From Ron Keech (KL7YK )
On 2 November 2017, the MARS Program is again working a nationwide communications drill. This involves both AF and Army MARS Members. As we have in the past we will be looking to contact Hams for information about the status of critical resources in their areas. This is a short series of questions to determine the operational status of things like Water, Transportation, Communications, Power, Sanitation, and Medical. The responses are for real-world actual status. Basically, if the MARS Member asks the status of Water in your area the normal day to day response is Operational. Of course, if an item is damaged for any reason and it actually failed, then report that. The MARS Stations will come up on area repeaters, for example, using their Ham Calls they will make a statement like this “This is KL7YK, I am a MARS Station looking for input for the DOD Drill”. We will also be looking for Hams outside of the population centers on HF, using 3.920LSB. Same idea as above, you should hear a like statement on air from a MARS Member. A PDF version of this announcement: Comm Exercise Announcement
The Comm Exercise operational window starts on 2 Nov. and runs until 6 Nov. We will be active on the weekend. Perhaps take a few minutes out of your weekend to monitor some of the area repeaters. In Anchorage, the wide area Repeaters are at Grubstake 147.33, Site Summit 147.30 and of course the Military Club Repeater on 146.67. Someone locally will be monitoring as well for Hams so if you like you can come up on air and ask for a MARS Station. The exchange takes less than 2 minutes to complete. MARS Stations will be consolidating the Ham contacts into a formal message through DOD Channels. HQ Army MARS is generating QSL Cards for those Hams who participate as well to be mailed out after the drill ends. Hopefully, those will be in your hands by the end of November, but being this is the government it may be months.
This is nationwide and statewide, we have members in Bethel, Kodiak, Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Anchorage and elsewhere. This is the invite to our Amateur Partners to join us in exercising communications paths not only in Alaska but worldwide.
Why involve Hams? Amateur Radio Operators live in the areas that could be affected by a disaster thus would have first-hand knowledge of what is not working and needs attention sooner than later. Amateur Radio Operators are considered a trusted source for this information. The info itself is going to FEMA planners so they will know where the biggest problems are and where they should be sending support first. Due to the delays that come up on Amateur long haul bands from poor propagation to just too many operators using the spectrum, this information gets stalled getting to those who actually need it.
Using federal HF Channels we avoid that congestion anyway. These DOD drills involve both MARS Members and Military Comm Units. Nationwide there are quite a few Guard and Reserve units operating in these drills. We ask that you only provide input to Alaskan MARS Stations even if you do copy say an Idaho Mars/Ham station calling. Sending Alaska info to
outside of Alaska will just confuse things.
MARS Operators are Hams first. We are all licensed radio operators just like you. Every contact with a Ham will be on Amateur Radio spectrum using Amateur Radio Call Signs. So no one needs to worry about the FCC getting excited. Its all above board.
If your interested in more information about the MARS Program please contact Don Bush KL7JFT or me as well as the online resource like:
There are still two programs but we are effectively interchangeable as far as our mission. We operate joint AF-Army MARS all the time.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Don Bush can be reached at email@example.com for any Army MARS related questions. AF MARS contact in Alaska is Pat Patterson at AFMARS0pp@gci.net.