A 2 day Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) communications exercise in early November was an overall success, especially in terms of MARS-ARES cooperation. The November 8-10 exercise was built around the scenario of a simulated massive coronal mass ejection (CME) that disrupts conventional communication systems across the US. Following the simulated CME, MARS stations returned to the air and received requests for information from the supported Department of Defense (DoD) organizations and asking that MARS stations establish contact with Amateur Radio operators in as many of the 3142 US counties as possible. MARS operators were limited to using mainly HF NVIS bands as well as VHF and UHF repeaters. Communication between MARS and Amateur Radio operators were to be made directly, without relying on Internet-linking capabilities or store-and-forward messaging systems.
“Data analysis following the exercise shows that MARS members successfully contacted 816 counties across the US (26 percent),” US Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, told ARRL. “Amateur Radio participants in this exercise included individuals, Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)-affiliated clubs, and the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) as well as a few state, county, and city emergency operations centers.”
English credited advance publicity given to the exercise by ARRL and others for MARS exercise planners having received 181 e-mail inquiries from individual, clubs, and emergency management personnel wanting to receive more information about the exercise and how they could participate. English said MARS received inquiries from 41 states and included more than 50 ARES groups.
“The purpose of these exercises is to reach beyond interoperability and focus on our ability to exchange usable and relevant information from the local level to the national level following a crisis event,” English explained. “Only through the cooperation among MARS and the larger Amateur Radio community (individuals, ARES, RACES, SATERN, etc) can we hope to achieve that synergy.”
English conveyed the appreciation of DoD MARS leadership to all who supported this exercise and said that MARS is looking forward to conducting these types of exercises more frequently with the Amateur Radio community.
During the exercise, the Commanding General of the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, Maj General Morrison, visited the Fort Huachuca HF Gateway station to receive a briefing on the exercise and presented a plaque celebrating MARS 90th Anniversary which occurred on 1 Nov 2015.