Here are some of my notes from and impressions of the Friday evening classes and the Saturday, TX MARS Annual Meeting. These notes are not meant to be detailed but will cover some of the high points for those members who were unable to attend.
First, I want to tell you this was the best Annual Meeting I have attended. It was very well organized, it met or exceeded my expectations for content. It was well attended by about 55 MARS members and some additional guests.
We had expected some comments from Stu Carter, Chief, Army MARS via speaker phone but that fell through due to other pressing commitments. Check for comments from the Chief's Net to be distributed by the time you read this. Though we were disappointed that we would not be able to speak to the Chief, Dave more than made up for the Chief.
Dave Martin, covered the areas below in detail and I am sure more information will follow on these subject areas, so keep checking for emails from him or the State Training Officer.
The Past Year's Training Items
- Voice mail procedures
- Practical message training
- Mixed mode nets
- Frequency Agility
- Responding to emergencies exactly as we have trained
- Review the MARS National Plan
- TXMF Deployment Team(s) formation
- Increase PACTOR usage by TX MARS
- More Joint Region (6) training
- Issue a new TX MARS OPLAN and ESOP
- Field Days for 2008/2009 (FD 08 on 7/8 November)
- MARS Attendance at the HLS and Hurricane conferences
- DICE 09 participation
- More (?) MARS VHF repeaters activated. Currently we have VHF repeaters at DFW, Houston, Austin, Paris.
Dave also mentioned that he will not accept the SMD position when it becomes vacant in 2009. More info to follow.
Kevin Lemon, TX State RACES Officer provided comments on the Texas SOC and its very favorable perspective on TX MARS support during several storms/hurricanes that impacted the State. We have seen the storms from the gulf and their impact on Texas but we should also be prepared for the storms that come out of Pacific Ocean and be prepared to deploy MARS communications teams in support of West Texas (Interesting!). Additional information will be provided to the MARS membership about his remarks.
Brian Attaway representing the TXMF J6 Office provided TXMF perspective on the two hurricanes and MARS participation. More information to follow.
The members of several deployed MARS Task Force Communications Teams provided comments on their Lessons Learned which will be valuable to TX MARS members.
Lew provided a detailed list of practical do's and don't and his lessons learned for deployed members (I hope that information will be provided for distribution to all TX MARS members).
Patricia and Don Allen provided valuable information on health care issues each deployed member should be prepared to face during their deployment and I hope that the highlights of their presentation will also be made available to the TX MARS members.
Other deployed Communications Teams provided amplifying remarks and helpful hints on operating with the TXMF personnel.
Lew also presented several extremely informative classes on such subjects as MARS HF Digital Communications, MARS NVIS Propagation & Practice, Understanding HF Propagation & the Critical Frequency.
Tom provided an interesting presentation on digital communications on Friday night.
A special thanks to Matt for the coffee & yummy donuts and Paul and his XYL (and their assistants) also for the fine BBQ lunch that we all were treated to. I think Paul got the left over banana pudding to take home and should have enough left to last to next year's Annual meeting .
We should be proud of John who brought his (still in the works) MARS communications trailer up to the meeting for all to see. I was very impressed! I did not know we had so many talented metal and wood workers in this organization. If you ever get the chance, check out John's story on how he was able to get an out of service Ambulance and how he converted it into a really nice communications trailer (with Air Conditioning).
I am sure that I probably left out someone or some other equally important information but we will be receiving additional information via the State MARS Staff and will see some of these lessons learned incorporated into our future training.
Finally, a special thanks to Ed who showed me how to program a dual band ICOM handheld, an ICOM IC-24AT. Ed really cleared up the confusion that the ICOM manual created and let me see the light!
Please make every effort to schedule the 2nd weekend in October 2009 as your time to attend the TX State MARS Annual Meeting (Location TBA). You will find it a wonderful time of connecting the voice and the face of folks that you hear on the nets. You will also find the fellowship worth every penny of the cost of attending.