In few countries can be seen or experienced the level of cooperation between the nation’s military and the Amateur Service.
Armed Forces Day in the United States of America was created in 1949 by then Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson to signal unification of the US Armed Forces under one department, the Department of Defense.On February 27th, 1950, President Harry S. Truman stated, “Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 20, 1950, marks the first combined demonstration by America’s defense team of its progress, under the National Security Act, towards the goal of readiness for any eventuality. It is the first parade of preparedness by the unified forces of our land, sea, and air defense.”
The theme for the first Armed Forces Day was Teamed for Defense, marking the leadership of the Armed Forces under a single department of government. This particular day was also regarded as an educational program forcivilians. It was defined as a day to show everyday American citizens the role the military plays, not only for the nation’s security, but to expand further understanding as would relate to the impact the military has in our homes, families and the workplace.
The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated in the nation’s capitol with parades, air shows and a variety of social gatherings. Over 10,000 US servicemen from all four branches of the military, cadets, veterans, marched past the President, Commander and Chief of US Armed Forces. In New York City, known for giant crowds and ticker tape parades, Armed Forces Day was heralded by over 30,000 participants who witnessed the events of the day under cover of 250 military planes of all types. In the nations harbors World War II battleships Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina and the Iowa marked the event with open houses.
Any official cooperative efforts between the US Armed Forces and the Amateur Service date back to the creation of the Military Auxiliary Radio System, commonly known under the acronym MARS, in November of 1948; although it might be added that the Army Amateur Radio System actual predates MARS having been formed in 1925 and then suspended at the onset of World War II. As an auxiliary of the US military, so-called MARS operators are US licensed hams who receive additional licensing and privileges under the auspices of the United States Military to operate in conjunction with and under the guidelines and direction of MARS, for that given branch of the Armed Forces, e.g., Army, Navy, Air Force.
Section 97.111(a) of the FCC rules governing the US Amateur Service specifically grants all licensed US amateur radio operators permission to communicate with participating United States military stations during the annual Armed Forces Day Communications Test. It is during this yearly crossband test that American hams are allowed to work a variety of military communications stations utilizing ham radio and MARS frequencies as the communications platform. US amateurs will have the opportunity to work numerous Armed Forces stations on May 12 of the weekend preceding the Dayton Hamvention.
The author of this article was able to work the US Naval Transmitter Facility still located in San Francisco on California’s west coast multiple times during the 70s, a time when CW was king and Navy operators could be heard anytime of the day passing traffic on military frequencies with the familiar swing of the NPG callsign, dahdit-didahdahdit-dahdahdit.
Crossband communication will be possible using Single Side Band (SSB) and CW. All voice contacts will be limited to one or two minutes. The event itself is designed to give ham operators the opportunity to demonstrate their technical savvy and to receive recognition for their operating skills in the form of a QSL card for any direct contact with military stations.
A variety of bands will provide opportunities for contacts with military radio operators from the US Army, Air Force, Marines/Navy and Coast Guard on 10, 15, 17, 20, 40 and 80 meters. A complete operations schedule may be found here.
Select military stations will also be sending a test message originating with the US Secretary of Defense. This piece of traffic will be transmitted in a variety of modes including RTTY, PACTOR, AMTOR, PSK-31, MFSK and MT63. You’ll have the opportunity to send your received copy to originating stations for receipt confirmation, as alluded to in the official Defense Department documentation.
Title photo by Surface warriors