eHam.net - Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community

Call Search
     

New to Ham Radio?
My Profile

Community
Articles
Forums
News
Reviews
Friends Remembered
Strays
Survey Question

Operating
Contesting
DX Cluster Spots
Propagation

Resources
Calendar
Classifieds
Ham Exams
Ham Links
List Archives
News Articles
Product Reviews
QSL Managers

Site Info
eHam Help (FAQ)
Support the site
The eHam Team
Advertising Info
Vision Statement
About eHam.net



[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:

from Bill Sexton, N1IN on July 28, 2014
View comments about this article!

Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:

Hartford, Conn.--The “test range” was a plain-vanilla office table inside the big exhibition hall. At the left end sat the PRC-150, one of some 10,000 or so backpack HF radios carried by U.S. troops, its whip antenna extended and ready for action. The other end was occupied by an innovative new commercial radio with the look and feel of a late-model amateur transceiver priced in the upper-middle range.

This odd setup was the Army MARS high-tech contribution at the ARRL’s Centennial Convention last week: an on-the-air, real-time show of Automatic Link Establishment at work. Program Officer Paul English and Operations Officer David McGinnis took turns introducing ALE to a steady procession of hams, exhibitors, families and guests at the Connecticut Convention Center Friday and Saturday.
At the three-service MARS Forum winding up the program Saturday afternoon, Region 1 director Bob Mims underscored the live action with a brisk slide show entitled, ”This is not your grandfather’s Army MARS.”

Mims listed as evidence thereof the new tasks undertaken by today’s members, among them helping train National Guardsmen on HF radio and assisting in disaster relief operations overseas. “So we are looking for operators who can help us,” he said.

Specific recruiting targets include the rising generation of tech-minded men and women interested in applying their IT skills to disaster recovery plus those younger volunteers who have earned amateur licenses but wish to perfect their operating performance. That’s a field where MARS training excels.

ARMARS HQ at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., had both groups in mind in dispatching the ALE equipment to Hartford, the point being, of course, that at the most basic level in a catastrophe, interoperability might well require exchanging traffic with the PRC-150s of arriving rescue forces.

Although difficult to master in its earlier incarnations, present-day auto-linking is straightforward whether by hardware, as shown here, or using the software modem developed for ordinary ham radios by Steve Hajducek and his tri-MARS team.

At the convention, one tap on the keypad of the state-of-the art manpack started the 20-watt, under-15-pound rig sending connecting pulses and then negotiating the optimum path to the second transceiver, a process that might take around 10 seconds (but no tuning) even if the intended receiver were oceans away instead of a few feet.

With recruiting a key purpose, Region 1 members manning the tri-service booth kept busy steering younger convention participants to meet the HQ officers and try out the ALE setup.

English, who is deputy chief of Army MARS, joined Air Force MARS Chief Dave Stapchuk in bringing greetings at the subsequent joint forum. This wound up with vigorous discussion of advancing technology based on a slide presentation by Navy MARS software specialist Hajducek (who could not attend) and moderated by Matt Hackman. Messrs. English, McGinnis and Stapchuk joined in fielding issues raised by the audience.

Mims observed that contingency communications had always been the job of Army, Navy and Air Force MARS members but mission statements failed to spell out concrete tasks.

“Fast forward to the current Military Auxiliary Radio System,” he said. “We provide National Guard units with training on proper use of HF radio, we provide phone patches for Guard units to coordinate setting up their satellite links. We operate multi-mode digital and in voice (still some CW, too.)

“We operate on national and international scale to provide contingency communications for the military and others, both by voice and digitally, sometimes encrypted, and we are looking for more hams to join our ranks,” he added.

Viewed overall, the wealth of personal contacts with other amateurs and after-hours discussions among leaders couldn't help but advance the concern for re-branding captured in Mims' "not your grandfather's MARS" talk.

The AARS crew took note of the ARRL’s 100th birthday by distributing a reminder that the two organizations were partners in creating the role of amateur operators in emergency response today.

“The ARRL was barely 10 years old when the U.S. Army, short of funds to invest in the new technology of radio, called on hams for help,” the commemorative leaflet says. “The League immediately stepped forward to help.

"That’s when MARS was born. The ARRL centennial is a happy occasion for us, too!”

[Note for calendars: Army MARS will be 90 next year.]

-- Army MARS HQ Public Affairs Officer
7 Walden Lane, Pittsfield, MA 01201 (May-Oct)
landline 413-443-2309 cell 941-726-6942
email william.c.sexton@gmail.com

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:  
by KG4RUL on July 29, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
If MARS could just get away from the service branch oriented organization and have just ONE MARS, they could be even better.
 
Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:  
by AK4PX on July 30, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Did anyone ask where MARS was during the Joplin tornado event?
 
RE: Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:  
by KG4RUL on July 30, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
And what would MARS mission have been in Joplin?
 
Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:  
by W5TTW on July 31, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
”This is not your grandfather’s Army MARS.”

That's true. Grandfather's MARS actually did something.
 
Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:  
by K7UXO on August 1, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
This is in response to some of the remarks made to this article. Some of the opinions expressed here are frequently observed in respect to MARS, and deserve to be addressed. The intent is not to be contrary to those who have expressed their opinion, but to be informative and present a different point of view for consideration.

The idea of a “Purple” (or Joint) MARS service is one that may people share. Ten years ago, when MARS was between missions with little to do it made sense. Today it does not make as much sense.

Each military department specializes in certain skills and tasks within their mission’s domain. Some of the basic tasks are the same, but the details are significantly different. For example, if you wanted helicopters to blow up tanks you would call the Army. If you wanted helicopters to blow up submarines, you would call the Navy. Both are flying helicopters, but the tactics, techniques and procedures for each mission is significantly different that it would not be effective to have the same crews do both jobs.

Likewise, each MARS service is tasked to support different missions. These missions are significantly different enough that a one size fits all approach would not be the most effective. For instance, the Navy MARS staff is heavily involved in providing HF email to non-federal civilian agencies whereas the Army MARS staff is doing cyber contingency support to DoD entities. The focus of each staff means each mission is done well, a pillar of excellence if you will. If both jobs were required of one staff, then neither job would be done as well as it is now.

For the individual, volunteer MARS member, an affiliation with a MARS service means a particular service has issued an authorization to operate (callsign) and maintains that member’s basic training. The DoD instruction that governs MARS says each MARS member may participate in the activities of the other services (operate on the other services frequencies, nets etc). They don’t need permission from their service, the DoDi authorizes it. This means an Army MARS member who is interested in supporting a non-federal civilian government agency may take training on a Navy MARS net, following the Navy’s lead in this mission. Likewise, an AirForce MARS member may take cyber contingency training on an Army MARS net and participate in exercises and missions following the Army’s lead in this area. The three service situation means more opportunities to train, and variety of mission sets for the individual MARS member. It also means more staff support for these mission sets, as well as command oversight.

In respect to the tragedy at Joplin, Missouri: In this particular incident, normal long distance satellite infrastructure was operational, leaving sat phones, BGAN and other equipment available to emergency managers. Although land mobile radio systems utilized by first responders may have been strained by the event, military supplied Long Haul HF capabilities would have added little to the response. The ARES and RACES communities were present to support local needs. Finally, there was no request for services from the state of Missouri for MARS support; indicating that in this particular incident, the State did not perceive a need.

ARES and CERT focus human resources on supporting agencies managing local events and incidents. The served community is generally those citizens served by local governments and non-government organizations. MARS mission is to support the Department of Defense in a wide variety of mission areas. MARS will support non-federal agencies when requested and directed by DoD to do so, but it is only a part of what we do. The work of ARES and CERT groups should be considered yet another pillar of excellence in its own specialty area. This should not be viewed as competitive, rather as complementary. As an amateur radio operator, you have a wide variety of opportunities to serve, and you get to select the opportunities that are the best fit for you.

If you’re interested in supporting the United States through DoD sponsored contingency communications activities, or have questions about what I’ve said here, contact me at the email listed below.

David McGinnis
HQ Army MARS Operations Officer
US Army NETCOM-OP-ITSMD
Fort Huachuca, AZ
david.k.mcginnis.ctr@mail.mil
 
RE: Army MARS at the ARRL Convention:  
by KG4RUL on August 4, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
This is in response to some of the remarks made to this article. Some of the opinions expressed here are frequently observed in respect to MARS, and deserve to be addressed. The intent is not to be contrary to those who have expressed their opinion, but to be informative and present a different point of view for consideration.

The idea of a “Purple” (or Joint) MARS service is one that may people share. Ten years ago, when MARS was between missions with little to do it made sense. Today it does not make as much sense.

<<<It absolutely makes even more sense today

Each military department specializes in certain skills and tasks within their mission’s domain. Some of the basic tasks are the same, but the details are significantly different. For example, if you wanted helicopters to blow up tanks you would call the Army. If you wanted helicopters to blow up submarines, you would call the Navy. Both are flying helicopters, but the tactics, techniques and procedures for each mission is significantly different that it would not be effective to have the same crews do both jobs.

<<<This is not valid. MARS does not operate in a battlefield environment. Procedures for passing information do not have to be different for each MARS branch. MARS is not a tactical organization.

Likewise, each MARS service is tasked to support different missions. These missions are significantly different enough that a one size fits all approach would not be the most effective. For instance, the Navy MARS staff is heavily involved in providing HF email to non-federal civilian agencies whereas the Army MARS staff is doing cyber contingency support to DoD entities. The focus of each staff means each mission is done well, a pillar of excellence if you will. If both jobs were required of one staff, then neither job would be done as well as it is now.

<<<Again, having a larger, joint pool of members, with common training, would benefit all missions.

For the individual, volunteer MARS member, an affiliation with a MARS service means a particular service has issued an authorization to operate (callsign) and maintains that member’s basic training. The DoD instruction that governs MARS says each MARS member may participate in the activities of the other services (operate on the other services frequencies, nets etc). They don’t need permission from their service, the DoDi authorizes it. This means an Army MARS member who is interested in supporting a non-federal civilian government agency may take training on a Navy MARS net, following the Navy’s lead in this mission. Likewise, an AirForce MARS member may take cyber contingency training on an Army MARS net and participate in exercises and missions following the Army’s lead in this area. The three service situation means more opportunities to train, and variety of mission sets for the individual MARS member. It also means more staff support for these mission sets, as well as command oversight.

<<<The maintenance of separate call sign structures is not necessary for the MARS mission and, in fact, may hinder it.

In respect to the tragedy at Joplin, Missouri: In this particular incident, normal long distance satellite infrastructure was operational, leaving sat phones, BGAN and other equipment available to emergency managers. Although land mobile radio systems utilized by first responders may have been strained by the event, military supplied Long Haul HF capabilities would have added little to the response. The ARES and RACES communities were present to support local needs. Finally, there was no request for services from the state of Missouri for MARS support; indicating that in this particular incident, the State did not perceive a need.

<<<Absolutely. The situation in Joplin in no way required the services of MARS.

ARES and CERT focus human resources on supporting agencies managing local events and incidents. The served community is generally those citizens served by local governments and non-government organizations. MARS mission is to support the Department of Defense in a wide variety of mission areas. MARS will support non-federal agencies when requested and directed by DoD to do so, but it is only a part of what we do. The work of ARES and CERT groups should be considered yet another pillar of excellence in its own specialty area. This should not be viewed as competitive, rather as complementary. As an amateur radio operator, you have a wide variety of opportunities to serve, and you get to select the opportunities that are the best fit for you.

<<<MARS can support it's mission with a single, more efficient, chain of command.

If you’re interested in supporting the United States through DoD sponsored contingency communications activities, or have questions about what I’ve said here, contact me at the email listed below.

<<<Actually David, I was AAR4GC, Emergency Operations Officer, SC Army MARS for a while. I dropped out when I realized that the few members in the state could, in no way, support all the missions we were promised for. Also the duplication of efforts and lack of coordination and cooperation with Navy Marine Corps and USAF MARS was monumental.

David McGinnis
HQ Army MARS Operations Officer
US Army NETCOM-OP-ITSMD
Fort Huachuca, AZ
david.k.mcginnis.ctr@mail.mil
 
Email Subscription
You are not subscribed to discussions on this article.

Subscribe!
My Subscriptions
Subscriptions Help

Other News Articles
The Explorers Club Allows Guests to Speak with Astronauts:
'Ham Radio Can Counter Dark Side of Social Networking':
CQ Policy Statement on Stations in Crimea Using Russian-Issued Call Signs:
York-Area Scouts Use Ham Radios to Talk to Scouts Around the World:
Amateur Radio Enthusiasts Gather for Annual Greeneville Hamfest: