Training Session #5
Well, you made it to session 5 of the Region 4 Training Course. From here on it's a piece of cake. I'm sure you're all anxious and excited about soon being able to drop the "T" from your call sign and replace it with an "A". Everyone then will congratulate you on having put up with me for 6 weeks and believe me, that's one big accomplishment!!
During this session I will touch on everything I have discussed during the past 4 weeks. Next, I will go over the last subject which will be MARS-to-Amateur and Amateur-to-MARS re-file. Then, at the end I will give you the instructions for the message you must transmit to me, next week. This message will be graded on all the elements that are required in the plain-dress message and you must make 70% or above on the message.
More on that subject, at the end of this session. At this time I will go over all of the important things you should know and use whenever operating on any Air Force MARS frequency. Remember, that MARS does not have any frequencies of it's own. We are allowed to operate on Air Force Tactical Frequencies, as long as we agree to operate by the guidelines published by HQ, Air Force Communication Agency. They have consolidated these guidelines in the Mars Operating Directives (MODs). You should request a copy from your SMD after you complete training. The information that I have covered these past 4 sessions, including this one, is in the MODs and you probably will refer to them frequently, until many of the points become automatic and second nature to you.
If mail is undeliverable to you at the address that the RMD/SMD has on file and is returned, they could generate a TERMINATION AF Form 3661, for your station. It is your responsibility to keep your SMD informed of your current address.
Do not submit participation time to AFF4O unless you are a Met Control station or have been directed to so by the SMD. All afilliate member participation time other than net participation should be turned in to your State MARS Director.
Your RMD issued you a unique call sign, which is your identification as a MARS member. The call sign consists of 3 letters followed by a number, which is the region number, followed by another 2 letters. When you are operating on your assigned frequencies, you must use your full call sign, and no other identification will be used in it's place. Sometimes you may hear an NCS say that "this is an informal net". There is no such thing in AF MARS. There are only: "DIRECTED" nets, which means you must have permission from the NCS to call another station or make any other transmissions; and "FREE" nets, which means you may call another station without permission of the NCS. Remember, that we could be monitored and recorded by both the Air Force and unfriendly stations. Be professional at all times.
Part of this professionalism, is the proper use of prowords. They have been developed over a long period of time. They have been proven over and over again. Remember, that all transmissions end with a proword, either OVER or OUT. OVER, lets the other station know that you have made your comments and are ready for their reply. OUT, lets the net and the NCS know that you have completed your transmission and the frequency can be used for other business. Using the other prowords listed in the Training Guide, will become a habit as you gain time on the air and utilize them in your daily contacts. Remember, that words, such as, GO AHEAD, STANDBY, HOW COPY, and others, are not a part of the list and therefore are not authorized to be used in MARS communications.
Another part of being professional, is not transmitting on any MARS frequency unless you are calling a station or checking into a net. When checking into a net, you call is directed to the NCS or the net itself. Example:
"This is AFA4GD,
Oklahoma, no traffic, over"
Never make a random call using your call sign as this equates to calling CQ, which is not authorized on MARS frequencies.
You also know that you must pay attention to the expiration date on your Amateur license because, your MARS license expires with it. As soon as your new Amateur license arrives, you should make copies and send them to your SMD who will in turn send it to the RMD.
You also know, that if you check into a net, you are expected to remain on the net until you request, from the NCS, to close or the net closes. There are roll call/radio checks made on some nets and if you do not answer a roll call, the NCS could show you closed and your participation time may stop as of that time. Remember, that the NCS has all of the stations and any traffic on the net to keep track of and to control. Therefore, it is just common courtesy as well as being required, that you notify the NCS of your status. If you must leave the net for 15 minutes to go to the sandbox, or for any other reason, let the NCS know. Also, let them know, when you return to the net.
We, operate on spot frequencies that are tight on tolerance. You as a MARS member are required to be on the specific frequency, plus or minus 50 Hz. In attempting to keep the frequency within tolerances with or without the assistance of a FYMON or BEACON station, the NCS will set the frequency and you are required to tune to that frequency, regardless of whether you feel it is correct or not.
All times, used in military communications, is set to Universal Coordinated time, which is established by the National Bureau of Standards station WWV. This time is used worldwide and is called Zulu time. You should know how to convert your local time to Zulu time and how to enter it on any message traffic, which you generate, relay, or receive.
We learned that there are specific ways to pronounce numerals and that we use the phonetic alphabet to spell names, and any other words that could cause confusion for the receiving station. Remember, that there is no number greater than nine and that you pronounce numbers as single digits, except multiples of 100, 1000, etc. Also, 0 is pronounced as zero, not oh.
We also have learned that we must identify our station on every transmission. When we are calling a station or net, we must use both stations' identification. Once communications have been established, we must still use ours on each transmission.
Don't let yourself get caught up using some of the poor operating habits you may hear on the nets these habits are hard to break. Be professional and use proper operating habits at all times and in this way help those using bad habits to correct them. The frequencies we use are not Amateur bands and Amateur operating practices are prohibited from being used on them. The MODs warn us that other elements of the United States Air Force can and will be monitoring our activities on their frequencies. So, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Remember, it could not only cost you your MARS license, but also your Amateur license, plus possible fines and/or prison.
(QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, DISCUSSION)
Now, for the final subject of this training course. We are now going to learn how to re-file MARS traffic to Amateur and Amateur traffic to MARS. This is used whenever we must put MARS traffic on Amateur bands to get it delivered or we receive traffic from the Amateur bands to go into the MARS system. It is really a straight-forward and simple process once you understand the guidelines and differences between the services. To see it written out when completed, makes it look difficult.
If you have a copy of the ARRL Radiogram form (Included in your training packet), that is used on Amateur traffic nets, you should get it and look closely at the required information across the top of the form. You’ll see that it closely resembles our message form heading. The first thing we need is some traffic to convert. I will read a MARS message to you and then I will convert it to the Amateur format. If all of you have a MARS message form or paper and pencil and are ready to copy, here is the message:
THIS IS AFA4GD MESSAGE NUMBER 012 ROUTINE TIME 060112Z FEB 03
GEORGE DYKES / AFF4T
1012 S. LOCUST DRIVE MIDWEST CITY OKLAHOMA 73110
JANE A. DOE
4312 S. ANYWHERE STREET
HOMETOWN, OK 73140
HI HONEY I LOVE YOU
WILL MEET YOU IN TEXAS
ON MARCH 20TH I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE YOU LOVE
I would now say "OVER" if I were passing this to another station.
A message like this one with the message telling me that you have passed the radio telephone procedures course would be sufficient to pass training. Study it and use it as your guide.
So now we have a message like the many that pass through the MARS system, on a daily basis. But imagine there are no MARS operator's in this particular city. This being the case if we received this message for delivery, we could mail it or re-file it into the Amateur traffic system. Mail is always the last resort, so we will re-file it to an Oklahoma Amateur, who can deliver it. The Amateur station will not recognize the military format so we must use the ARRL message form and reconstruct the message according to the ARRL rules so any Amateur can handle it. If we had decided to mail it, we would have typed it on AF form 427 message form and mailed it out.
Lets look at the top line of the ARRL Radiogram form:
The 1st thing on the left is NUMBER. This is your number from your station log, which would be the next one in sequence for that particular month.
The 2nd block is PRECEDENCE. Same as the incoming MARS message, in this case ROUTINE.
The 3rd box is HX. For Amateur use, this means handling instructions, which is the same as operator notes, we sometimes add after the text of MARS messages. In most cases we leave it blank.
The 4th box is STATION OF ORIGIN. This is your Amateur call as you are the originator of the message into the Amateur traffic net.
The 5th box is CHECK. This means the same as GROUP COUNT but do not fill it in yet. This is one of the biggest differences between military and Amateur formats, so we will leave it blank until after we have reconstructed the text to the Amateur format.
The 6th box is PLACE OF ORIGIN. This would be VIA MARS indicating that it originated from a MARS station and would identify you as a MARS member. It could also be VIA MARS. Both are correct and the choice is yours.
The 7th box is TIME FILED. This is one of the areas where most errors occur during re-files. This is YOUR TIME of converting the message and NOT the Date-Time-Group from the original message. This is the most important thing to remember when re-filing from MARS TO Amateur. You are the originating station of this message as far as the receiving station is concerned. So you must use your message number and time. Only the time, in Zulu will go in the box. You do not include the day, month, or year in the TIME FILED block.
The 8th & last box on this line is DATE. Only the day and month from the original message will go in this block, DO NOT include the year.
See how easy it is. It should take only a few minutes to fill in the top line.
Continuing on to the next line, we see the word "TO", which should look familiar to you. It is the same as the "TO" line on MARS messages and all you need to do is copy it verbatim from the MARS message. I bet you already have noticed another big difference. Yep, there is no "FROM" line. It is not used for ARRL messages. If the MARS message does not have a signature, as ours does, then we would use the name from the FROM line for the signature at the end of the ARRL message. When there is a signature, we simply ignore the MARS message FROM line.
Now we come to the text. You will note that there are several blank lines on our form which we will fill in with the text. But before filling in the text, we add punctuation to the text. The only punctuation that we use is the word XRAY. We have added words to the text for clarity which the military system does not use but the Amateur system feels are necessary. As you can see our group count is now different from the MARS message. The rule for determining group count in the ARRL format is to count all groups excluding the signature. So now our ARRL formatted
Message has a group count of 24 instead of the 21 group count of the MARS message and 24 is the number we would put into the CHECK box of our ARRL Radiogram form.
That's all there is to it. We now have re-filed our MARS message into Amateur format and now can transmit it to an Amateur station in Oklahoma. The bookkeeping information across the bottom of the form is the same as our RECEIVED and SENT information on the MARS message form. The "REC'D" side is used for a message from Amateur to MARS and the SENT side for a message from MARS to Amateur. Remember that ARRL Radiogram forms must be kept on file for 180 days. Whenever you are dealing with both types of traffic it is permissible to mix the two forms in a common file because your message file numbers are applicable to either service. So, not having to keep separate files makes bookkeeping simple and easy.
Going back to the original MARS message and re-filing it to Amateur, it would read as follows: In the boxes across the top,(left to right):
NUMBER -- 022
PRECEDENCE -- Routine
HX -- Blank
STATION OF ORIGIN – AFF4T
CHECK -- 21
PLACE OF ORIGIN --VIA MARS
0112Z FEB 06
JANE A. DOE
4312 S. ANYWHERE STREET
HOMETOWN, OK 73140
HI HONEY XRAY I LOVE
YOU XRAY WILL MEET YOU IN HONOLULU ON
MARCH 20TH XRAY I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE YOU XRAY LOVE BREAK
Well, I hope this hasn't been too great of a strain on you. Before we continue to the Amateur to MARS re-file procedure, are there any questions or comments?
OK. It should be pretty obvious as to what we need to do to re-file a message from Amateur to MARS. The big difference will be coming up with a FROM line and that is not a big deal. Any message that we receive from the Amateur service will have an Amateur call sign as the station of origin. We cannot use it on a MARS message as the originator. But, we can use it for the FROM line and then use our MARS call as the originator station. Therefore that part of our re-file message would read: FROM: N5GTD/AFF4T OK. Not to tough, huh? Next, the re-file date-time-group must be the date-time of the original message or no file time and it must be in the military format. Also, we do not use the word XRAY. So drop them out and adjust the group count.
This message now meets all of our criteria, it is accurate, complete, and the date-time-group represents a positive reference, which we could go back to in our file for this message originated from. Be careful when handling ARRL formatted messages. The Amateur Traffic system is sometimes slow and it is common to have traffic sit in the system for weeks at a time.
(QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, DISCUSSION)
There are probably some stations using bad habits and don't bother to convert from one format to another and are passing the traffic as received. This could cause a member to be terminated from the MARS program. If you are on a shared services net, of either Army or Navy MARS and are to receive or deliver traffic to these nets, the received traffic must be formatted to the USAF MARS format. Any message, regardless of where it originated, must conform to USAF MARS configuration before entering it into a USAF MARS net.
So now, you all should have sufficient information to get on the traffic nets and receive, relay, or deliver traffic. Well, I guess it's about time to find out.
Next week, you are to read to me a formal USAF MARS plaindress message, telling me in your own words the following:
"You have completed the mandatory five lecture sessions on USAF MARS rules, regulations, and procedures, and that you are now ready to tackle the Region 4 traffic as a USAF MARS Operator".
By the way, the normal MARS message is kept to 50 groups or less. Use the following FROM and TO address:
YOUR STREET ADDRESS
YOUR CITY, STATE & ZIP+4
YOUR TELEPHONE WITH AREA CODE/YOUR CALL SIGN & SIGN STATE
GEORGE DYKES / AFF4T
1012 SOUTH LOCUST DRIVE
MIDWEST CITY OK 73110
Use the sample above to complete your message. Send your message on the air to me, or one of the region officials.
(QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, DISCUSSION)
Next week, there will be ample time to review anything you would like, before you send your traffic. After everyone has sent their message, there will be time for a critique, if any of you would like to have that done.
If you are successful with your message, you will soon be on the 4S1 traffic nets. If your grade is 70% or greater, a Completion of training Certificate (AF form 1256) will be signed and sent to you, through your SMD. Your SMD will initiate a AF form 3661, directing you to drop the "T" from your call and use the "AFA" prefix. The form will assign you to a traffic net.
Good luck to you all is passing your traffic message.