Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Thursday, October 16, 2008

MARS Radio

I had a nice note yesterday from Jim Petretta, who was assigned to USACC during 1973 and 1974. Here's part of what he had to say:

I'm hoping to run across someone that might have known me back then. I was probably SP4 US Army, and worked for the Communication Command on Grass Mountain. I inherited the responsibilities of the MARS Station; and was privileged to handle some of the evacuation communication during the final days of South Vietnam when the Embassy was being overrun.
My accomplishments there included organizing the 1st Sino-American Explorer Scout Unit for the high school children of our combined forces. I also designed a cubical-quad antenna on a collapsible tower to withstand typhoons, and it did survive the big typhoon while I was there. I also ran emergency communication for VP Rockefeller when he came to Chang Kai Check's funeral--if I recall right, a major communication cable had been severed by a ship somewhere in a bay which caused comm outage.

I served on the joint forces honor guard which got me access to a couple of the Ambassador's cocktail parties--just fun for a kid like me. My oldest daughter was born in the Navy Hospital in Tien Mou. I also achieved the very first direct Radio Teletype contact from Gold Mountain to a Ham Radio Station in Texas. I forget the principle now--a long time ago--but it had something to do with skipping air waves on the ocean and ozone layer.

What a time. I had for sure the kewelest car ever brought over, and I chopped it for more than I paid; and I used it all while I was there.


I told him that I remembered using MARS to talk to my wife back in Colorado Springs while I was at USTDC. He may well have been the guy who handled my call. MARS is an acronym for Military Affiliate Radio System and back in those days it was also an inexpensive way to make calls back to the states. Of course you were talking via radio, so you'd say a sentence or two and then say "over," and then the person on the other end would do the same. The Army's MARS website can be found here and you can see that they are primarily "...licensed amateur radio operators who are interested in military communications on a local, national, and international basis as an adjunct to normal communications."

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