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MARS - Military Affiliate Radio System - provided free, real time contact with families back in the land of the "BIG PX" during the Vietnam war, as it continues to do today for other servicemen and women overseas.

This was pre-Internet days and used HF radio to run "Phone Patches" where the serviceman in Vietnam could 'connect' through a MARS radio station with a MARS station in the U.S., who would then make the connection through a phone line to the family. Thus, 'Phone Patch'. 

See more photos of Stateside MARS stations I've visited/operated/run with in the photo gallery


There are two different groups of MARS stations noted in this section. One, stations that I operated while stationed on post. Basically, AA1KBO, and a second group covering both military operations and civilian HAM operators with MARS credentials.

Back Stateside - AA1KBO

After leaving Vietnam, and a well deserved leave at home in California, I was posted to Ft. Devens, MA.

Arriving at Devens, I was assigned to the Photo Lab, my normal MOS. I soon discovered the MARS station (and met up with Lee Platt again there too) on post (AA1KBO), and spent a fair bit of my leisure time running patches from Nam on the MARS freqs. Eventually I convinced the NCOIC of the station to lobby the Photo Lab to kick me over to the MARS station full time! Whooooo! -- DMOS: 05B20 AGAIN!

We worked with a different 'Net' of Nam MARS stations than the net to which AB8AQ belonged, as each stateside station got 'attached' to a 'Net' to assure proper coverage across the system. (anyone remember running with me at AA1KBO '69-70? My memory's faded on these details.)

I never really got to run with the guys at AB8AQ, although I do remember chatting with them briefly one day when I ran up on their freq for fun.

AA1KBO rig - back room

IIRC we had two operating shacks. the picture above is the back room rig.

I'd even work on holidays if I had nothing else to do. Things out at Devens could be kind of dead socially. -- TIM, get a DATE, for God's sake! <G>

I ran a patch on July 4th for a retired Col and he thought it was just SO great that I'd work the station on a holiday that he wrote Devens, singing my praises to the Post Commander. The brass gave me the "Grand Job" pennant. A little flag and a letter --- I had to give the flag thingy BACK at the end of the month! -- LMAO -- Anyway the Col was impressed; just another patch for me. (Here's the little article they put in the post newspaper)

Ft. Devens newspaper clipping, 1969

Other Stations

I made some friends over the MARS freqs in the US too. I took a trip down to Pennsylvania (Tobyhanna Army Depot, IIRC) to see Pat and his crew at AA3WCQ. Here's a couple of shots.

AA3WCQ (Tobyhanna Army Depot, PA)

Pat!! We REALLY smoked in the shack back then?

While sorting through documents I've kept from this period, I also searched the Internet for references on these stations. I guess I'm officially getting old as lots of the call signs have been reassigned (AB8AQ) and even stories of these stations and operators seem to have evaporated. Sad stuff Brothers. <sigh> -- Maybe these pages will help keep some of this alive. 

A7USA (Ft Lewis, WA)

Kurt was the CHOP here, and our key stateside station for most patches. They came up early and stayed strong.


AA5WAC? (Corpus Christi, TX)

(under construction)

WB6DBD (Santa Barbara, CA?)

If I remember correctly (IIRC), the HAM's name was AL, and he had a BIG amp and LOTS of antenna. He was a steady signal to work when he came up on freq. We really appreciated these civilian MARS contacts!



Updated: 8/13/04

MARS Links

This page is a tribute to the men and women in the U.S. who receive and send calls and message traffic in support of the moral of U.S. Armed Forces personal around the World.

Click here to learn more about the important work MARS performs for our Service members overseas.


Comments and corrections can be sent to the author at:

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(You know how to put this address together)

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