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Author Topic: What does MARS do?  (Read 25217 times)
W0TLP
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« on: January 19, 2011, 04:38:35 PM »

I understand the concept and mission of MARS, but I am wondering, what does MARS do, realistically?

This is from the mission statement:  "Handle morale and quasi-official record and voice communications traffic for Armed Forces and authorized U.S. Government civilian personnel stationed throughout the world."

I see that there are numerous nets, and I know that emergency communications is a part of the mission. So, outside of the EmComm part, what are MARS operators doing? Are the nets any different than the standard amateur radio nets, where operators often just rag chew? Are operators actually passing traffic to oversees personnel?

From the description, MARS appears to be a good service to belong to, but I can't help but think it ends up being not much more than many ARES groups, where they always prepare but seldom "deploy." Are the armed forces really using MARS for morale and "quasi-official" communications?

Perhaps one of the operators can help clarify the day-to-day reality of MARS.

Thank you all.
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N9AOP
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2011, 09:09:31 PM »

Probably the best thing that I can tell you is that the current mission is to provide contingency
comms support for domestic civil agencies using HF.  If you were tasked with providing HF comms
to 90% of the counties in your state 24/7, how would you do it?  Most likely by running the net on
2 or 3 frequencies at the same time and making use of digital comms much of the time.  This is some
of what we practice on a regular basis because it takes a lot continual practice to get it right.
We seldom deploy and most of us are happy with this because deployment means that a whole region
is without any effective comms except HF for an extended period of time.
If you are interested in trying out MARS, the organization would be glad to have you.  If so, please
contact me and let me know what state you are in so that I can put you in touch with the proper
person to get you membership materials.
Art, AAA5RD--N9AOP
Region 5 Army MARS Director
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KH6DC
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« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2011, 12:13:03 AM »

N9AOP hit the nail right on the head.  That's what we basically do and now that our training has be standardized across all branches (Army, Navy, Air Force) and FEMA, State, Municipal Civil Defense Agencies, etc.  I participate in nets almost daily on voice, digital, CW nets.

73 Delwyn ABM6BE/KH6DC
Region 9, Army MARS Hawaii Member
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73 and Aloha,
de Delwyn, KH6DC
W1MSG
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2011, 06:37:23 AM »

If you are considering joining the Army MARS program Good Luck !

After a dozen or so E-Mails I finally got a response from Carmen Griffin the Chief of the Army MARS Program, I sent him my application in September of last year and have sent several e-mails since then with no reply. He didn't even confirm that he received my application via e-mail.

I am currently an Active Duty Army Master Sergeant and I am embarrassed that the US Army would host a program like this that has such poor support. Its a volunteer organization and by not responding to prospective members promptly you will never get any new members. I will be retiring this year and was planning to be an active member, but due to incompetence I no longer even care to be a member.

Craig
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KG4RUL
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2011, 02:37:11 PM »

MARS tries to do too much with too little resources.  One of the root causes of this situation is the historical fragmentation into command structures for each service.  As things exist right now, if a state emergency management agency needs specific services that require more resources than a particular branch can supply, there is no practical way to get help from the other services. 

In my opinion, combining the commands. eliminating redundancies and getting EVERYONE working from the exact same procedure book is the only way to breath life back into MARS.

Yes, I am a FORMER Army MARS member and former emergency operations officer.
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W3LK
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2011, 04:21:27 PM »


In my opinion, combining the commands. eliminating redundancies and getting EVERYONE working from the exact same procedure book is the only way to breath life back into MARS.


Interestingly enough, about five years ago there was a MANDATORY change to a standardized Voice Operating Procedure, largely pushed by Army MARS. None of the three services was particularly happy with the resulting document. The Chief, Army MARS, announced last fall that the Army was no longer using it and brought out their own "new" version. So much for inter-service "standardization. BTW, the newest Army VOP sounds more like a typical amateur radio net and less like a military net. The primary difference is simply the call signs.

I would note that the only service that seems to push this "one-service" concept is Army. Considering that Army MARS can't seem to keep a Chief more than about 18 months, and not even ex-military and/or a ham to boot, I have no desire to be placed under their direction.

Lon - NNN0OOR / NNN0AS1 THREE (Former MDE SMD, Deputy SMD, Assistant For Net Operations)
Southern New England Navy-Marine Corps MARS
Proudly Serving Those Who Serve
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KG4RUL
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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2011, 05:27:39 PM »


In my opinion, combining the commands. eliminating redundancies and getting EVERYONE working from the exact same procedure book is the only way to breath life back into MARS.


Interestingly enough, about five years ago there was a MANDATORY change to a standardized Voice Operating Procedure, largely pushed by Army MARS. None of the three services was particularly happy with the resulting document. The Chief, Army MARS, announced last fall that the Army was no longer using it and brought out their own "new" version. So much for inter-service "standardization. BTW, the newest Army VOP sounds more like a typical amateur radio net and less like a military net. The primary difference is simply the call signs.

I would note that the only service that seems to push this "one-service" concept is Army. Considering that Army MARS can't seem to keep a Chief more than about 18 months, and not even ex-military and/or a ham to boot, I have no desire to be placed under their direction.

Lon - NNN0OOR / NNN0AS1 THREE (Former MDE SMD, Deputy SMD, Assistant For Net Operations)
Southern New England Navy-Marine Corps MARS
Proudly Serving Those Who Serve


Lon, I agree that the Army MARS efforts were unsuccessful but, MARS is at a point where DOD needs to order them to make it work!  Failure to do so may spell the ultimate end of the program.
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W3LK
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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2011, 06:23:53 PM »


Lon, I agree that the Army MARS efforts were unsuccessful but, MARS is at a point where DOD needs to order them to make it work!  Failure to do so may spell the ultimate end of the program.

I can't speak as to whether Army or AF MARS works, or not, but Navy MARS seems to be working just fine. At least we have a Chief that's been in "office" longer than 18 months (actually more like 13 years, now) and is both ex-Navy (a command Captain) and an active ham. Smiley
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W8IFI
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2011, 08:38:14 PM »


It seems to me that a few years ago Army was losing interest in funding the MARS program and downgraded it's usefulness. I don't know much about the politics involved anymore but Navy and Air Force were more supportive. I think Army got orders to continue the program. About the question "What do they do"?. they provide a skeleton organization of military/civilian communications stations so in case of need for military or civilian emergencies, channels and operators are available for use. During the Vietnam war there was a fair amount of activity, especially facilitating communications with soldiers and their families back home. Today many of the military have personal cell phones, computers, etc.to keep in touch with folks at home, so most MARS activity is probably limited to practice/training sessions.
W8IFI
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KB6HOH
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 03:07:33 AM »

As a former Army MARS Director I have my own 2cents to throw in here.
Until there is 1 MARS Organization you going to find each one wants to do their own thing.  I use to have to fight with the Navy old timers back in the 1980's and 1990's
to understand and accept the "Interoperability" program that was put into place so Army, Navy and Air Force members could check into each others Nets to help facilitate and expedite the handling of Tfc. Air Force was a piece of Cake and we had great support from them. Again Navy Old Timers wanted nothing to do with it.
Navy almost blew the whole Ball of Wax!
Actually it was Navy who was going to Sunset the NAVMARCORP MARS program:

Navy-Marine Corps MARS Program Sunset?

   The Chief’s Broadcast that dropped this bomb was read on the 5G1B on 16May09.  The text of the broadcast is as follows:

UNCLAS

CHNAVMARCORMARS BCST 03-09

A. DOD DIRECTIVE 4650.2 DTD 26 JAN 1998

B. DOD INSTRUCTION 4650.02 (PROPOSED) NOTAL

1. COMMANDER, NAVAL NETWORK WARFARE COMMAND (NNWC) HAS DECIDED TO 'SUNSET' THE MARS MISSION WITHIN NAVY AS OF 30 SEP 2009. NNWC HAS REQUESTED ALL MILITARY BILLETS AND MY CIVILIAN POSITION BE DELETED AND UNFUNDED AFTER THAT DATE. OPNAV HAS NOT YET APPROVED THIS REQUEST.

2. ALL THREE MARS SERVICES HAVE OPERATED UNDER THE MANDATE OF REF A, WHICH IS STILL VALID. REF B IS A PROPOSED UPDATE TO REF A AND IS IN THE PROCESS OF BEING COORDINATED BETWEEN DOD AND THE THREE SERVICES. REF B INCREASES THE SERVICES REQUIREMENT TO SUPPORT THE MARS PROGRAMS WITHIN THEIR SERVICE. ARMY AND AIR FORCE HAVE AGREED TO THE CHANGES BUT NAVY (OPNAV) HAS ASKED TO BE LET OUT OF THIS REQUIREMENT. THIS NEGOTIATION IS STILL IN PROCESS AND WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE RESOLVED.

3. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF NNWC DECISION TO 'SUNSET' THE MARS MISSION, I AM FORCED TO INITIATE ACTION TO CLOSE DOWN NAVY-MARINE CORPS OPERATIONS AND FACILITIES BY 30 SEP 2009. ACCORDINGLY:   A. AREA DIRECTORS WILL TRANSFER ALL MEMBERSHIP RECORDS TO HQ NLT THAN 31 JUL 2009. WHEN RECORDS HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED, STATE DIRECTORS WILL SEND ALL MEMBERSHIP RELATED MATTERS DIRECTLY TO CHNAVMARCORMARS VICE THE AREA DIRECTOR.

  B. AREA DIRECTORS WILL CLOSE DOWN THEIR OFFICES AND TURN IN ALL EQUIPMENT TO DRMO NOT LATER THAN 30 SEP 2009.

  C. NONE OF THE EQUIPMENT AT THE AREA DIRECTORS STATIONS WILL BE ALLOWED TO BE TRANSFERRED TO ANY MEMBERS. THE EQUIPMENT MAY BE TRANSFERRED TO OTHER OFFICIAL NAVY ORGANIZATIONS (LIKE MWR OR SPECIAL SERVICES) TO HELP EQUIP OR START UP MILITARY RECREATION STATIONS. THESE TRANSFERS WILL BE APPROVED BY HQ ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS.

4. IF NAVY'S REQUEST TO BE DELETED FROM REF B IS NOT APPROVED, THERE WILL BE A NAVY-MARINE CORPS MARS PROGRAM BUT IT WILL NOT HAVE AREA DIRECTORS (THEY WILL HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED). ALL MEMBERSHIP CORRESPONDENCE WILL BE HANDLED BETWEEN THE STATE DIRECTOR AND CHIEF, NAVMARCORMARS DIRECTLY. AREA DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND AREA STAFF POSITIONS WILL BE RETAINED TO COORDINATE FREQUENCY MATTERS, TRAINING, ETC.. ALL OPERATIONAL MATTERS WILL BE HANDLED BY STATE AND REGION DIRECTORS.

5. I WILL INFORM YOU AS SOON AS I FIND OUT THE FINAL RESOLUTION OF NAVY'S REQUEST TO 'SUNSET' NAVY-MARINE CORPS MARS. 


                          73 de Steve KB6HOH
                          Formerly AAA9CN/AAV9EB Northern California
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W9MMS
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Posts: 118




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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2011, 04:58:59 AM »

Having read the above posts, it is obvious that MARS is in Total CHAOS!
Is it that the various branches of the Military by themselves, are too big to fit under the Umbrella of "MARS" Huh
From the eyes of an outsider, the Sniping and in fighting among the various branches of MARS leave me to ask " How effective can MARS be in Emergency of Epidemic proportion?"

(((73))) Milverton.
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KC9TNH
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2011, 10:14:49 AM »

The 90's focus on data (and pulling individual HF capability from many Army base commo activities) and the advent of email, PED's, etc. has sadly taken its toll.

When I hear someone like the Maritime Mobile Service Net NCS call for stations with traffic from deployed service personnel (before general check-ins) it brings a smile.

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73
Wes -KC9TNH
"Don't get treed by a chihuahua." - Pete
W0TLP
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Posts: 83




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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2011, 03:09:03 PM »

Thank you all for the responses.

A while back I called Army Mars (I'm pretty sure it was Army Mars, anyway, and I think it was at Ft. Leonard Wood) and talked to a guy who basically told me they don't do much anymore. It wasn't much of a sales pitch.

I know there are a few guys in Missouri who are involved, and I believe the Air Force MARS is HQd at Scott AFB, just a few miles east of me.

It certainly seems that MARS isn't what it used to be. That's too bad, really. It sounds like a good service.

I wonder what the chances are of a DoD MARS -- unified under one command. Probably not much.

It seems to me that FEMA would love to have something like this, too.

Teak
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KA0P
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2011, 10:24:27 AM »

I am in the STL area, and an AF Mars member. The AF Mars Hq is at Scott, although it is just the Mars Director, an additional duty position. AF Mars is  run by the affiliates, little military involvement. The Director provides program oversight. 
I beleive Army Mars Hq was in Arizona if it still is.

There is an intergovernmental organization called SHARES- which certain Mars members of all 3 services, and also our counterpart CAP (Civil Air Patrol ) can be authorized to participate in. FEMA particiaptes thru this program.

There are quite a few Army Mars members in Eastern Mo. They usually meet up annually at the Washington, Mo. hamfest. There are only 2 of us AF Mars members in eastern Mo, and a couple  in the Belleville area. At the peak in the mid 70's, we had 25 just in the STL area. 

I always recommend speaking directly with an active  member of the Mars program one is wanting to join. That is the best way to see if it is what you are looking for.

73, Dave KA0P

KA
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W0TLP
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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2011, 01:37:50 PM »

Thanks, Dave. I' may be reaching out to you to pick your brain a little.

I'm in the city.

Teak
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