PACKET RADIO: MARS
Steve Wolf, W8IZ@W8IZ
(This text from the W8IZ packet radio bulletin
board. It's formatted to fit a 80 character screen.)
MSG # TR SIZE TO FROM @BBS DATE TITLE
1660 B$ 5413 ALL WB2BOO ALLUS 910114 MARS Background Info
Date: 08 Jan 91 18:07:31 EST (Tue)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gary)
Subject: MARS Background Info
My recent bulletins on NTS traffic via MARS to/from Desert Shield
resulted in many requests from amateurs on info about MARS. Here's
an UNOFFICIAL article I've written using a variety of public sources.
The Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) is a joint military/volunteer
global radio network operated by the Army, Navy and Air Force that
provides emergency communications capabilities as an adjunct to normal
military communications channels. MARS maintains these emergency
channels by processing morale and welfare traffic for servicemen
and women during non-emergency periods. MARS is a government
radio system, not an Amateur Radio Service, although a valid FCC
Amateur Radio License is required to join the program.
Military amateur radio operations were first organized in 1925 under the
Army Amateur Radio System. Members were trained in Army radio procedures
and by the beginning of World War II, there were about 8,000 operators.
In 1948, the Army and the new Air Force jointly formed the Military
Amateur Radio System. In 1950, membership was expanded to include radio
amateurs outside of active duty military personnel and reservists.
In 1952, the MARS mission was expanded to encompass the transmission of
American Red Cross messages. MARS would also handle official USAF message
traffic when established systems were not operational and would assist
in Civil Defense emergencies. The word "Amateur" was changed to
"Affiliate". In 1959, MARS was deemed a backup to Air Force communications
circuits and incorporated into emergency communications plans.
There are two categories of MARS stations: (1) Base or unit stations
operated by military personnel using military equipment; and
(2) Affiliates in the Individual Member program - licensed Amateur
radio operators who volunteer their services to MARS. Using their own
equipment, these operators provide service on military voice, CW,
radio-teletype, phone-patch, repeater, packet and SITOR circuits.
Each service runs its own MARS program within common DOD guidelines.
Affiliate members in each program must meet the following requirements:
- Posess a valid FCC Amateur Radio License of Novice Class or higher.
(Novices must upgrade within one year)
- Be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Be fourteen Years of age or older. (Under 18 requires parental consent).
- Have a station capable of operating on military HF frequencies.
- Initial assignment to a training net to learn military radio procedure.
- Minimum on-air participation of 12 hours each quarter (6 must be HF).
Affiliates do not incur any military service obligation and may resign at
any time. You may be in only one service's MARS program at a time.
Affiliates gain the following benefits:
- Pride in performing a valuable public service.
- Training in military radio/communications techniques.
- Operating in organized nets on quiet frequencies.
- Eligibility for surplus/excess military communications equipment issue.
USAF MARS operates 24 hours a day with key military stations ensuring
continuity of operations. USAF MARS provided key links with the US Embassy
in Tehran during Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, relieved phone line
congestion during the Vietnam war, and provided first notification to
the Department of State during the Mexico City earthquake in 1985.
Which service you select is your preference; however, the Army HF frequencies
are the closest to the amateur bands. USAF operation and USN operation
are more towards the HF aviation and HF maritime bands respectively.
Since most modern, digital radios are easily modified for 3-30 MHz
HF operation, this is more of a concern for your antenna capabilities.
To apply to or find out more about a particular MARS program, write to:
Army MARS: HQ, Army MARS
US Army Information Systems Command
Ft Huachuca, AZ 85613
USAF MARS: Chief, USAF MARS
Scott AFB, IL 62225-6343
Navy-Marine Corps MARS: Director, Navy-Marine Corps MARS
Naval Communications Unit
Washington, DC 20390-5161
Gary Wilson, WB2BOO/AFB1WA
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