Mild Mannered to General Class and No One Knew
By: Caleb Rich, K5RFL
Tripp Sanders, K5TRP, went home from the K5DY Field Day site, with his grandfather, and immediately setup the HF rig he received that afternoon in his grandfather’s backyard. Normally a quiet kid who loves books and computers, he called his mother on the way home to tell her all about it. This is a big step in the young life of an amateur radio operator whose parents did not know of his interest in this ham radio thing until he told them he was ready to get licensed.
Along with the rest of the country, life had undoubtedly changed in the Sanders’ household around March 2020 with the commercial air waves filled of news regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that lie ahead in the coming days and months. Will and Mandi Sanders were doing like other parents and families around the world and trying to take care of their family and protect their children.
I imagine that Tripp, at 12 years old, was probably continuing with interest in computers, working on one or all the computers in his room that are in different states of assembly. His curiosity and thirst for knowledge likely kept him occupied most of the time, so when he went to his parents to tell them he was ready to test for his amateur radio license, imagine the surprise. They had no idea that he even had an interest in amateur radio, much less that he had been studying for an exam. At the time, they were not sure what amateur radio was.
However, Tripp was aware and had located a test session that was the next one coming up in the area, so they took him. If they were surprised that he had been studying for an exam that they were not aware of, imagine the further shock when he sat for, and passed, both the Technician and General Class exams that day. Tripp acquired, and programmed, a Baofeng UV-5r shortly thereafter and began his hunt for an HF rig.
On May 14, 2020 he received the callsign KI5IYN and began listening to the local repeater via Echolink, because he lived a little too far out to get into the repeater well with an HT. Our club meeting for the Magnolia Amateur Radio Club took place that night and it was the test run for adding Zoom as an option for people to virtually attend our meeting. Tripp was one of three that joined us that evening and introduced himself to the other attending club members.
Although it was a lightly attended meeting as our first in person meeting following the shutdowns, we covered some Field Day planning and delegations and discussed antenna possibilities for Tripp after the Zoom call ended. I will take a moment here to brag on the local amateur radio clubs here and the overwhelming support for one another. We have had groups of hams spend a weekend putting up a tower for a local club member who could not physically do it on his own. I have welcomed several to my house who have helped string up a dipole and put up a mast for my 2-meter antenna. Those are some of the big projects in the last 6 months.
We discussed a few options that we had available for Tripp and decided on a magnet mount antenna with an adapter to fit his HT. The following weekend, I rode out with our club president, Doug Camp (K5BAK) to deliver the antenna and meet Tripp in person. We arrived at a quaint country home on this rainy Saturday morning and the family was out on the front porch to greet us. One of the first things we took note of was how much room they had available for wire antennas and how many would Tripp wind up building out here.
As we ascend the steps to the porch, Tripp is seated on the swing with his Baofeng UV-5r in hand and relatively quiet as we introduced ourselves to he and his family. Doug sat down next to Tripp and handed him an antenna and an adapter for his radio to connect to it, then we began talking about his interests and soon got right into the radio talk. As Doug began talking about the different antenna possibilities and asking what HF radios Tripp had been looking at, it was like a switch flipped. Tripp had plenty to talk about and it was apparent that he had done his research.
We invited Tripp and his family to Field Day and his mother, Mandi, told us it was already on the calendar and they were looking forward to it. With that we waved goodbye and drove back toward our own homes. Moments later we heard Tripp calling CQ on the local repeater and talked with him a little more. He was certainly excited and enthusiastic about amateur radio.
When the net rolled around the following Monday evening, we were able to hear Tripp a little better and I received an email at the beginning of our Amateur Radio Week from his grandfather, Michael Burns, letting me know that he would be bringing Tripp to Field Day and wondered if there would be a test session available because he was interested in getting his Technician license as well. He said that he wanted to have a hobby that could do with his grandson. I told him that I felt like we could make that happen and I would get an update to him within a few days.
What Mr. Burns was unaware of at that time was that I had sent an email out to our Mississippi Section Manager, Malcolm Keown, W5XX, about Tripp and our visit to meet him. The email had made its way to N9ZA, Ethan Mooberry, in Fulton, MS who had recently moved from Illinois with his job. Ethan was given a radio when he was first licensed as an amateur radio operator and saw an opportunity to pay it forward here. After replying to Malcolm, Doug and I got in touch with Ethan to arrange for getting the radio to Tripp and hoped for it to work out for him to attend our Field Day event where we planned to present the radio.
Initially Ethan felt that there may be a conflict to prevent him from attending so we agreed to meet the weekend prior to pick up the radio, then we would present it at Field Day. As June 20th came near, Ethan emailed back and said after thinking more, it made sense for him to come to Field Day and be part of this so we could get coverage of them together. As the time for Field Day drew closer, I was more excited for this presentation than I was for the rest of our Field Day activities.
After confirming the test session would be setup for Saturday morning prior to Field Day beginning, it was all I could do not to bust at the seams with anticipation. I knew in my heart that Mr. Burns would pass his Technician exam, then a short time later, he would be present for this stranger to travel to our Field Day and present his grandson with an HF radio. I brought along a power supply and G5RV antenna to be sure he went home with a full setup.
We had a week full of activities beginning with a breakfast and fox hunt on Saturday, June 20th, then a different net each night through Thursday, with a tour of MFJ Enterprises on Friday morning. Martin Jue and MFJ are big supporters of our local clubs and they provided some equipment for our Field Day setup as well.
It is now the morning of Field Day and the test session is set for 9:00 AM. The VE team arrives to setup and by test time, Mr. Burns has arrived to test as well as another local club member who was there for an upgrade to General Class. As the testing is underway, antennas and tables are being placed, people are sitting around socializing and enjoying the morning. After a short while word emerged that both had passed their exams. Pats on the back and congratulations were abound as they walked out of the test session and my heart smiled because I knew.
After lunch at Noon, Tripp was digging in on FT8 as Field Day got underway and I found his grandfather to congratulate again and let him in on the radio. I told him that I knew I would need his support to get Tripp away from the GOTA station long enough for the presentation. If he was choked up at the mention of the radio being given to Tripp, Mr. Burns was near speechless when it took place.
The amateur radio community is like family in our area and we look out for one another, helping in any way that we can. I am not saying other communities do not, but I can only speak for ours. I think they were both taken aback by it all. A couple of hours later they left for home and Tripp, apparently, called his mother on the way to tell her about the radio. She emailed me thanking us for making his day, noting that this normally quiet and reserved child was excited. Mr. Burns emailed us later to tell us that Tripp had the radio setup as soon as got home.
I love amateur radio myself and the people I have met along the way because of it. We often talk about parents or grandparents bringing kids into the hobby, but it is not often that I hear of it happening the other way around. I have heard Tripp, whose new vanity call is K5TRP, on the air regularly since Field Day, including his working on, and achieving, a clean sweep with the 13 Colonies SES. As thrilling as that has been, it is even better to his newly licensed grandfather, currently KI5JRK, talk about being there when Tripp makes those contacts.
I hope his enthusiasm for amateur radio continues to grow and be contagious to those around him. When you make a contact with K5TRP, Tripp Sanders, tell him I said hello.
Caleb Rich, K5RFL
ARRL Public Information Coordinator- Delta Division- Mississippi Section