Home‎ > ‎

Frequently Asked Questions

Military Auxiliary Radio System Frequently Asked Questions

What is MARS?  MARS stands for Military Auxiliary Radio System.  MARS is a Department of Defense sponsored capability authorized under DOD Instruction 4650.02 and implemented in Army Regulation 25-6 that organizes and trains the best, licensed amateur radio volunteers to operate in military radio networks to support tasked requirements establishing high frequency radio contingency communications.

The Army MARS mission is to—
  • Provide contingency HF communications as tasked in support of DOD and Service communication requirements.
  • Provide communications support to civil authorities in accordance with DSCA policy specified in DODD 3025.18.
  • Assist in effecting normal communications under emergency conditions as directed or requested.
  • Establish programs to create civilian interest, recruit the best qualified amateur radio volunteers, and provide training in military communications, techniques, and procedures.
  • Improve HF and very high frequency (VHF) radio operating techniques and technology through training, experimentation, and testing.
  • Plan and conduct relevant exercises and competitions for Regular Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and Army National Guard, as well as the amateur radio community including the RACES.
  • Develop highly skilled volunteer personnel trained in radio communication techniques and procedures in order to support military training, real-world missions, and DSCA as directed.

What are the requirements to become a MARS volunteer?  In order to apply for MARS membership, the applicant must:

  • Be eighteen years of age or older.
  • Be citizens of the United States or individuals who have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence under Title 8, United States Code, Chapter 12 (8 USC Chapter 12).
  • Hold a valid Federal Communications Commission (FCC) amateur radio license.
  • Agree to operate per the regulations prescribed for participating in the Army MARS Program.
  • Have no prior record of being terminated for cause by another Service MARS Program (may be waived by the Chief, Army MARS, upon review of mitigating information and consultation with the other Service).
  • Have unrestricted access to a radio system consisting of a transmitter and receiver (or transceiver), antenna, modem, computer equipment, and associated software. This system must be capable of operating on all radio frequencies between 2 and 30 MHz in accordance with NTIA Manual of Regulations technical standards with an output power of at least 100 watts in order to communicate effectively over long distances. The system shall use single side band as described in MIL – STD – 188 – 141 and the serial phase key shifting data mode described in MIL – STD – 188 – 110A. “Unrestricted access” means the individual may use the radio system on demand and as required to support MARS activities without conditions.
  • Be of good moral character (for example, trustworthy, honest, reliable, respects and upholds laws), Have no felony convictions, or under indictment in any court for a felony. Have no associations with known terrorist organizations. Not use illicit drugs. Not have been declared mentally incompetent. Not have been discharged from the Armed Forces under other than honorable conditions.
  • Be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement and submit to a background check. If information is discovered on a background check that prevents the applicant from becoming a MARS operator, the individual may provide mitigating information to the Office of the Chief, Army MARS, who will make a final determination on the application.
  • Be able to maintain radio and computer systems without assistance, including loading and configuring software and operating systems, configuring and operating local area networks, and recover corrupted computer systems.
Once you are a MARS member, there are ongoing requirements. You must:
  • Submit a monthly capabilities report.
  • A minimum of 72 hours per calendar year of HF radio operations on Army MARS radio nets is required to renew membership. This should be divided into 18 hours of HF radio operation per quarter in order to demonstrate performance standards.
  • Participate in at least one Army MARS national-level exercise each year. 
And you will be expected to perform basic radio network task such as:
  • check into MARS radio nets;
  • call MARS radio nets when requested or directed by MARS leadership;
  • load and change encryption keys; maintain and update software; code and decode messages;
  • transmit, receive, and relay messages efficiently and effectively using voice and MIL – STD data modes;
  • gather information locally and from amateur radio stations;
  • originate, relay, and/or distribute messages to authorized recipients such as Army MARS members, Army MARS leadership, DOD, and authorized civil authority personnel.


What training do MARS volunteers receive?  MARS members are trained and proficient in the United States Message Test Format MilStd 6040 and voice radio procedures outlined in Allied Command Publication 125.  Members are also proficient in sending and receiving both plaindress and codress (encoded) messages using the ACP 126 and 127 message procedures.  Members receive training in sending text based messages using military standard communication protocols such as MilStd 188-110A. 


My unit owns the PRC-150 HF radio, why should I be familiar with MARS’ Capability?  MARS members operate on Department of Army HF spectrum allocated by the National Telecommunications Information Administration and are trained in military communications procedures.  MARS members are a resource that can be available 7 days a week to help Army units conduct on-air HF training for their Soldiers.  Since MARS members are located all over the US as well as in Germany, Hawaii, and Japan, there are numerous stations at various distances to give the Soldiers an excellent opportunity to train on communications at various distances to learn how different antenna configurations affect how far they can communicate.


My unit is interested in conducting on-air HF training, how do I request support?  For units interested in doing on-air training and testing, please contact the Fort Huachuca Gateway station at:  520-533-7072 and DSN 821-7072.  Via email, contact:       david.k.mcginnis.ctr@mail.mil . 

Given your proposed training dates and times, we will coordinate with you as to which MARS HF frequencies will be most suitable for the test and we will also coordinate to have a variety of MARS stations on the air to support your training.  We will also coordinate what call signs will be used for the training.

 

What other types of training/support can MARS provide to my unit?  In addition to just conducting on-air radio checks, our members have the capability to transmit and receive MilStd 188-110A Serial Phase Shift Keying communication mode which is compatible with the PRC-150 and tactical chat software.  We can also demonstrate HF phone patch (also called radio wire integration) which allows the Soldier to place phone calls via a MARS station to any phone number for official business and MWR.  An example of this that we have tested is when a Signal Unit deploys a Joint Network node, if there is no cellphone coverage to contact the satellite tech control facility, the JNN team could establish an HF link to a MARS station and contact the tech control facility using the phone patch capability.

We monitor three separate Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) radio networks seven days a week.  If your unit is interested in doing ALE training, please contact the HF Gateway so we can coordinate sending your unit the PRC-150 Radio Programming Application fill file.  We will also coordinate the ALE addresses your units will use.   

With special coordination, we have sent MARS members to do hands-on HF training with units on post.  This training is tailored to the training needs of the unit.  Our training focuses on the fundamentals of HF communications, HF frequency propagation, HF frequency selection, types of HF antennas, and how to make field expedient HF antennas.  If your unit is interested in this type of training, contact the MARS Program Manager to discuss the coordination required to do this training.  The Program Manager can be reached via email:  paul.a.english.civ@mail.mil and via telephone:  254-947-3141 or cellphone 254-630-9472.


Does my unit need to have a MARS call sign to do training?  No.  If your unit has already established call signs, you may use those while doing this training.  If your unit does not have an already established call sign or you do not want to use your unit call signs for OPSEC reasons, we can supply your unit with a call sign for use during training.


If my unit wants to train with MARS do we have to request HF frequencies for the training?  No.  MARS HF frequencies are issued to the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command from the Department of Army Spectrum Management Office and are authorized for use by Army units to conduct this type of training. 


When are HF Gateway personnel available to discuss training requirements and for conducting on-air training?  The Fort Huachuca Gateway is manned 7 days a week from 1500-2359Z Hours.  Our operators monitor multiple national frequencies as well as three Automatic Link Establishment networks.