Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam


AGA8OS Stories

Charlie Hopkins


In 1976, while on leave getting ready to go to Kunsan Air Base, Korea (for my first of six assignments there) my brother, who was on leave returning from Korea told me about using MARS. When I arrived at Kunsan I was told I was being diverted to Kwang Ju Air Base. When I got to Kwang Ju I found out that our communications operating location was responsible for the MARS station, so I became a volunteer. I operated from Oct '76 to Sep '77 (became NCOIC of the MARS station in Apr '77) and completed over 2000 phone patches for our personnel. We primarily worked through AFC6YPX (later AFC6RI) Rockwell International in Anaheim, CA. After returning to the states in Sep '77 I had an opportunity to go TDY to Fort Irwin, CA, for an exercise. When we had a break I was allowed to go to Anaheim for the Thanksgiving weekend. While there I met 15 of the 32 operators and actually worked with them for several phone patch sessions, completing 194 phone patches in just 4 days. I went b! ack to Korea in Nov '80 (Osan Air Base) and again became a volunteer. I operated there for 18 months. When I came back to the states in 1982, I met a group of local ham operators, signed up for their class, and got my license. I went back to Osan Air Base, Korea in Aug '83 and again became a volunteer for the year I was there. When I came back to the states this time I became an affiliate operator, AFB2AP, operating from Sumter, SC. I went back to Korea (Kunsan Air Base, fourth assignment) and operated there both as an affiliate (AFA8FY) and a volunteer. I moved PCS in country to Osan in Jul '89 and kept my affiliate status as well as volunteering at the base station. I was also appointed the District Communications Manager (DCM), United States Air Force MARS--Korea, MARS Trainer for Korea, and Monitoring Station. I stayed the DCM until my departure in Aug 1994. I returned to San Antonio, TX, and operated there as an affiliate (AFA4GF). In Feb '97 I PCS'd to Camp ! Zama, Japan, and became AFA8FY for the third time.

Because of my experience in USAF MARS I became a ham operator. While stationed overseas a person could volunteer to work at the installation MARS station without having a license. Operating that MARS station at Kwang Ju and Osan Air Bases, Korea, became the driving force that got me interested in amateur radio, something my dad (USMC 1938-44, Semper Fi) always wanted me and my brother to do. By the way, my brother, Jame/NO8X, was also a MARS affiliate in Regions 2 and 6.

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