leader,
has also been a fantastic guide.
And here I will
add one final word, which can only come from the top: Encouragement.
It has made all the difference in the world.
So now, as we
prepare to face new challenges, add more nets, create more difficult
exercises, and take the group into the new year, I just have one
going to be a lot of work!
Editor's note: ARRL member Gary Hoffman, KB0H, lives in Florissant,
Missouri. He's been a ham since 1995. Hoffman says his column's name
-- "The Amateur Amateur" -- suggests the explorations of a
rank amateur, not those of an experienced or knowledgeable ham. His
wife, Nancy, is N0NJ. Hoffman has a ham-related
Readers are invited to contact the author via e-mail,
© 2006 American Radio Relay League