Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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Alpha Golf One Papa India

Greater Pittsburg Airport USAF Reserve, PA

As a young airman on active duty with the USAF in Greece 1966-68, I volunteered as a MARS Operator in the evenings.  It always saddened me that there was an Air Force Reserve base in Pennsylvania near my home that had MARS Call Letters assigned to it, but nobody ever staffed the radio station on drill weekends. 

Upon discharge from active duty, in 1969 I joined the Air Force Reserve at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport to supplement my college costs, the same base close to my home where I wished that its MARS station was operating when I was active duty overseas. 

I met a Colonel in the mess hall who was a ham radio operator and based upon my discussions with him, we decided to set up a MARS station.  Since I was starting my two-week annual tour, it was good timing that I met him.  We went looking for any available equipment.  Coincidentally, the MARS equipment was still new sitting in the box, never opened.  We used a back corner of the COMM shack to set up the station.  Next, we made a dipole antenna with clips to easily change frequency every two hours.  After a week, all was set up and we began signing onto the MARS net with the call letters assigned to the base:  Alpha Golf One Papa India (AG1PI). 

When we began to transmit, our call letters surprised everyone on the MARS net! The word that a MARS station from Pennsylvania was up and running traveled quickly to service members who were originally from the Eastern Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania areas.  At this time, the late 60's and early 70's, we quickly became very busy assisting all service members with calls home. Since we used a stationary dipole antenna, our best reception was North and South with good reception East and West on a clear day.  Some of the places where service members were stationed that I remember passing calls for were: the Antarctic, Brazil, Panama, Thailand, Viet Nam and Europe.  I ran the MARS station in the evenings, after weekend drill duty, until approximately 1974. 

The most interesting call I patched was for a military service member who was located in Brazil.  He just learned that he became a father and was anxious to call his wife.  He was very happy when I connected him to the hospital so he could speak with his wife. 

While I was personally unable to take advantage of a MARS Station close to home when I was stationed overseas, it was a wonderful feeling to help others. I continue to help others today through my volunteer work with my antique automobile club where I am the volunteer webmaster:  "Ask the Man Who Owns One." 

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your worthwhile project.

 Marshall J. Katz, CMS (E-9), USAF Ret         Back to Top