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MARS Normandy Invasion Anniversary:

Created by on 2014-06-26

Fort Huachuca, Arizona -- For the second year in a row, hams in the Military Auxiliary Radio System reached overseas this spring to demonstrate interoperability in cross-border emergencies.

The mission this time: commemorating HF radio's role in the D-Day landings of 1944. Army MARS stations in the U.S. and Europe were joined in the June 6-7 drill by the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System (CFARS) and units of the British Defense Ministry's high school ROTC-equivalent, the Combined Cadet Force (CCF). Replicating beachhead communications on D-Day, the scenario called for using minimal RF power level and simple wire antennas in friendly competition for the most contacts.

It's architect, HQ Operations Officer David McGinnis, dubbed it Operation QRPX (QRP the signal for low power, for exercise). In the auxiliary's first outreach operation a year ago Army MARS provided the HF link between the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii and indigenous amateurs in remote Nepal.

That exercise, which involved a simulated earthquake disaster requiring relief assistance from American military forces, was conducted by the U.S.-sponsored Multinational Interoperability Communications Program (MCIP). Some two dozen Asian-Pacific military establishments pool resources in the MCIP, sharing a humanitarian mission even if diverging in politics D-Day's commemoration recalled the pioneering deployment of three Joint Assault Signal Companies (JASCOs) that pooled frontline Army and Navy communicators for the cross-Channel invasion 70 years ago.

Army MARS HQ invited Allied military stations to join in two categories, one consisting of 20-watt operation within North America and Europe and the other using up to 100 watts across the Atlantic. Participants were scored according to the number of contacts plus a bonus for automatic link establishment (ALE).

A preliminary tabulation of 82 entries gave first place to David Bly of Sierra Vista, Arizona, Army MARS, with 43.05 points, followed by T/Sgt Nathan Belanger of the Air National Guard's 148th Air Support Operations Squadron, Ft Indiantown Gap, PA., 35.7.Dick Corp, director of the Army MARS Region 2 (New York-New Jersey) placed third (33). But one of his hits was a home run, a contact with military contractor Tim McFadden in Kabul, Afghanistan. Corp was outputting 50 watts and had used bow and arrow to launch an inverted V antenna into an 80-foot treetop near Albany, N.Y. McFadden in turn bagged the American Embassy in Kuwait and one cadet station in the U.K. Two CFARS members came in fourth and fifth: Les Lindstrom (28) and Paul Johnson (23). The five-station European Command contingent was led by Daniel Wolff, the Region 11 Army MARS director based in Germany, with 13 points for 10th place. He logged the single Navy MARS station in the early logs, NNN0WRD. Dan Wolff, operating with 50 watts on emergency power near Spangdahlem Air Base in northwest Germany, logged CCF stations using the call 11D, 21C, 40U, 74B, and 80C. The high school-aged British cadets, drawn from separate Army, Navy and RAF auxiliaries, were late entrants but certainly didn't show it on the air. "They were enthusiastic, professional, and demonstrated a high degree of radio discipline and skill," said Wolff, who had briefly coached them on MARS procedures. "We look forward to future opportunities to interoperate with them."

Bill Sexton