More than 300 Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) members and individual radio amateurs on February 12 participated in the first quarterly Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) US Department of Defense communications exercise of 2016 (COMEX 16-1). US Army and Air Force MARS operators across the US, Europe, and the Pacific took part in the 12-hour Department of Defense contingency HF communication exercise, which simulated a widespread loss of telephone and Internet communication across the US. MARS operators reached out to ARES members and individual hams in as many US counties as possible to obtain status reports via radio.
“The purpose of the exercise was to give MARS operators the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in responding to DOD requests for simulated emergency situational awareness reports from counties across the United States,” Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, explained. “DOD and the MARS leadership want to thank the more than 300 Amateur Radio operators who assisted in making this exercise a success by providing local county information using VHF, UHF, and NVIS HF voice communications.”
English said the supported Department of Defense headquarters “was very pleased with the outcome of the exercise, and especially with the number of Amateur Radio stations that participated on a weekday and the number of unique county reports received over the 12-hour period.” After eliminating duplicates, English said, MARS received 312 county status reports.
English said exercise aimed to focus on individual MARS operator skills, refine joint operational procedures between Army and Air Force volunteer leaders, and to continue to develop local-level working relationships between MARS operators and ARES groups and individual radio amateurs and clubs.