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Awards for Sandy service

Fort Huachuca, Ariz.– Maj. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, Commanding General of NETCOM, has honored 35 members of Army MARS for exemplary service in support of civil relief operations during super storm Sandy last October.

At a ceremony in New Jersey on Wednesday, Mark A. Emanuele, the Region 2 emergency operations officer, was presented the Commanding General’s “Challenge Coin” by Region Director William Corp. His citation was for keeping the regional command post on the air for 38 hours straight during the height of the storm.

Letters of Commendation signed by General Lynn went to 35 members for serving as net controls, civil agency liaisons or other vital assignments on regional nets and the National Operations Net. MARS operators across the country were activated to provide backup communications if normal utilities failed.

   “Your ability to respond quickly to a real disaster and provide continuous operations is no easy task,” General Lynn wrote them. “Your actions reflect great credit upon yourself and the MARS program. Thank you.”

               In a tradition dating back to the Green Berets after World War II, he sent Emanuele his personal coin bearing the symbols of the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM). The Army Military Auxiliary Radio System, composed of volunteer hams, is a subsidiary of NETCOM’s information technology system serving U.S. Army forces worldwide.

            Of Emanuele’s exceptional service, Corp said, “Disregarding his own personal safety, Mark traveled through the arriving storm to the MARS command center in Middletown right in Sandy’s path. For 38 hours he kept our command station on the air, providing New Jersey’s state response operations a link with the military network in case of need.”

During the storm, Emanuele described conditions within the AT&T disaster recovery facility where the MARS command post was located, right on the storm’s track into Manhattan some 20 miles away. “We could feel the five-story steel and reinforced concrete building shake with the high winds,” he said.

               The original MARS—known then as the Army-Amateur Radio System—was established in 1925 when the Chief Signal Officer of the time asked the American Radio Relay League for help in training operators and providing aid in disasters. From the Korean War through the first Operation Desert Storm (1991) the members—before email and cell phones—also provided free radiogram and phone connections for service members overseas.

            Tradition holds that the 10th Special Forces Group in occupied Germany was the first Army unit to issue challenge coins identifying Green Berets on clandestine missions. Some Air Corps pilots in World War I had their own coins minted. Today they serve as a token of recognition that can be awarded on the spot.

Commendation Award Letters by region:








HQ Army MARS Public Affairs Officer
2285 Clematis St  Sarasota FL 34239
commercial 941-366-5053  cell (no voicemail) 413-329-9974

Pushing the Envelope in Regions 4 and 6

The AAR’s aren’t compiled yet, but the results of COMEX activity in Regions 4 and 6 Thursday
(12/13/2012) are likely to win attention as a harbinger of exercises
to come.

By way of introduction: MARS training places great importance to the three fundamentals of military
communication: reliability, speed and security. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to train for dealing with the
three realities that go with actual incidents: congestion, confusion and unpredictability.

Although no drill scenario can reproduce the pressure experienced in a major earthquake or
hurricane, Thursday’s OPLANS certainly upped the challenge beyond the pace of traditional training.
Equally significant, the two regions were on their own—“We at HQ were involved somewhat but were
purposely not the center of it,” as Operations Chief David McGinnis explained the scenarios.

For Region 4, the task was a WXobs drill with a twist: the number of assigned observation points and
forwarding MARS stations was deliberately contrived to strain the available net serving eight states plus
Puerto Rico. Time elapsed between the messaged data’s broadcast and the relaying message’s delivery
would be a key measure of net efficiency under pressure. RD Jim Hamilton and staff  will be assessing

Region 6’s test was multitasking, with a curved ball. Late in the game RD Al Hardin invited stations not
scripted into the exercise to inject any-wounded-soldier holiday MARSgrams. This produced 47
messages that the National Operations Net promptly moved to Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany.
That on top on the official scenario, which called for one set of stations handling customer Information
Requests and another performing circuit checks with deployed MARS members embedded in the Texas
Military Forces.

“This was a shakedown cruise consisting of three different COMM situations simultaneously,” Hardin
said afterward. “The COMEX evaluation resulted in identification of several conditions that will help us
plan future COMEX and Actual Incident events.”

As for the unscripted OPNET role in Region 6’s solo exercise, RD Hardin volunteered this AAR on the
MARSgram relay:  “Total time to send these messages by M110A was less than 30 minutes actual
transfer time. This shows the work of AAA1RD/AAT1BX is resulting in a team of national members
trained and becoming experienced in efficiently handling a large message load. The sense of teamwork
is almost palpable amongst these members.”

Operations Chief McGinnis’s preliminary observation: “What shouldn’t be lost on yesterday
[Thursday] is both Region 4 and Region 6 ran exercises which involved moving messages out of region.

“We are continuing to evolve a middle/bottom-run approach,” he continued. “OPNET did their job,
and R4 and R6 demonstrated how Army MARS can support operations in two very different events
simultaneously. The members and leadership in the regions demonstrated they have the resources,
training and authority to act without HQ standing over them. That has been my goal.“

HQ Army MARS Public Affairs Officer
2285 Clematis St  Sarasota FL 34239
commercial 941-366-5053  cell (no voicemail) 413-329-9974

New Army MARS Documents released

Several documents have been updated and released to Army MARS Members this month.  These documents have been updated to the CWAMARS Document repository.

The list includes:

  • AM 2-310 Army MARS Messages and Report Formats,
  • AM 5-209 Basic Electronics – Electron Tubes,
  • AM 5-265 System Fundamentals – Test Equipment,
  • AM 5-266 System Fundamentals – Circuit Test Methods.

Contact the CWAMARS Training Officer for any questions.


Colorado Interoperability Radio Training

On September 10, 2011 the State of Colorado through the Statewide Interoperability Executive Council (SIEC), launched a FREE specialized interoperable emergency communications training program for all of the agencies in the State.  The training program is the culmination of a collaborative effort between the State and its All Hazards Regions using Federal grant funds to develop and deploy educational sessions on public safety communications interoperability.

 The training covers topics such as:

  • How the radio equipment operates
  • How they can communicate with other agencies
  • Information on radio caches, gateway devices, and mobile command vehicles

The training itself is broken down into different phases and types of training.

  • There is a multi-hour, self-paced web based training that agency personnel may take at their convenience and as their schedule s.
  • There is agency directed training, where the agecny may customize a workbook to fit the equipment and programming that they use and how to use the equipment.
  • There is a multi-hour classroom portion that may be customized and tailored to an individual agency’s need.

In a letter to the various agencies in Colorado explaining the training program, Daniel Qualman, Chairman of the SIEC stated, “We believe that each agency has an obligation to ensure that their responders understand how to use their portable and mobile radios as well as having the knowledge of various interoperability solutions, which are available to them.  The creation of these training courses is the first step toward a safer and more efficient response system.”

The following web based training courses in COTRAIN ( are highly recommended:        

  • Colorado Interoperability Training – Module 1 radio 101 – Course ID 1021323        
  • Colorado Interoperability training – Module 2 Interoperability Basics – Course ID 1027248        
  • Colorado Interoperabiltiy Training – Module 3 Colorado Interoperability – Course ID 1027249


NWS Works to Simplify Weather Messaging

The National Weather Service (NWS) is working to clarify its winter weather hazard terminology, specifically the Watch, Warning and Advisory notices, after surveys and feedback have shown the public may not understand what each term means and how they should respond.

The NWS is requesting assistance in simplifying their terminology and clarifying the products they publish. The NWS demonstrates a new proposed headline method on their Web site and is requesting comments from the public on how the old and proposed systems compare. People may also submit alternative suggestions.

Certain parts of the country are currently seeing samples of the new weather warnings through March 31, 2013, and people outside the test areas can view current before-and-after examples using the map provided on the NWS website.

This project is part of the Weather-Ready Nation initiative. Anyone may contribute by answering the NWS survey after reviewing the informational Web site. Clarification and unified messaging has the potential to help the public better prepare for winter hazards and will therefore help the emergency management community as a whole.

(Source: National Weather Service)

New Post: Army MARS names Technical Editor

For immediate release (Dec. 5, 2012) –

Army MARS Chief Stephen Klinefelter has appointed William P. Hand (AAR4DX) of Ardmore, Tenn., to the new Army MARS headquarters post of Technical Editor.

Hand is a retired consultant and technical writer on DoD and NASA projects. He was co-author of the textbook Basic Electronics, published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill in 1980. He has been a MARS member in Tennessee since 2008 and last year began preparing a comprehensive series of manuals on electronics and information technology specifically focused for MARS use.

The “DX” in Bill Hand’s arbitrarily-assigned Army MARS call sign—AAR4DX—actually describes his early career. “DX” is ham jargon for communication with distant stations. Hand’s first job after college was civilian employee working for the DoD on missions all over the world.

A native Alabaman, he was born into an Air Force family just before World War II, the son, grandson and nephew of Hams. His favorite memory as a radio operator is maintaining communication from a U.S Air Force mini- base in the Bahamas when Hurricane Donna struck his island in 1960. It wasn’t the only unforgettable experience while stationed at Mayaguana Auxiliary Air Force Base.

His job included tracking early U.S. space flights, among them the very first. Cmdr. Alan Shepard rode Freedom 7 some 300 miles down the Atlantic Missile Range on May 15, 1960, watched over for a breathless nation by stations like the one on Mayaguana.

Hand says he isn’t free to discuss his later deployments on or around four continents other than to say he left government service after 11 years, having suffered a gunshot wound in the line of duty.

He had become acquainted with MARS during his 1959-1971 DoD hitch, sending MARSgrams home from one place or another among his assignments in the Caribbean, North and East Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Hand’s first MARS training manual AM-203, Grounding and Bonding, was published by email in September 2011. A dozen more titles have followed, with subjects ranging from Basic Electronics: DC Circuit Analysis (AM 5-201) to Waveshaping and Pulse Circuits (AM 5-403. An additional 12 titles are in the pipeline

Bill Hand’s very first amateur call sign was the Bahamian VP7KG while he was stationed on Mayaguana. He later became KI4WNH in time to join MARS. His new HQ post carries the billet call AAA9TE. Hand’s father, an officer in the infant U.S. Army Air Service, got the pioneer call sign 5AR in 1923.

HQ Army MARS Public Affairs Office
2285 Clematis St., Sarasota, FL 34239
commercial 941-366-5053 cell (no voicemail) 413-329-9974


AUXCOMM Course scheduled for Hamvention 2013

Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications To Provide Training In Conjunction With Hamvention® 2013

Details for registering for this special free course being held in conjunction with Hamvention® will be provided on this page at a later date. Stay tuned to the Hamvention® website for registration details as they become available. It should be noted that the instructors conducting the course will also be giving a forum at Hamvention® 2013 regarding the use of trained amateur radio operators as backup communicators in an NIMS/ICS emergency operations environment.