Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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Alpha Juliet Three Charlie Tango

6912th Radio Sqdn Mobile, Bingen-am-rhein, Germany

The Call AJ3CT was not mine.....I was an unlicensed military operator. I was a Civil Air Patrol cadet in the Conley Communications Squadron, Georgia Wing prior to joining the USAF. I had a Harvey Wells Bandmaster Sr and BC-454 Mobile station installed in the family '55 Chevy. Although I did not get my first choice as an Airborne Radio Operator in the USAF, they did select me to be a Radio Traffic Analyst in communications intelligence (USAFSS) and after school my first assignment was to the 6912th RSM, Bingen Germany.

The Chief Operator of the unit MARS station (AJ3CT) was a Radio Intercept Operator and also held an Amateur License. Since our unit was comprised of approximately 80% shift workers, he wanted to keep the MARS station open 24/7, so Matt enlisted the help of volunteer operators from each of the four shifts. My long interest in ham radio and experience with CAP comms made it a natural choice to pass the time.

We handled hundreds of MARSGRAMS each month and the volume and our operating hours outstriped the capability of the USAFE MARS capability since our net control station was only on the air during normal daytime duty hours whereas we were 24/7. Our station consisted of a BC-610 AM Transmitter, SP-600 and another unknown Receiver. We operated primarily on 4235kcs (USAFE MARS "RUBY" Net) and secondarily on 4015kcs (USAEUR MARS). The USAFE Mars Director attempted to prohibit us from operation on the Army Mars Nets/Frequencies. The Army MARS Director over-rode that decision when we tied up a phone line from our unit to the nearest Army MARS Station to Phone Patch our MARSGRAMS to the Army MARS NCS (AE1AAA). Airman "Matt" Matterson's decision to populate the station with volunteer operators worked out rather well as during our drawdown before closing our operation at Bingen, he was reassigned from duty in the MARS station, back to the Operations Site and MARS then became a part-time volunteer duty for him.

MARS station operation was just another experience that I enjoyed doing while learning and added to my capabilities in civilian life as a Comm Systems Engineer. It was also interesting that USAF VIP aircraft would on occasion contact us and pass a coded message that we relayed to their destination to advise them of the number and grade of VIP's in route.

I finally got the books out and obtained my first Amateur License, Tech Plus, N3ZOC in 1997. Today, I am a regular participant in our Amateur Section CW Traffic Nets, passing Radiograms and training CW traffic handlers. Still trying to unlearn the MARS procedure when I have to use a microphone to pass a message.

On occasion we would (illegally) switch to the frequency of the MARS operation in France (Emerald Net?) and give a "QRZ the Ruby Net". Then returning to our frequency and work the FAA919, etc stations cross-band.

Frank Long, USAF, 1958-1959

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