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JROTC Students On the Air with MARS:

Bill Sexton (N1IN) on April 9, 2013
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Trial Run: Junior ROTC on the Air with MARS

            Fort Huachuca, Ariz.—Exploring a new source for future Army MARS leaders, two headquarters staffers carried portable gear to nearby Buena High School Monday (8 April) and treated students enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps to hands-on emergency communications training.

Army MARS Chief Stephen Klinefelter characterized the event as a trial run for a program offering MARS-type training at JROTC units nationwide. It would include licensing military unit stations to be operated with locally-contributed VHF and HF equipment.  JROTC programs are military units within the Army Training and Doctrine Command, so amateur licenses would not be required for qualifying students while operating on military frequencies.

The 22 ROTC cadets who had expressed interest in radio took part in an actual Arizona MARS network after classroom training with National Operations Officer David McGinnis and Mr. Eddie Collins from the Network Enterprise Technology Command. Retired Command Sergeant Major Monty McDaniel, the lead instructor for JROTC at Buena HS, coordinated the special class.

           “The cadets were particularly excited they would participate in exercises and events on a military radio network,” MARS officer McGinnis said. “They were also impressed seeing communications over distances of 250 miles can be achieved with simple battery powered sets without the need for infrastructure.”

           The Buena JROTC was presented with an Army MARS military unit authorization to operate in MARS.  McGinnis said a course of instruction was devised to accomplish two objectives:  To prepare the JROTC to utilize MARS in support of an upcoming orienteering meet, and to familiarize the JROTC cadets with Army MARS contingency communications HF radio network.  For most cadets it was their
introduction to HF radio.

            The Cochise Amateur Radio Association is part of the Buena JROTC plan, to provide training and VEC services to the cadets.  Although the ham license isn’t required to operate the military unit station, having cadets obtain an Amateur Radio license is one of the program goals.

           The course included hand held VHF radios which were used in the class room to practice basic voice procedures.  The radios utilized a half duplex frequency scheme for the "directed net procedures" part of the instruction so that cadets could not hear each other but only the Net Control Station.
             Following the class room instruction, the cadets adjourned outside for hands-on HF operations.  Under instruction from Mr. Collins, cadets erected the AS-2259 antenna and attached it to a PRC-104B transceiver.  Elsewhere, Arizona Army MARS members were standing by.
         Arizona Army MARS member Brian Handy was the net control station, and directed Arizona Army MARS stations in turn to call the JROTC unit and provide their distance from the JROTC location.  On each call, a different cadet operated the PRC-104B radio set.  Stations up to 250 miles away gave the JROTC cadets favorable signal reports.

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