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MARS Unifies Operation in Support of Haiti Relief Effort


To assist the MARS communications support effort in Haiti, the heads of the Army, Air Force, and Navy-Marine Corps MARS programs have agreed to divvy up responsibilities among the three Service MARS programs. According to Air Force MARS Public Information Officer David Trachtenberg, N4WWL/AFA3TR, this delegation of responsibility will facilitate more efficient utilization of MARS communications assets in the overall relief operation. On January 12, a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing thousands and wiped out the island nation's communication infrastructure.

Trachtenberg told the ARRL that Air Force MARS will have primary responsibility for coordinating and releasing public affairs information on the activities of MARS radio operators assisting with the Haiti relief operation. Navy-Marine Corps MARS will be responsible for recruiting volunteers -- who will travel to Florida at their own expense -- to serve in Haiti as part of the essential communications link. Army MARS will coordinate frequency authorizations and use of digital communications for MARS operations on the island, including the transmission of e-mail via radio links; this capability is especially useful in the absence of Internet connectivity.

"The delegation of responsibilities among the three MARS services not only makes practical sense, but is an excellent example of interoperability in action," said Air Force MARS Chief Allen Eiermann. "This represents true unity of effort," added Army MARS Chief. Navy-Marine Corps MARS Chief Bo Lindfors noted that the success of the MARS operation so far "demonstrates the value of this contingency communications capability in a real-world emergency."

According to Trachtenberg, volunteer MARS radio operators representing all three Service MARS programs have been on the ground in Haiti, working with military and medical teams to provide valuable communications support.