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 Army Regulation 25-6 that provides specially trained volunteers licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to provide contingency High Frequency communications capability to the Department of Defense and the Services.
What are the requirements to become a MARS volunteer? In order to apply for MARS membership, the applicant must be 18 years of age; hold a General Class Federal Communication Commission Amateur Radio license; have access to High Frequency radio equipment capable of operating from 2-30 MHz; be of good moral character; and be willing to commit a minimum of 12 hours on the air per quarter.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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: email@example.com 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.