Hams Gain in Remodeled Army MARS

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by N1IN, Oct 7, 2012.

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  1. N1IN

    N1IN Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ft Huachuca, Ariz.--Army MARS Chief Stephen G. Klinefelter announced a major leadership realignment at a conference of the auxiliary’s Region Directors Sept. 12-14. Under the terms, volunteer hams assumed day-to-day management responsibility previously exercised from the MARS headquarters at Ft Huachuca.
    "You will tell us if you can take on a task and you will tell us the resources you need," he told the leaders at their meeting in Dallas."Our responsibility at HQ will be to provide the training and the resources and to support you."
    Specifically, each of the auxiliary’s 11 regions (10 in the U.S., one overseas) will be under command of its director. Together the 11 directors will form a policy-making "governance executive board" for the auxiliary as a whole. It’s a striking revision of the military’s traditional top-down chain of command, and it was symbolically activated at the first national leadership conference in the Military Auxiliary Radio System’s 87-year-history.
    There was no formal vote of acceptance, but the "RDs" (as they’re known), left little doubt. They immediately set about reviewing and updating policy and enlarged the "Chief’s Special Staff" of volunteer specialists..
    In a closed session, they were briefed by a Department of Defense staffer on recent Army MARS mission enhancements. An Executive Order issued by President Obama on July 6 had mobilized the entire federal establishment to tighten up preparations against cyber intrusion.
    Like battalion and company commanders in the active-duty Army, the Region and State Directors (the latter will carry much of the load of leadership) are circumscribed by Army-wide policy. Also, there was no discussion of changing HQ control of State and Region Director appointments. Their status is enhanced, however, by being volunteers themselves and thus representing membership interests to the chain of command above.
    Mr. Klinefelter’s innovative region-centric architecture doesn’t just reconfigure administration, it spotlights Army MARS as a survivable last-resort communications tool in any national-level calamity. A regional command that is accustomed to operating on its own in normal times is unlikely to be sidelined if cut off from HQ communications in time of crisis. That "self-healing" capability was said to have figured in the auxiliary’s updated DoD tasking.
    Army MARS reports to the Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) which manages Army computer networks and communications systems worldwide. Chief Klinefelter, who retired as a full colonel in the Signal Corps after 31 years, returned to NETCOM as a senior civilian employee and is Deputy Operations Officer G3. He added the MARS post last spring.
    "The Dallas conference greatly exceeded my expectations," Mr. Klinefelter said. "This one being our first, there were no guarantees that the board would work together. Until you do it, you don't know. Now, we are all looking forward to the future of the program, not just
    the next meeting."
    Mr. Klinefelter had previously constituted the RDs as his "MARS Government Executive Board (MGEB)" which he described as a more appropriate decision-making mechanism for volunteers than the Army’s traditional top-down chain of command.
    "That was never the vision of this proud volunteer auxiliary program," he said. "The program was always dependent on what the volunteers brought to the 'table' which the government then felt was valuable enough to cultivate and organize if possible.
    "Those valuable things on the table are (1) that they are already integrated into communities and states throughout the country, (2) that they are already sharing a common interest, equipped, interoperable, and trained to a certain extent, and finally (3) that they are a self motivated and patriotic group perhaps willing to take on a little more training and organization for a common purpose.
    ‘It is only fair," Mr. Klinefelter concluded, "that they have great say in the operations of
    the organization since they bring so much."
    Among other actions the panel adopted a fresh approach for managing support relationships with civil agencies. Three new volunteer leadership posts were created: Winlink 2000 liaison officer, chief technology officer, and overseas liaison. Tightened admission standards for new members and participation requirements for all were reaffirmed. These include obtaining general class FCC license and completing a package of FEMA courses.
    The third and final day brought an unscheduled program initiative from the board itself. Michigan State Director Dave Bock, representing Region 5, outlined a method of organizing training programs and tracking the results that the Army has used.
    Looking ahead , Mr. Klinefelter had a couple of priority to-do’s for his board: build "seamless" interoperation with Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps MARS and "recruit younger members."
    "You’re in charge," Mr. Klinefelter told the RDs. "You’re responsible."
     
  2. N2OBM

    N2OBM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Nice article..thank you for the info.

    Not to be a stick in mud, but, I hope Mr. Klinefelter can use his new found clout to recover MARS frequency assignments, get the CIO G6 to ammend the DoDI/AR 25-6 with meaningful change(s) and overcome the current trend of $2000 Pactor modems. Volunteers are a great asset......but some of the selfless folks have shallow pockets.
     
  3. KA3YAN

    KA3YAN XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hopefully we'll see NMC MARS institute a more proactive approach to modernizing the force. Army MARS has really been in the news a lot lately and I think it's great!
     
  4. N6KZB

    N6KZB Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just be sure you provide accurate information; a Pactor 4 modem is 1498$. A Pactor 3 modem is 1148$
    This is full list price from USA distributor. Prices are even less with a MARS discount. Used even less still.



     
  5. N9SWR

    N9SWR Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's good to see a full timer running things. I'd like to see him take on the CODAR interference issue and speed out their demise on the MARS freq's.
     
  6. K2NCC

    K2NCC XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    PACTOR 4, from general consensus, isn't (yet?) legal in the US (on HF?).

    Who but the most dedicated, or with $1k to burn, wants a modem with essentially one mode? You could give me a P4Dragon and I'd just stick it on eBay and get more for less.

    Isn't there a mode that does better and already exists in cheaper TNCs or via software? Like GTOR, ALE, Packet or even MT63?

    If the price of getting into some of these MARS, ARES, etc. services didn't come with more than some hams make in a month, we'd find find more coverage and better acceptance.

    We can only do 300baud on HF anyway, so perhaps there's some other benefit justified by those more devout to Pactor-botting.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  7. N6KZB

    N6KZB Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    On amateur bands Pactor 4 is not yet available in the US, but is used on MARS frequencies.

    The other modes you mentioned do not compare to Pactor 3 or 4 for speed, reliability, or low signal operation.










     
  8. W1YB

    W1YB Ham Member QRZ Page

    Michael,

    $2K $1K $1,400... No dif...

    Most working-class former soldiers can not use that much disposable income on a toy.

    My more than adequate, MARS-prepped station cost a total of $700; rig, antenna, cables and the necessary accessories.

    $2K $1K $1,400... FAR too expensive.
     
  9. KB3FXI

    KB3FXI Ham Member QRZ Page

    But Pactor comes with the price of excluding a great many ops. What about the idea of using the free software from NBEMS/FLDIGI/FLMSG/FLAMP (the NBEMS version of Amateur Multicast Protocol, currently in alpha) for gathering sitreps, ICS/HICS formatted messages and spreadsheet/databases then moving bulk traffic with the Pactor power-stations?

    NBEMS is easy to use, it's free, and in a pinch, you don't even need a direct interface. And, it's very easy to go portable/mobile. I'd encourage folks to check out the software and try it out. There are NBEMS nets on both HF and VHF/UHF all across the country who all report good success, even with first time ops. At the very least, install the software and monitor some nets. All you need is a computer with a working sound card and a mic (internal or a cheap plug in).

    -Dave, KB3FXI
    paNBEMS
     
  10. N1EN

    N1EN Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I don't think the model is for each and every MARS operators home station to be PACTOR 4 equipped.

    Put the PACTOR 4 modems at the EOCs, and have a few available cached for field deployment. Operators on the air from home can still provide value, helping relay traffic that is short enough to not need high speed, or to pass traffic to the better-equipped stations. And hopefully operators who don't have PACTOR modems at home can be made familiar with their use through periodic training.

    The expensive toys are good for hub-hub communications. Less expensive solutions are valuable for bridging the gaps.
     
  11. K2NCC

    K2NCC XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's just MARS with a touch of hobby, so how much "speed, reliability or low s/o" do we need? So what if it takes 2 minutes more to get the message? Not like we're driving an ambulance here!

    If there were a Pactor 10, we'd want that too. (and use emergency services, MARS, etc to justify it!)
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  12. KC9EOT

    KC9EOT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well dont use pactor. There is plenty of other modes out there as or more effective than pactor. To force people to use something that is expensive in a volunteer organization is nuts unless youare going to provide the expensive stuff for them.
     
  13. W7TUT

    W7TUT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Dragon 7800

    The P4 Dragon is about $2495.

     
  14. W7TUT

    W7TUT Ham Member QRZ Page

    PACAREA N-MC MARS

    Our Pacific Area digital net runs FLARQ/FLDIGI, 80-440 WPM, no internet requirment, 100% reliable from end nodes in AK to CA to HI 24/7. We don't need expensive modems or WL2K internet connections. Sending over 300 messages per month.

     
  15. KB3FXI

    KB3FXI Ham Member QRZ Page

    Free, easy and efficient... and I bet, when the time comes, you could easily run 10 times that amount of traffic.
     
  16. N6KZB

    N6KZB Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Check the prices from USA Distributer, Farralon Electronics.
    You can now purchase the Dragon 7400 version for P4, for $1498.00 list.


     
  17. WS4E

    WS4E Ham Member QRZ Page

    What needs to happen is further development of WINMOR software, which replaces all that expensive dedicated proprietary hardware of the TNC's with a much much more powerful soundcard and processor of the computer.

    The soundcard ADA chips, and the CPU in your average computer is 100x more powerful than what is inside any TNC.


    But from what I can tell, the idea that you can use a free software + a cheap ole sound card interface to pretty much replace those boxes, totally SCARES the pants off the guys who spent $2,000 on their fancy TNC's that their money will be wasted and they will be stuck holding a $2k paperweight.

    WINMOR already approches Packtor3 speeds and its 100% FREE and only requires the same hardware as PSK31 to use.

    http://www.winlink.org/WINMOR


    Given some effort of the community we could end this domination by expensive proprietary patent encumbered technologies in HF Packet.
     
  18. KB3FXI

    KB3FXI Ham Member QRZ Page

    What would even be better would be the development of "Openmor" which would move the Winmor program out for cross platform use to Linux and Mac as well as Windows. I'm not sure if that project is still moving forward.

    But, the one to one ARQ protocols aren't the only answer out there. And I'm not a big fan of using email for emergency communications, as is the case with the WL2K and Winmor IGATE models. I could imagine a major emergency situation, where tens, if not hundreds, of ops where all lining up to log into an unmanned robot IGATE, thinking that their traffic is the most important. It seems to be a recipe for a major cluster. But, there are certainly situations where radio to email and email to radio can be of great value.

    NBEMS focuses almost entirely on manned operations, where you have a net control directing the traffic. NBEMS also offers the advantage of sending broadcast situation reports and bulletins with a single transmission to an unlimited number of receiving stations that all have the ability to individually and automatically confirm or deny 100% receipt of the message (and request a resend if deemed necessary).

    I think the combination of PACTOR/WL2k, Winmor IGATES and NBEMS, rather than only one of these choices, is our best solution.

    Keep your eyes on the development of NBEMS. There are new high speed experimental modes and protocols in alpha testing right now which are performing extremely well. I would expect some new major releases from the w1hkj dot com site in the next month or so.

    -Dave, KB3FXI
    paNBEMS
     
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