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AS Tests High-Density Traffic Handling:

Bill Sexton (N1IN) on August 4, 2013
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Fort Huachuca, Arizona --Army MARS with support from Air Force MARS members underwent a high-pressure test of countrywide messaging capacity this weekend (3-4 August) under the watchful eye of the Army’s chief of network communications. Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn, commander of the Network Enterprise Technology Command, personally launched the six-hour drill, which measured performance of the volunteer radio operators under heavy traffic conditions. It included relay of encrypted data between individual members in the 50 states and the headquarters station at Fort Huachuca.

In a voice broadcast opening it, General Lynn termed the operation a “national crisis exercise.” The scenario called for breakdown of normal channels including cell phones and the Internet, with MARS and other unspecified military assets replacing essential circuits. “Your support is critical to troop morale and critical to the nation,” he told the participants. “Thank you for your service to the nation, you are a great joint capability.”

Formal assessment of the system’s performance would await After Action Reports from state and region directors but Bob Mims, volunteer manager of the Army MARS National Net, offered his “congratulations on what I see as a significant improvement in passing traffic under difficult conditions.” Mims added, however, “There were some “black holes” that had significant propagation problems we need to address in future planning.”

General Lynn was the 101st Airborne Division’s radio officer in Iraq during the largest air assault in U.S, Army history. He spoke of MARS performance during that period and earlier. “My thanks to all the old MARS operators who connected me with my father in Vietnam with phone patches [and] with phone patches in Desert Storm with the 101st Airborne families,” he said. It was the current MARS phone patch team, including veterans from that earlier period that relayed his voice during the Saturday night-Sunday morning exercise.

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