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Nationwide military-civilian radio exercise set for next weekend

The official logo of Armed Forces Day 2014
courtesy of the American Radio Relay League

The month of May is known for flowers, showers and for radio operators, the annual Military Crossband Communications Test.

Sponsored by the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), the exercise is set for Saturday, May 10 beginning at 8 a.m. (EDT).

It will allow ham operators and military stations to communicate with each other, in a split system where each is on a different frequency from the other.

More than 20 military stations in the continental United States as well Hawaii (ABH), Okinawa (ADB) and Guam (NRV) are expected to be on the air, transmitting slightly above or below ham frequencies, according to MARS headquarters in Arizona.

In addition to being fun, the exercise is good practice in the event of a national emergency, where civilian operators and military stations might have to work together.

Also participating: the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, Conn. (NBL), the Pentagon radio station (callsign "WAR"), and Navy operators aboard the USS Midway in San Diego and the USS Yorktown in South Carolina.

Keeping with tradition, there will also be a test message from the U.S. Secretary of Defense, transmitted in digital modes that will have to be decoded by the listener.

These are ham radio modes like RTTY, PSK31, PACTOR, and AMTOR, which require computer software to be decoded into text.

Certificates will be issued to those who successfully copy the defense secretary's message, but transcripts should be submitted with no attempt to correct possible transmission or reception errors, according to the MARS website.

On the same sheet of paper containing the message text, stations should provide time, frequency and call sign of the military station copied, as well as their own name, call sign, and address.

Reception letters for the defense message should be sent to one of three addresses associated with the military station that transmitted it, as noted in the MARS website information.

Those include MARS Headquarters at Fort Huachuca, Arizona; the Naval Base in Williamsburg, Virginia; and Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

Military stations will send QSL cards to any ham operators that make contact, and also to shortwave listeners who send in the information they copied over the air.

This year, the Military Crossband Communications Test is held one week before Armed Forces Day, May 17.

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