Army MARS 



Army MARS installation (left) at Dong Tam, Vietnam, in 1968 from NE7X website. Army MARS QSL card (above) from Pentagon.



(ARRL) April, 2, 2012 -- On April 2, US Army Colonel (retired) Stephen G. Klinefelter -- a senior staff officer who oversees Army MARS operations for the US Army Network Enterprise Technology Command -- announced that he was assuming the post of Chief of Army MARS, effective immediately.

Klinefelter, 61, took the leading role last December in untangling a Pentagon decision to “phase out” the Army MARS Winlink 2000 messaging system, used by numerous state and municipal emergency management organizations; an investigation showed it lacked required certification for safety from hostile incursions.

He successfully argued that the resources of Amateur Radio -- not just MARS or Winlink -- far outweighed any risk from enemy hackers. Lieutenant General Susan Lawrence, the Army’s Chief Information Officer, ordered an exemption from this policy for Army MARS, which officials said would extend to the Air Force and Navy-Marine Corps MARS programs, too.

Klinefelter attended Virginia Military Institute on a full ROTC scholarship, becoming a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps upon graduation in 1974. He served as Chief of the Global Network Operations Center of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) outside Washington, DC. After that, he was Deputy Commander -- and then Commander -- of the DISA’s European operations based at Stuttgart, Germany.

Earlier, Klinefelter served for varying periods with four mechanized infantry divisions and earned a master’s degree in computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His last uniformed post was Chief of Information Technology at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. Klinefelter served 31 years active duty in the US Army Signal Corps. After retiring from the Army, he joined the NETCOM G3 section (operations and training) as deputy operations officer, a position he will retain.

He succeeds Jim Griffin, who wound up 55 years in government service in the Army MARS Chief’s job since 2009. Klinefelter will retain his post in NETCOM Headquarters while leading MARS, but a new position of MARS Program Officer was being created to assist him.


(ARRL) Sept. 25, 2012 -- Army MARS Chief Stephen G. Klinefelter has implemented a major leadership realignment: Under the new organization chart, the 11 Regional Directors -- all volunteers -- will assume the day-to-day management responsibility previously exercised from the Army MARS Headquarters at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“You will tell us if you can take on a task and you will tell us the resources you need,” Klinefelter told the Directors earlier this month at a conference in Dallas. “Our responsibility at Army MARS Headquarters will be to provide the training and the resources and to support you. You’re in charge. You’re responsible.”

According to Army MARS Public Information Officer Bill Sexton, N1IN, Klinefelter had previously constituted the region directors as his MARS Government Executive Board (MGEB), which he described as a more appropriate decision-making mechanism for volunteers than the Army’s traditional top-down chain of command. “Like a Company Commander in the Army, the Region and State Directors -- who will carry much of the load of leadership -- are circumscribed by existing rules and regulations from above,” Sexton explained. “There was no discussion of changing Headquarters control of the appointments for State and Regional Director.”

To date, the MGEB has conducted two teleconferences to begin reviewing Army MARS’ existing policies. “Members should be aware that the MGEB is making the decisions about how Army MARS goes into the future,” explained Region 1 (New England) Director Robert Mims, WA1OEZ. “The Chief feels that the Headquarters staff is there to support the membership, rather than the other way around.”

In addition to establishing a new governance system, the Dallas session also broke precedent by convening the senior volunteer leadership in one place for the first time ever. “Except for possibly one or two, the current Regional Directors had never met face-to-face before,” Sexton said. “The government-funded gathering was seen as evidence that the Army is serious about supporting the MARS operation after years of shrinking its budget.”


Army MARS station AB8AAD at Chu Lai around Easter 1968.


QSL card from WAR


AB8AD patch from website of W4DEX


QSL card for Army MARS station at Penn State from college website


History of MARS Logo

By Robert L. Sutton
Former Chief Army MARS

The Military Auxiliary Radio System seal identifies a unique and prestigious organization that is recognized by military personnel and their families and loved ones around the globe.

In 1952, MARS included Air Force MARS as well as Army MARS. At that time, a call went out to all MARS members asking for submission of entries for a MARS seal or logo. The contest was open to all members with the stipulation that the seal design be circular in shape, representing the Army Signal Corps, Air Force Communications and Radio Communications in general. Eighty-seven entries were received from MARS members.

All proposed seals were carefully studied at MARS headquarters. The MARS chiefs finally narrowed the choice to seven. These were submitted to a joint MARS advisory committee. The chairman, Col. William D. Hamlin, appointed three members of the advisory committee to make a final selection. After several meetings and much study a composite, incorporating features of five proposed ideas, was recommended to the committee and adopted on April 7, 1953.

The resulting MARS seal is the composite of designs submitted by then Lt. Col. Philip Sansone, Pfc. Harold White, 2nd Lt. Robert Beremer, Staff Sgt, John Brewer, and Eugene Sydowski. In 1962, the Navy-Marine Corps MARS program was launched and the seal was modified to reflect that third entry and the concept of the joint services MARS program. 

Headquarters Army MARS station at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Army MARS operates under the auspices of the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command 



By Thom Williams

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Army News Service, July 17, 2006) - Mention the MARS Station to retired service members and they'll probably tell you about how they were able to talk with loved ones back in the United States while serving overseas through this system of phone patches, high-frequency radios and volunteer radio operators.

The U.S. Army Military Affiliated Radio System is still going strong with morale and welfare phone-patching and MARS messages. Today, it's also a critically important backup emergency-communications system.

"MARS has evolved into emergency-communications support not just for the Army, but for other government agencies, as well," said Kathy Harrison, chief of the Army MARS, which is part of the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command at Fort Huachuca.

The Army MARS system operates 24-7, and participates in the National Communications Systems Shared Resources High Frequency Radio Program, a system designed to bring together federal, state and private-industry HF resources so emergency messages can be passed when normal communications channels are destroyed or unavailable.

Government agencies involved in the program include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security and the State Department.

During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Fort Huachuca MARS Station relayed messages that could not be passed in the affected area because the communications infrastructure was destroyed.

"We'd call in a rescue mission to the Coast Guard, and they would then dispatch the helicopters in New Orleans and rescue people," said Grant Hays, contract project manager and eastern area MARS coordinator.

Along with voice traffic, MARS can pass large files with bulk information, such as patient or supply lists, via computers.

MARS is made up of 2,500 member stations in the continental United States. Only 270 are military stations; the rest are civilian-volunteer stations. MARS relies almost exclusively on volunteer operators who donate time and buy their own equipment to make the system work.

"We have volunteers who have invested hundreds of thousand of dollars in communications gear," Hays said. "One volunteer has his own trailer and participates in the Grecian Firebolt signal exercise as a MARS player."

Equipment and antennas at the Fort Huachuca MARS Station also serve as training aids for 11th Signal Brigade Soldiers.

"We help Soldiers here at Fort Huachuca when it comes to knowing about HF communications and antennas," he said. "All our antennae work here is done by a team on post, and they get a lot of training just by using these towers to climb and repair the antennas."

The NETCOM/9th ASC manages two gateways for HF radio traffic into and out of the continental United States. Fort Huachuca takes care of the Western U.S. and Pacific connectivity, and Fort Dietrick, Md., houses the Eastern gateway into the U.S.

The U.S. Army Signal Corps founded MARS in November 1925 under the name "Army Amateur Radio System." It was shut down during World War II because of security concerns and later reemerged as Army MARS.

Hays predicts a bright future for MARS.

"I see a pretty good picture because of our involvement with emergency communications, and we can provide a service to both government agencies and non government agencies, he said.