From October 30 through November 1, members of the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) will conduct a quarterly US Department of Defense (DOD) Contingency Communications Exercise (COMMEX). The quarterly exercise will offer training on the ability to provide communications following a “very bad day” scenario, when traditional forms of communications will likely be unavailable. The exercise will involve interoperability between MARS and Amateur Radio participants and is open to all members of the amateur community.

“While the simultaneous loss of all communications nationwide is not likely, we are assuming there has been a massive nationwide outage, for training purposes,” Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, said. “One objective of the exercise is to continue the partnership with the Amateur Radio community to help provide information about local conditions.” Information gathered will be forwarded to the DOD to provide a better picture of what is happening around the country, he said.

“During this exercise, we will use 60 meters, local VHF and UHF repeaters, and HF NVIS [near-vertical incidence skywave] Amateur Radio bands,” English explained. “Our goal is to have a conversation about the local conditions in and around your county. During the conversation, our operators will be asking basic questions, such as the status of commercial power, public water systems, and road conditions. These will be person-to-person conversations; you don’t need to use any digital modes or know any special messaging formats.”

To kick off this exercise, MARS is encouraging the Amateur Radio community to monitor 5,330.5 kHz from 0300-0400 UTC on October 31, when MARS will conduct a high-power voice broadcasts, alternating between military stations on the East Coast and West Coast. MARS wants Amateur Radio operators to submit reception reports, as indicated in the 60 meter voice broadcast.

For the remainder of the exercise, MARS personnel will be calling for Amateur Radio operators on the five 60 meter channels as well as on established Amateur Radio nets on HF and on VHF/UHF repeaters.

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