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Dr Joe Palsa
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This update letter is being sent because several subject items are happening now and I felt it was important to pass this information to our Virginia members.

Halloween is over and we are now preparing for Thanksgiving.  But we must vote next Tuesday. I know we have been bombarded with commercials, but please vote for those who you believe in. Next, we have our annual move to Standard Time from Daylight Savings Time in most states. Move you clocks back one hour. Also replace the batteries in smoke detectors.

These items not only are important for hams, but for their families and friends.

Well 2019-20 winter forecast are out now. As usual, numerous opinions abound. However, if you follow forecasts like the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which for almost two centuries has had amazing accuracy and the overall consensus is for a much colder, earlier, and heavier precipitation overall. If you remember 2010 Snowmageddon, the characteristics forecast are similar in nature. We must all stay vigilant and pay attention to our local weather forecasters. Being prepared is critical regardless of what type of emergency may occur.

A quick Winlink note. Greg as had a new record of check-ins of his Wednesdays net. 121 total, with 101 from Virginia, and 22 from other states.

The AUXCOMM school being held at the Fairfax government center on Nov 15-17, 2019 has been fully registered with 30 hams. We will try to obtain another class for early next year in another location.

The recently completed Wash DC Marine Corps Marathon was fully supported this year by 140 hams from local clubs and as well as ARES members. This group has been supporting the marathon for the past several years. This year, Hams had responsibilities for 2nd and 3rd level communications for Race Command and the Medical Data Base, they used Packet as well as a trial ARDEN network, and this year they also set up a temporary mesh network. Hams were stationed at all mile markers and many other strategic locations.

Contest time is in full swing, ARRL Sweepstakes CW part this weekend, Nov 1 & 2nd, with Phone part Nov 16 & 17th weekend. CQ, CQ-WE contest Nov 9-10 & 11, and Nov 10 is North American SSB Sprint. As usual there are many other worldwide contests during this month and can be found on internet websites like

ARES CONNECT registration is running more smoothly with the appointment of KK4IUH and assistant SEC’s to work on the backlog here as well as ARRL HQ stepping up their response times. Registrations for groups like, City of Norfolk, Orange County, Fauquier County, as well many others are growing weekly. We thank them for their hard work and dedication.

The biggest Hamfest in Virginia as well as the central east coast area, FROSTFEST registration is open for business and under way. February 1,

2020 at the Richmond Raceway Complex.  Web site is open for vendor and attendee registration as well as flea market tables sales. With as many 2,400+ attendees the last several years, get your tickets etc. early. This is also a ARRL Virginia Convention with ARES and other forums planned. 


In recent years many changes with Emergency Communications Management and support have been occurring since Hurricane Katrina. For decades amateur radio has been the go-to source for immediate temporary communications in any and all circumstances. Since Katrina, Homeland Security and its FEMA groups have become a controlling factor in Emergency and Disaster Command and Control, including Emergency Communications. With these new protocols and directives the use of NIMS and standardized formats for emergency management and communications to ensure interoperability between all types of responders to all declared events. This has now entered into organizations like the FIRSTNET and ARRL and its Amateur radio Emergency Service (ARES) emergency communications training. These changes are also  in the civilian sector of Emergency Communications. In addition,the military sector (DOD) has

also been undergoing a proliferation of changes.


In Nov 1925 the Army Amateur Radio Service (AARS) was established by the Army Signal Corps. Over the many years since its inception, the Dept of Defense (DOD) has reconfigured the MARS programs several times within the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. This service for many years developed into a mission of providing of our troops to communicate

(MARSGRAMS) back home to loved ones. But times have changed. The mission of MARS has replaced with real-world situational awareness within the United States for the DOD. 

What is MARS mission now ? The mission now, is that MARS being fully military based and about a “Really Bad Day (EMP, NUCLEAR, etc)” in which the internet is not available within a large number of regions and all other forms of communications are non- existent. Such an event would leave the DOD literally blind and deaf until they could either restore services or rapidly deploy communications teams. Until that happens, then they will need “eyes and ears” on the ground. That is where , MARS and radio amateurs come into the picture.

AF and Army MARS organizations have been training for the past three or so years in preparing for the “really bad day” to occur with nationwide exercises and daily nets.

The DOD has realized that Virginia AF and Army MARS organization are not going to be able to provide the DOD with fully situational awareness of a statewide or even a multi-regional area incident.

Again, This is where the amateur radio community enters the picture.

On " the bad day”, The MARS organization is going to need hams to tune in and listen to local airports who have AWOS capability. they will also need people to contact local governmental agencies to obtain information for DOD. These reports will then be sent back to a MARS member who will be located on one of the five channels in the 60-meter band. There will be MARS members, who have been assigned to “watch” a respective channel, will receive, compile and package up those reports from the amateur radio community and other MARS members. MARS members would then send the reports back to their designated headquarters using long haul HF circuits.

Here are some questions that must be asked and answered  to help you understand the exercise:

1.            Would the amateur radio community be willing to participate?   We

don’t know that answer but by initially involving the coordinators of the ARES service here in Virginia, confidence is much higher that the amateur radio community will participate.

2.            How would an amateur radio communicate with a MARS station. They

would use the five channels in the 60-meter band which is where both government users (primary) and amateur radio (secondary) can communicate with each other.

3.            What would the mode of emissions be?  It would be both voice and MT63

(a digital package in FLIDigi

4.            How would the DOD communicate their needs or requirements to MARS and

amateur radios?  Two ways.

a.            The DOD would first use WWV and WWVH facilities to make announcements

about the exercise and any further notifications in a broadcast ten minutes after the start of each hour. Those messages would continue and change until the end of the exercise. In fact, WWV is now broadcasting a message (remember, it will be ten minutes after the hour).

b.            MARS headquarters and select MARS stations would later in the

exercise make a digital broadcast outlining specific of the exercise using the (MARS) M110 protocol on channel one of the 60-meter band to MARS members.

5.            What is the schedule?  We only have this information and it may get

expanded or changed as we approach the exercise start time.

a.            The exercise starts on Nov. 3rd at 8:00am.      THERE WILL BE NO


b.            On Nov. 6th at 8:01 pm to Nov. 16th at 8:00 am. We hope that we will

have sustained operations with amateur radio support. At the moment, We probably will not know until at least Nov. 3rd. When we know we will inform MARS members by email of the evolving nature of the exercise.

c.            On Nov. 16th at 11:01pm, the DOD 60-meter M110 broadcast on channel

three will start and last until 11:30pm. Even though it does not say so, DoD will just be repeating the message over and over again will 11:30PM.

 Local MARS will repeat the message on channel three

d.            On Nov. 16th at 11:30PM through Nov. 18th 7:59pm, we will start and

continuously take messages that relate to the requirements of DOD from the amateur community.

e.            The exercise will end at Nov 18th 7:59pm

This exercise utilizing assistance from Amateur Radio is a trial from DOD. DOD will continue to develop the use of amateurs during its’

future exercises. Again, you can also learn more about this exercise by reading an article on the ARRL web site at this




ARES and MARS will each have their place and separate responsibilities "IF AND WHEN A REALLY BAD DAY" occurs. This exercise is to show and understand how cooperation and interoperability can and should occur.

God Bless the United States of America


QUESTIONS---Please contact Jerry Knowlton-Commander, AFMARS 34 Comm.

Group.  You can reach him by email at or by phone 540-583-0475.  You can leave messages for a return call..


Happy Thanksgiving

Dr Joe Palsa

Virginia Section Manager


Virginia Officials