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Author Topic: MARS Exercise the Week of 8 November 2015  (Read 6208 times)

Posts: 97

« on: September 17, 2015, 01:27:59 PM »

MARS Exercise to Simulate a Coronal Mass Ejection;
Collaborate with Amateur Radio During Aftermath

Beginning the week of 8 November, MARS will participate in a
quarterly contingency HF exercise in support of the Department
of Defense. MARS is tasked with being the primary interface
between the DOD and the amateur radio community for
National Security/Emergency Preparedness events.  The exercise
scenario will simulate a CME event and focus on actions that
radio operators should take prior to and following a CME event.

Training objectives for this exercise include:

- understanding what a CME is and how much forecast lead time
can be expected prior to the CME.

- what effects are associated with a CME and what precautions
should radio operators take prior to the CME to protect equipment

- Following the CME, operators will begin assessing the affects
that resulted from the CME and begin reporting this information

- Interoperation with amateur radio operators and groups to
assist in assessing and reporting on the affects of the CME event.   

Amateur radio operators, ARES, RACES, SATERN, etc are encouraged to
participate in this exercise; if you're group is interested in participating,
please email: with your contact information.


Posts: 97

« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2015, 02:16:29 PM »

MARS Exercise to Simulate a Coronal Mass Ejection;
Collaborate with Amateur Radio During Aftermath

Beginning the week of 8 November, MARS will participate in a
quarterly contingency HF exercise in support of the Department
of Defense (DOD).

For anyone interested in reading the publicly releasable operations order for this MARS exercise, please go to the below URL:

If your organization is interested in participating in this exercise, please send a note to:



Posts: 97

« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2015, 01:37:58 PM »

MARS Exercise to Simulate a Coronal Mass Ejection;
Collaborate with Amateur Radio During Aftermath

Beginning the week of 8 November, MARS will participate in a
quarterly contingency HF exercise in support of the Department
of Defense..."

Fellow Amateur Radio Operators,

Thanks to everyone who was able to participate in the DOD-MARS-Amateur Radio Exercise from 8-10 Nov.  We appreciate your support and efforts in helping to achieve the training objective of contacting as many of the 3,142 US counties during this exercise via radio only means.  We are still compiling the results of how many counties were contacted.

I am now collecting After Action Report comments and recommendations for how to improve our processes of reaching out to the amateur radio community during these types of exercises.

I have already received a few comments and am interested to hear if there are other comments or recommendations, both good and bad, for how to improve this process.

Here are my thoughts on what I need to improve:

1.  We need to better integrate MARS operators into their local ARES/RACES organizations locally, so they already know when and where your nets regularly meet and how to get ahold of you.  We are also considering the need to plan for MARS operators to monitor specific RACES CPG 1-15 frequencies, the 5MHz interop channels, or maybe the HF-ALE channels, then announce monitoring windows and specific frequencies where we can be reached.

2.  The way I structured the coordinating correspondence for the exercise was too cumbersome.  This required an initial coordination email from me to you and copied a MARS Region Director who then had to appoint someone to contact you and then figure out when and where your regularly scheduled nets operate.  I know in some cases, the follow on linkup didn't occur due to a number of factors.  The initial email should contain the information from #1 above to give you certainty from the outset of what the link up plan will be.  For those that were not contacted, I apologize for my lack of a more succinct plan for how to do this coordination. 

3. Because of the way I structured the coordination, I had to cut off coordination several days prior to Startex which left at least 30 amateur Radio Operators out of the exercise.  I need to have a better coordination plan so there is no cutoff - so that if you are able to participate, just jump in and contribute.   

Again, thanks for your interest in this exercise. My hope is that we can continue to improve this process and make coordination for these types of exercise more routine.  I also want to consider scheduling a MARS exercise in conjunction with already established amateur radio exercises such as annual simulated emergency test exercise to give us more opportunities to train together in the future.

I look forward to reading your comments.



Posts: 12

« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2015, 11:13:04 AM »


A few thoughts on the CME exercise, and MARS/ARES/RACES interfaces in general...

Given that civilian MARS operators are also licensed radio amateurs, the exercise scenarios might play out better if MARS stations activated as "special event" stations on HF and linked repeater systems, with well-publicized dates, frequencies and listen times, to demonstrate the ability to collect information from local operators.

For my area (Eddy county, NM), the ham population is sparse, and largely elderly. We have access to a countywide linked ARES repeater system, a statewide linked repeater system (Megalink) as well as an outlet to West Texas linked systems. Some have HF capability.

I received no reports of any activity during the exercise. MARS stations weren't heard in Eddy County during the exercise window. That could be due to no MARS operators able to communicate with Eddy County via the linked repeater systems, or no visibility on where/when the MARS stations would be operating on HF.

In an effort to keep MARS, ARES, RACES etc. relevant in emergency communications, at least when interfacing off-net, putting "special event" type of publicity out might attract (pull) more non-affiliated players than the push (startex is nn:nnZ on mm/dd/yyyy, find us if you can) method we're all familiar with.  Throw in a QSL card for making contact during the exercise and they'll come - ever see a field day without food? That's a sad scenario that isn't repeated again.

Perhaps what really would get more results is having the different e-comm groups drop any pretense at specialized affiliation requirements, and just embrace the local-level amateur population at large, where the rubber meets the road.  Trained message handlers upstream will always be needed, but I can't remember the last time I formatted (or received, for that matter) a formal message conveying that there was 3 feet of water running over a bridge or that a shelter needed more cots and bottled water.

Best 73,
Mike Mello, N5MJ
Eddy County, NM DEC
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