Ham Appointed Chief of Army MARS
On Friday, September 25, veteran Army communicator Jim Griffin, KE7LJA, became Chief of the Army Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS). Major General Susan Lawrence, Commanding General of the 9th Signal Command (Army), named Griffin to succeed Stuart Carter; Carter has held the Chief's post since December 2006. MARS, the Defense Department-sponsored organization of Amateur Radio operators who volunteer for communications support in emergencies, is a component of the 9th SC(A).
As a uniformed member of the Signal Corps and subsequently a civil servant, Griffin has amassed 52 years in government service. Before Friday's appointment, he served for two years as Deputy Chief of Army MARS, tasked with the responsibility for construction of its new gateway communications station at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
"It has been a fast three years, and I believe we've positioned Army MARS to better support the missions of the Army and to provide critically needed communications capabilities to Civil Authority when needed," retiring Chief Carter said in a message to the force. Carter, a retired Air Force communications officer, will continue in his concurrent post as Chief, Sustainment Operations, 9th SC(A) G3, with continued oversight for MARS, as well as for Force Protection and Antiterrorism responsibilities for 9th SC(A)'s Global force of 22,000 military, civilians and contractors. "I will remain Jim Griffin's number 1 supporter," Carter said.
Griffin's career spans both the modern era of radio communications and the global reach of American military commitment. "My early days of radio were in the army as a Fixed Station Repairman," he recalled in a broadcast greeting to MARS members. "I started out with vacuum tubes, filament voltages, resistors, capacitors and other items that are found in museums today. I have been stationed in some of the more interesting places of the world such as Japan, Vietnam, France, Germany, Thailand and Italy. I have run a gamut of positions in radio, microwave, AUTODIN and satellite as a technician, installer and instructor."
The new chief -- a native of Hawaii -- enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1956. Joining the Army in 1959, he developed a personal specialty of quality control/assurance at major installations around the world. He retired from active duty in May 1979 with a total of 23 years military service and became a civilian staff member in December that year.
The change of command at MARS HQ comes just as Army MARS completes an intense eight-month retraining program in preparation for the Army's expanding support for homeland security. The three years of leadership by Carter and his deputy saw almost daily change as MARS adjusted to the government's rapidly-evolving homeland security structure.
The MARS role includes operation of an e-mail-over-radio backup system for participating federal, state and local agencies, as well as HF radio command-and-control nets in all 50 states. Both capabilities are maintained in constant readiness in case commercial circuits became severed by natural or manmade disaster. MARS also provides trained members to assist state and local emergency operations centers. Because of its dual responsibility to both the Army and the civilian agencies supported by the military in emergencies, MARS members undergo training in both military and civil communications procedures.
Carter presented his successor on the Chief's Friday evening broadcast net. Formally assuming command with the MARS call sign AAA9A, Griffin told the national linkup of MARS stations: "We are on a steady course based on the 'Road Ahead' planning document that Chief Carter published last February. In fact, this week marks the completion of re-training of the entire Army MARS membership to meet the plan's long-term goals. Now the work really begins." -- Information provided by Army MARS Public Affairs Officer Bill Sexton, N1IN/AAA9PC/AAR1FP