Local

October 4, 2013

MARS station keeps commitment to military, emergency communication

Juanita Portz, Army Military Auxiliary Radio System communications systems operator, conducts a voice test over the radio system. Besides testing the systems, personnel are able to repair most of the equipment on site.

Headquartered at Fort Huachuca, the Military Auxiliary Radio System, or MARS, is the only global gateway of its kind in the continental United States. Assigned to Network Enterprise Technology Command, the program provides Department of Defense, or DoD sponsored emergency communications on a national and international basis as an adjunct to normal communications. Additionally, MARS provides auxiliary communications for military, civilian and disaster officials during periods of emergency and assists in effecting normal communications under emergency conditions.

While the MARS station has its own personnel, the program consists of volunteer licensed amateur radio operators trained in National Incident Management Systems, military communications procedures and the way the networks collaborate. According to David McGinnis, Army MARS operations officer, there are nearly 1,600 volunteers. Among other agencies such as the National Guard, Army Reserve and other civilian government stations there are approximately another 800 people involved.

“There’s an awareness that the MARS network reaches into every community in America that makes it unique. This is an organized and command-driven network,” McGinnis said.

Operators communicate over radio frequencies described as high frequencies, or HF radio frequencies, also referred to as short wave radio. Outside the installation facility, there are 12 active antennas and nine circuits which run in and out of the station. MARS station operators will send out three broadcasts a day, often with coded messages which need special software to decode.

Army Military Auxiliary Radio System, or MARS operators use this system to communicate everyday with the station in Okinawa, Japan. The station located on Fort Huachuca is the only MARS station within the continental United States.

One of the biggest functions the MARS station carries out is emergency exercises on both national and state levels.

“I think it’s important to train, to make sure the basic communications tools will work for you if the infrastructure fails,” said Juanita Portz, Army MARS communications systems operator.

Nov. 4-8, MARS will participate in its next exercise with DoD.

“In November we’re exercising our full capabilities, we’re collecting information for the DoD, environmental information in local areas across the United States, so we’re going and getting that, we’re bringing it back, formatting it, sending it back to the DoD,” McGinnis said.

He added that within the exercise, personal messages will be sent to garrison commanders around the world. MARS will also send information to the United States Pacific Command and National Guard units.

“What I’m seeing now is … we’re getting more active with the military, which is a good mission,” McGinnis said.

MARS began in 1925 as Army Amateur Radio System, or AARS under Capt. Thomas Rives, Army Signal Corps. His goal was to enlist volunteer amateur radio operators to train Soldiers in radio as well as radio research and development to improve radio equipment within the Army.

From the time the United States enlisted in World War II until 1946, the program was suspended due to so many AARS members fighting in the war. In the 1950s, the program was no longer Army exclusive. Renamed MARS, stations could be found world-wide.

The Military Auxiliary Radio System station contains 12 active antennas outside the facility. The antenna pictured is the only one with the ability to rotate focusing all its power in one direction.

Historically the Fort Huachuca MARS is best known for telephone patches, meaning a telephone call can be made over the radio. MARS made telephone patches for Soldiers during Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars.

Today with satellite and Internet capabilities, telephone patches are a mission of the past, however, the station can still perform them. McGinnis mentioned telephone patches were made last Father’s Day between the Coast Guard aboard the Cutter Mohawk and their Families.

“We had a lot sailors who were calling and talking to their kids and so we had the kids on the radio,” McGinnis said. “A caller from the Mowhawk called his father, and recalled how his father calling him on a MARS phone patch when he was a kid.”

McGinnis stated that the interest in high frequency radio is returning. He said there’s an increased awareness of threats to communication infrastructure and right now there’s a high cost associated with satellite. Although this installation’s facility is considered the country’s premiere MARS station, NETCOM is looking to reinstate another one on the east coast.

With this renewed interest, Fort Huachuca’s MARS station is starting a new initiative with Buena High School’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps to help the students learn about amateur radio.

“We’re working on a delivery of instructional product, so it can be facilitated out [at the school] but still be consistent, so this is kind of a pilot project,” McGinnis explained.

For those interested in learning more about the MARS station, visitors are welcome to stop by. The station can also accommodate any Soldier or Department of Army civilian who is Morale, Welfare and Recreation eligible and has an amateur radio license to operate a radio within the station.

Fort Huachuca’s Army MARS station is located in Building 90549 on JIM AVENUE. For more information, call 533.7072.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Gabrielle Kuholski

Antiterrorism Exercise assesses installation readiness, reinforces important relationships

Gabrielle Kuholski First responders with the Fort Huachuca and Whetstone Fire Departments work together to get a wounded Soldier into an ambulance during the full scale exercise, Apache Warrior 2013, Tuesday. These first respon...
 
 

Labor Day Safety Message

Labor Day marks the traditional end of the summer season and celebrates the American worker and the contributions they make to our great country. I want to commend you on your efforts to control heat injuries through another hot summer. Your diligence and care for teammates contributed to an overall 20-percent decrease in accident fatalities...
 
 
Gabrielle Kuholski

VA clinical psychologist raises military sexual trauma awareness

Gabrielle Kuholski Michael Moore, Ph.D., military sexual trauma coordinator at the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Tucson, presents a session on military sexual trauma, or MST, in the Murr Community Cent...
 

 

Glass recycling now available in Sierra Vista

SIERRA VISTA – Clean glass bottles and jars can be dropped off for recycling at the new Sierra Vista Glass Recycling Depot as part of the city’s trial glass recycling project. The Glass Recycling Depot, located in the parking lot of the Pedro Castro Government Maintenance Center, is a glass collection point that is separate...
 
 
Maranda Flynn

FH Community Spouses’ Club accepting new members, shares plans for coming year

Maranda Flynn Fort Huachuca Community Spouses’ Club board members, Katrina LaDue and Lesley Hocker, (left foreground and background), assist new club members, Dana Edwards and Sandi Weishaupt, (right foreground and background...
 
 

Retiree Council shares news, notes Did you forget to care for your Family?

No one forgets to care for his or her Family on purpose. It just happens – more often than one might think when it comes to the military Survivor Benefit Plan, or SBP. Most often, retired Soldiers don’t know the federal law and the time limits it imposes on maintaining their SBP elections. If a...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin