MARS Members Complete “High-Pressure Test” of Messaging Capacity
Army MARS, with support from Air Force MARS members, underwent a high-pressure test of nationwide messaging capacity August 3-4, under the watchful eye of the Army’s chief of network communications. Major General Alan Lynn, commander of the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), personally launched the six hour drill, which measured performance of the volunteer radio operators under heavy traffic conditions. The exercise included relay of encrypted data between individual members in the 50 states and the headquarter station at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
General Lynn, in a voice broadcast opening the test, termed the operation a “national crisis exercise.” The scenario called for breakdown of normal channels, including cell phones and the Internet, with MARS and other unspecified military assets replacing essential circuits. “Your support is critical to troop morale and critical to the nation,” Lynn told the participants. “Thank you for your service to the nation, you are a great joint capability.”
A formal assessment of the system’s performance will await after-action reports from state and regional directors, but Bob Mims, volunteer manager of the Army MARS National Net, noted “some black holes that had significant propagation problems that we need to address.”
The Military Auxiliary Radio System is a Department of Defense unit for specially-trained Amateur Radio operators who volunteer their skills and equipment to support government communications when normal channels are disrupted. Separate branches exist for the Army, Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps. — Army MARS