NEWS

MARS Communication System Supports JTF-HD
During Various Contingencies

By JTF-HD Public Affairs


HONOLULU, Hawaii – "It's a pretty cool system," said Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD) Knowledge Manager Mr. Craig Riley. "It gives the term ‘going to Mars' a whole new meaning," he added.

Mr. Riley is referring to the U.S. Army's Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), a sophisticated communication system that provides soldiers and other Department of Defense (DOD) personnel the ability to send and receive communications from just about anywhere in the world. "It has revolutionized the way we communicate in the field and certainly gives us more capabilities than ever before. Department of the Army (DA) direction for contingency communications is to operate in a high frequency (HF) radio environment independent of the internet," said Mr. Richard Rodier, (MARS) Field and JTF-HD Liaison Officer reporting to Chief, Army MARS Operations, Pacific. "The Army MARS system is a DOD sponsored program, that allows military installations, military units, clubs, and volunteer licensed US MARS radio stations to participate and contribute to the Army contingency communications mission," said Rodier.

"Army policy is to support, encourage, and cooperate in developing and promoting MARS and amateur radio activities to enhance their military and civil value," said Mr. Mel Garcia, JTF-HD, J-3. "And this system in particular is fascinating. Just imagine being able to send critical HF voice and sensitive text communications from anywhere you can imagine," said Garcia.

 
(Left) U.S. Army 396th Signal Company Radio Operators are (L to R): SPC Christopher Graben, SSG Gordon Welles, and SPC Samuel Lopez. The trio is installing a VHF radio based email system antenna on a building rooftop. The contingency communication system was used in support of a recent combined Hawaii State and Department of Defense (DOD) Exercise. (Official U.S. Army photo by Ms. Kayla Overton) (Right) U.S. Army 396th Signal Company personnel brief Army Brigadier General Michele G. Compton, Commander 9th Mission Support Command, on the capabilities of the U.S. Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS). The contingency communication system was used in support of a recent combined Hawaii State and Department of Defense (DOD) Exercise. (Official U.S. Army photo)

The MARS provides the DOD with sponsored emergency communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to existing DA communications. It also provides auxiliary communications for military, Federal, civil, and/or disaster officials during periods of emergency. "The system provides flexibility and augments our standard communication systems," said Mr. Riley. "It will ‘make its money' during emergency conditions," he added.

"This entire initiative is an effort to attain improvements in HF radio operating techniques and state-of-the-art technology through experimentation and testing," said Rodier. "The e-mail portion of the system is relatively new and rather unconventional. It is being evaluated for information assurance (IA) compliance/exposure as most e-mail makes it way to the internet. Army MARS is focusing on integration of point to point and broadcast HF text messaging capability using common military standards with IA as the goal independent of the internet. It opens up all kinds of communication avenues and possibilities. We're only scratching the surface of contingency communications capabilities," Mr. Rodier added.

JTF-HD maintains situational awareness of all domains within the JTF-HD Joint Operations Area; executes mission command of assigned forces in the land domain to conduct Homeland Defense operations to deter and defeat threats to critical infrastructure and key resources and when requested/validated, conducts Civil Support operations in response to all hazards to mitigate human suffering and reduce infrastructure damage.

 
(Left) Ralph Miranda, Network Controller for Joint Task Force Homeland Defense (JTF-HD), communicates on the HAM handheld radio during a recent Hawaii state and Department of Defense exercise. Mr. Miranda is responsible for messaging traffic between responding units and the JTF-HD Joint Operations Center (JOC). The U.S. Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) unit is the backbone of necessary equipment enabling Oahu, Kauai, and parts of other Island areas within the State of Hawaii to communicate. The system also allowed personnel to send and receive MARS radio based e-mail without the use of any internet service within the Islands of the State of Hawaii. (Official U.S. Army photo) (Right) U.S. Army 396th Signal Company Radio Operators are (L to R): SPC Christopher Graben, SSG Gordon Welles, and SPC Samuel Lopez. The trio is installing a VHF radio based email system antenna on a building rooftop. The contingency communication system was used in support of a recent combined Hawaii State and Department of Defense (DOD) Exercise. (Official U.S. Army photo by Ms. Kayla Overton)

JTF-HD, with its Defense Coordinating Element, is based at Fort Shafter, Hawaii and is designated as the Homeland Defense coordinating agency between the Department of Defense and the civilian authorities in Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands as well as three foreign governments in the Pacific to include the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Working closely with Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and military organizations in the Pacific, JTF-HD maintains situational awareness, helps coordinate implementation of a comprehensive Critical Infrastructure Protection Program in these areas, and when required, coordinates and provides DOD resources to help save lives and prevent great property damage.

With U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), as its executive agent, JTF-HD is just one example of how the Army does it all. As the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Pacific Command, USARPAC provides forces, commands assigned forces, and enables full spectrum operations to deter aggression, advance regional security/cooperation, respond to crisis, and fight to win. On order, USARPAC provides command and control for small scale contingency operations or serves as Combined or Joint Headquarters to support Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief and peacekeeping operations.