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.