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High-Tech at MARS

Bill Sexton (N1IN) on December 8, 2012
View comments about this article!

The “DX” in Bill Hand’s randomly-assigned Army MARS call sign is marvelously apt.

During his dozen years as a young civilian working for the DoD he performed missions all over the globe. It was his first job after college in a lifetime of high-tech involvement that is now paying dividends for Army MARS.

You’ll have to look hard for any mention of Bill, but chances are many MARS members possess some of his prolific output in the shack or on their computers. His name is simply out of sight, like much of his DoD career was. Some clues on that in a moment; first, let’s get to know Bill Hand.

He’s a native Alabaman born into an Air Force family just before World War II’s onset, the son, grandson and nephew of Hams.

His favorite radio memory is maintaining communication from a U.S Air Force mini- base in the Bahamas when Hurricane Donna, a Category 5 storm, almost wiped out the remote island in 1960. Survival involved manhandling a 35kW generator into a radar tower and keeping head above water there. (Donna went on to ravage New Jersey and New York on much the same unforgettable path and scale as Sandy a half-century later—plus Florida, the Carolinas and New England.).

That wasn’t the only unforgettable experience while stationed at Mayaguana Auxiliary Air Force Base. As the base communications officer he had the job of tracking early U.S. space flights including the very first. On Hand’s watch, Cmdr. Alan Shepard rode Freedom 7 some 300 miles down the Atlantic Missile Range on May 15, 1960, watched over for a breathless nation by a string of stations like his.

Hand’s later deployments on or around four continents also provided their share of drama. He says he isn’t free to discuss the nature of the work other than to say he left government service on medical grounds. An AK- 47 rifle wound suffered in the line of duty took many months to heal.

A second career put his University of Alabama/Tuscaloosa engineering degree to work on a variety of defense-related projects. He consulted for Sikorsky on Blackhawk and other helicopter projects. He did some engineering on contract for NASA’s Saturn V program. Technical writing became a specialty, and he co-authored a textbook, Basic Electronics, published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill in 1980. He taught college-level courses, too.

Hand had become acquainted with MARS during his 1959-1971 DoD hitch, sending MARSgrams home from one place or another among his many assignments in the Caribbean, North and East Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. He finally joined MARS in 2008 after settling down in retirement. That was in Ardmore, TN, not far from the missile- industrial complex of Huntsville, Ala., site of his contractor employment.

After a couple of years in MARS he was struck by the need of training material on general technological subjects but tightly focused for Army MARS use. At the time, one of our recruiting pitches—and still a good one—was the opportunities for advanced learning that go with MARS membership. Hand broached the idea to David McGinnis, then National Training Coordinator on the way to coming Operations Chief at Army MARS HQ. McGinnis liked the proposal. So did Chief Stephen Klinefelter.

And so, in September 2011, without noticeable splash, McGinnis published training manual AM-203, Grounding and Bonding. With its comprehensive coverage of lightning it was a natural series opener for the safety-minded auxiliary. Nine more titles have followed, with subjects ranging from Basic Electronics: DC Circuit Analysis (AM 5- 201) to Charts, Equations and Data Tables (AM 5-299). The shortest is 20 pages, the longest 311. An additional 17 titles are in the pipeline. So far, the series runs to a total of 100,546 words plus dozens of charts and tables, totaling more than 500 pages. Each was published from MARS HQ by e-mail. As this was being written, arrangements were under way to post them for downloading at will on the Army MARS/NETCOM web site.

It’s not just a cliché to say ham radio is in Hand’s blood. His father, an officer in the infant U.S. Army Air Service, got the pioneer call sign 5AR in 1923. He wound up his long military career as chief of emergency plans at the Army Missile Command, retiring in 1955.

Speaking of “DXing” (hams’ pursuit of foreign stations) Bill Hand’s very first amateur call sign was the Bahamian VP7KG while he was stationed on Mayaguana.

There was high-tech innovation in the family, too. His father’s work on helicopter design led to patent credits in the latter 1930s. His grandmother was also something of a trailblazer, obtaining a ham license to keep in touch with her two sons in the 1940s. Bill’s son Robert was AUX4RC before leaving home.

Till now, the only public credit you’d find for Bill’s MARS work is carefully hidden at the bottom of an inside page of his mini- texts. It reads: “This document has been produced by the Army MARS Technical Writing Team under the authority of Army MARS HQ, Ft Huachuca, AZ. The following individuals are subject matter experts who made significant contributions to this document. William P Hand.”

Bill Sexton
HQ Army MARS Public Affairs Office

Member Comments:
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High-Tech at MARS  
by KC8VWM on December 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Can you please explain or elaborate about the primary purpose of this article?

RE: High-Tech at MARS  
by KC8VWM on December 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I mean, is this article intended as a posting of someone's personal resume, and are you expecting us to respond by posting our own personal resumes?

RE: High-Tech at MARS  
by KG4RUL on December 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I will echo the others - why? And to put my comment in perspective, I was formerly a member of Army MARS.
RE: High-Tech at MARS  
by KT0DD on December 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for such a nice commentary on how much someone has done and one who enjoys many different aspects of communicationincluding Amateur Radio. Pay no attention to the eham trolls. I found it an entertaining commentary.

High-Tech at MARS  
by VE6FGN on December 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Bill- thanks for the article. Some of the folks that have made the greatest contributions to our hobby tend to work in the background- bringing this gentlemen forward was a gracious thing to do. Thank you Mr Hand.
High-Tech at MARS  
by WW0H on December 9, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Good read, Bill. I enjoyed the article. I was AAT7XF and for a short time AAM7KTO. Articles and books like this would have been wonderful.
High-Tech at MARS  
by K2BEW on December 10, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice article, I really enjoyed reading about this man's contribution to radio. Any idea on how to get his published articles such as "AM-203, Grounding and Bonding" to read? Didn't find it with an internet search, thanks, 73, Tom N2BEW
High-Tech at MARS  
by K1CJS on December 11, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article, even if it is one on an amateur radio niche subject. Maybe the gentleman didn't make a large mark on the amateur radio bands or service, but if the written manuals are being prepared for downloading by all, it's a nice way of letting other hams know of them.

Since I don't know if the manuals you referenced are going to be available to the general public (you did say they're going to be on the Army MARS website) I too would like to know when and if they'll be available to the general public.

Thanks for the look at the man, and 73!
RE: High-Tech at MARS  
by MAGNUM257 on December 11, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you the good read, nice to see the man is appreciated for all his time and devotion to MARS.

As for these stupid comments...

"High-Tech at MARS Reply
by KC8VWM on December 9, 2012 Can you please explain or elaborate about the primary purpose of this article?"

"RE: High-Tech at MARS Reply
by KC8VWM on December 9, 2012 I mean, is this article intended as a posting of someone's personal resume, and are you expecting us to respond by posting our own personal resumes?"

"RE: High-Tech at MARS Reply
by KG4RUL on December 9, 2012 I will echo the others - why? And to put my comment in perspective, I was formerly a member of Army MARS."


...I think the Moderators should delete them.
RE: High-Tech at MARS  
by KC8VWM on December 13, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I think you should be deleted. My questions are valid. You user name on the other hand...

High-Tech at MARS  
by AA4HA on December 15, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
While I appreciate Mr. Hand's participation in MARS the title of the article has almost no relationship to the content. As it has been put, this reads like a resume or a list of qualifications that you would see for a speaker at a convention. ( I know this because I am a speaker at conventions and there is something similar out there about me ).

I suspect that the PR officer sent these out to many places and it just happens that eHam decided to drop it in as a forum item. I was expecting to be reading something particular to "high tech at MARS" and maybe some operations or technology related topic.

As Mr. Hand is a member of an organization that word-smithed this "article" into being he probably did not have explicit involvement in getting it put up with that title (marketing people drop my stuff all over the place too). I do not fault him in the slightest, I have some criticism for eHam on not insisting on a different title and in determining this was the right place to put this.
High-Tech at MARS  
by W6EM on December 16, 2012 Mail this to a friend!

Thank you for an interesting article. Especially about Mr. Hand's selfless contributions to technical knowledge for MARS members. Perhaps not exactly "high-tech," the subject matter manuals are technical and probably very useful for ham/MARS member reference.

I used to be a MARS member, and was the then-Central CA MARS Librarian, and had an attic full of technical manuals for a plethora of military and civilian test equipment and a few radios. So many volumes, it caused the ceiling joist over the garage to crack, so I had to move some of the boxes into my ham shack. A few requests for this and that, but that was before the Internet and packing and shipping was involved.

Mr. Hand has served his country throughout his working career, and is still contributing to the overall good.

There are those who dislike MARS for one reason or another. I have a few issues with it myself, as an ex member. However, in this case, questioning the worthiness of this article is both picky and immature. If those reading it don't want to hear why Mr. Hand was qualified to write what he has, and that MARS members are offered his manuals, they should just move on.

High-Tech at MARS  
by KE4ZHN on December 18, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
I have to agree with the others who suggest this is merely a resume for the author. Nothing wrong with what this man has done for MARS communications..but where is the "article"?
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