Amateur radio operators: Wear your smarts on your sleeve


With apologies to the Buggles, I’m happy to report that the radio star is alive and well.

Well, the ham radio star, at least. And now the BSA offers a special patch for licensed aficionados of amateur radio. The Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip, above, shows others that you’re available for communication services for events, like Jamboree on the Air, and emergencies.

The requirements for the strip couldn’t be simpler: You must be a registered youth or adult member with a valid amateur radio license, of any class, issued by the Federal Communications Commission, known to you and me as the FCC.

That’s it. If you’re eligible, grab the $1.59 strip (Supply No. 617431) from the Boy Scout Supply Group at 800-­323-­0736 or The strip’s release date is Feb. 15, and you can’t preorder it. So mark your calendars to fire off an order the day after Valentine’s Day.

Amateur radio speak might be a foreign language to some, but this isn’t an interpreter strip and doesn’t go above the right pocket. Instead, sew the Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip on your right sleeve, below the U.S. flag, patrol/den emblem, and a unit award, if you have one.

Radio communication isn’t new to Scouting, says Jim Wilson (K5ND), communications services director at the BSA. He shared some historical perspective with me this morning.

“Amateur radio has long been part of the STEM initiatives within Scouting, starting with the Wireless Merit Badge in 1914 and moving to the Radio Merit Badge in 1924,” Wilson says. “Nearly 100 years later, we now have the Amateur Radio Operator Rating Strip.”

Getting the strip is a no-brainer for anyone who already holds a valid amateur radio license, but Wilson is dreaming big. 

“The strip provides Scouts the motivation to move on from Radio merit badge to pass their amateur radio license exam and sew this patch onto their uniform, signifying their expertise and availability to serve communication needs within Scouting and their community,” he says.

In other words, things are looking good for the next generation of ham radio stars.

Looking Back and Abroad

Australia's amateur radio badge.

This rating strip is similar to the Amateur Radio Operator Badge offered as a proficiency badge by Scouts Australia (seen at right) as well as the recently introduced badge by Scouting Netherlands.

It follows in the footsteps of the Scout Radioman personal interest badge for Senior Scouts and Explorer Scouts that was offered by the Boy Scouts of America in the 1940s.

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What Do You Think?

Are you getting this strip? How will you encourage Scouts in your pack, troop, team, or crew to go for it? Leave a comment below.