On QRZ, my name is listed as “Justin”, but I go by my middle name, Slater.
Radioing is in my blood. My grandmother, Virginia K4QWZ, was a ham. My grandfather, Wallace Dickens, was infamous for his long nights working DX on CB and ham and frequent run-ins with the FCC. My step-grandfather, Jim Blizzard, also did CB. My great uncle, Richard “Bud” Dickens K4HQY, was well known in the local ham community until he became a silent key in 2008.
So throughout my life, I have heard plenty of stories about amateur and CB radio.
My first interest in radio came when I was about 10 years old. Being a huge fan of Smoky and the Bandit, I wanted a CB. But when my mother went to Radio Shack to buy one, Earl N4ZFA, an employee at the time, told her I would be better off with a police scanner than a portable CB. He was right. So, for Christmas, I got a Radio Shack Pro-95 scanner, which I still have today.
Around 2009, my interest in weather and storm chasing eventually led me to amateur radio. I had always loved weather and wanted to be a storm chaser after watching Twister as a kid. In fact, I started my own weather website, EastTennesseeWeather.com in 2008. In 2009, I attended a SKYWARN spotter class with several hams in Morristown. Shortly thereafter, K8PJU lent me an ARRL study guide.
So in July of 2009, I took my technician test administered by Earl N4ZFA, Ed AC4ED, and Phil KE4FFO at Kingsport Computers. I passed and shortly thereafter received my call sign, KJ4NRI. K8PJU let me borrow his HTX-202 so I could get on the air. Eventually, I would buy my first rig, a Kenwood TH-F6A.
In August, I changed my call sign. I did not like the “NRI” in my original call. It just sounded weird and I slurred the letters together every time I said it.So, I changed it to WJ4STR. In hindsight, that wasn’t the greatest call sign either. Thus, I changed it again, this time to my grandmother’s call, K4QWZ. I have no intention of changing it again.
Now equipped with my new call sign and my own radio, it was time to get to work. I got involved with WX4TN District 7 SKYWARN. Eventually, I was appointed Hawkins County Coordinator. I was a member of the Kingsport Amateur Radio Club and frequented their meetings.
I also bought my first mobile rig, a Yaesu FT-2900.
I got my first taste of HF on Field Day 2010 with the Carter County ARA. I worked 20 meters and hogged that radio for a good two or three hours.
But in 2011, my interest in ham radio began to wane. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, including the burden of college, I virtually dropped off the airwaves and resigned from my SKYWARN position. To make matters worse, my mobile Yaesu no longer functioned and I was stuck with an HT. For nearly two years, my voice was off the air.
That changed in 2013. With everything sorted out, my interest came back to life. Over the summer, I purchased a new mobile unit, a Kenwood TM71A. I was back on the air.
Shortly after becoming active again, I discovered Summits on the Air (SOTA), which was really becoming popular in the Tri-Cities. In September, I activated my first summit, Holston River Mountain (Bays Mountain) and immediately became engrossed in the program. SOTA has truly kept my interest in ham radio alive.
I got my hands on the HF bands once again during SKYWARN Appreciation Day at MRX in 2013.
On January 4, 2013, I took and passed the general class exam at the Morristown, TN hamfest. I went ahead and tried for extra class but did not come close to passing.
Today, I’m still active in SOTA. I am looking forward to working HF and continuing to explore this wonderful hobby. I am the Owner/Webmaster/Director of the EastTennesseeWeather.com team.
Currently, I am a student at ETSU, majoring in RTVF (broadcasting) and Political Science.