Army MARS Seeks Partnership with ARRL, ARES
Representatives of the US Army Military Auxiliary Radio Service (MARS) met with ARRL staff at League Headquarters October 2 to discuss ways the two organizations might collaborate in emergency response activities. Army MARS Region 1 Director Bob Mims, WA1OEZ, headed the delegation. Mims, who is also manager of the Army MARS National Net, said most of the discussion centered on how ARRL Headquarters and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) could interact with MARS during its national-level test of backup communications set for early November, and going forward.
“For the exercise the ARRL Headquarters expressed interest in activating their MARS station at W1AW — AAN1ARL,” Mims said. Discussions are still underway regarding the role AAN1ARL and ARES would play in the November exercise. Army MARS has invited Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps MARS to take part in the joint national communication exercise that will measure the auxiliary force’s capabilities, should normal communication systems be disrupted throughout North America.
Joining Mims were MARS Southern New England Emergency Operations Officer John Weinland, N1ATB, and MARS members Jon Perelstein, WB2RYV, and Matt Hackman, KB1FUP. The MARS contingent met with ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Assistant Ken Bailey, K1FUG, and W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q.
Mims relayed to Army MARS Headquarters at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Corey’s suggestion that local ARES nets could provide assistance during the November exercise by generating and relaying messages. Army MARS says the exercise is aimed at demonstrating conventional traffic-handling abilities. The test will run November 3-5, and a joint Army/Air Force/Navy-Marine Corps team responsible to the US Department of Defense for homeland security will monitor the 48 hour exercise.
Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, says that while Army MARS is the lead service in the exercise, it is looking forward to participation from the other MARS services as well as from the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System (CFARS).
“In order to properly evaluate our ability to provide this coverage,” English explained, “there will be a series of messages sent from DOD and the Army MARS Headquarters, Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), to MARS members requesting various pieces of information such as weather observation reports from airports around the country, requesting local news items of interest from areas around the country, and also requesting information on the status of utilities around the area.”
The exercise would culminate a year-long series of escalating preparations by Army MARS for responding to complex emergencies — a natural disaster or terrorist attack — that might crash or compromise the Internet, telephone, and national news and media networks across the US.
ARRL has asked the MARS contingent to provide points of contact at least within each of the FEMA regions or possibly a couple of different contacts in the various MARS groups.
Subsequent to the meeting at League Headquarters, ARRL Southwestern Division Vice Director Marty Woll, N6VI, paid a visit on October 8 to Army MARS Headquarters in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Woll says he enjoyed an extended conversation with Army MARS Chief of Operations David McGinnis, K7UXO.
“David was very complimentary of the radio amateurs who work at the station,” Woll said, “and he expressed great interest in opportunities for MARS and ARRL to work more closely together.”
Woll points out that the MARS HQ station can handle nearly a dozen simultaneous HF links, “and we employed one of them to hold an impromptu 18 MHz contact with W1AW,” he added. He arranged the contact via more conventional means — the telephone — adding that he and W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, enjoyed a brief conversation on the air as the staff looked on. Woll said McGinnis expressed interest in possibly arranging such contacts on a periodic basis and said he’d like to better acquaint the amateur community with the role and functions of Army MARS.
McGinnis recounted that he and Woll discussed conducting regular checks with W1AW, using both Amateur Radio and MARS circuits, and quarterly drills on both circuits. Woll, who’s also an ARES assistant District Emergency Coordinator, was in Arizona to speak to the Cochise Amateur Radio Association (CARA).
MARS is a US Department of Defense-sponsored program with Army, Navy, and Air Force branches. The program consists of Amateur Radio operators who are interested backing up the US Department of Defense’s communication requirements when normal channels are disrupted in disasters or emergencies.