MARS participation is limited to individuals who meet all of the following criteria:
- Be 17 years of age or older. Signature of parent or guardian is required on the application if under 18 years of age.
- Be a citizen of the United States or be a resident alien who has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence under the provisions of U.S. Code, Chapter 12, Title 3.
- Have a willingness to comply with the regulations prescribed for participation in the Army MARS program.
- Have a valid FCC and/or host country amateur radio operator license.
- Possess a station capable of operating on MARS HF frequencies.
- Agree to operate in accordance with the rules and regulations governing Army MARS as follows:
- A minimum of 15 hours of total participation per calendar quarter.
- A minimum of 9 of the 15 hours being on HF networks operated in your primary state of residence.
- Members must participate in at least two national/regional/state exercises or actual incidents per year (total of two). Each exercise or incident must last at least 3 hours to qualify.
- All members are required to submit a monthly Participation Report reflecting their on-air and off-air MARS activity through the last day of the month.
- New members must obtain a General class or higher FCC license within one year of joining Army MARS.
- New members must completed the Army MARS Basic Training Course.
- New members must complete the following four independent study FEMA courses within one year of joining Army MARS: IS-100a, IS-200a, IS-700a, IS-800b.
- All members must have internet access, and email capability.
- All members must have digital capabilities (technical assistance is available).
- All members must serve as Net Control Station (NCS) on a regularly scheduled net at least once each quarter.
There are many benefits for joining Army MARS:
- Add to the enjoyment of your amateur radio hobby through the expanded horizon of MARS.
- Become a part of the Army MARS worldwide communications system. There are MARS stations in Japan, Korea, the Trust Territories, Hawaii, Mid-East, Germany, Alaska, and the continental United States.
- Increase your communications skills and capabilities.
- Operate on specially assigned military radio frequencies in voice and the various digital modes of communication.
- Join a group of dedicated fellow amateurs participating in a meaningful public service.
- Affiliate with the service branch of your choice and become part of the professional military communications family.
- Gain a feeling of being associated with a military mission and contributing to the welfare and preparedness of the nation.
- Participate in regulated, disciplined radio nets with structured lines of organization and very specific operating rules.
- Participate in the MARS Excess/Surplus Equipment Program (under review and may be discontinued) after 6 months active membership. The granting of MARS membership to an individual or activity does not in itself convey an automatic right or entitlement of the recipient to receive or demand MARS property when available.
There are several types of Army MARS Membership.
- Individual Membership: A privately owned VHF and/or HF radio station, licensed by the FCC and/or host authority, operated by an individual who is a member of and licensed by Army MARS.
- Club Membership: A radio station licensed in MARS that is established, operated, and maintained by volunteers under the auspices of a properly constituted military and/or civilian amateur radio club.
- Military Unit Membership: Military unit MARS stations are operated and maintained under the auspices of a military command, and are authorized on the table of distribution and allowances/table of organization and equipment (TDA/TOE). Military station categories include active Army, Reserves, National Guard, and Corps of Engineers.
- Auxiliary Membership: Auxiliary membership is designated for non-operators who perform a support function.
New members will be admitted on a probationary basis, pending completion of the Army MARS Basic Training Course. Former MARS members eligible to rejoin the Army MARS program will also be required to take the Army MARS Basic Training Course. New members will be issued a letter license initially, with a certificate issued after completion of Basic Training. The Basic Training Course is an ‘open book’ series of tests that can be completed in the comfort of the member’s home.
Although some HF MARS operating frequencies are near enough to the amateur bands to allow operation with ham-band-only equipment, many are well outside the normal amateur bands. Most general coverage amateur equipment is easily modified to operate on MARS frequencies. The wide frequency spectrum of MARS operations require MARS operators to have an antenna tuner or antennas specifically cut for MARS operating frequencies.
There are MARS VHF repeaters located in and around many of the larger US metropolitan areas. Amateur VHF equipment must be modified to access the frequencies used by these repeaters.