Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C. -- Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (JFHQ-NCR/MDW) deployed their mobile command post on Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, D.C., to compete in the 7th annual Noble Skywave, an international High Frequency (HF) competition, Oct. 23-24, 2019.
Noble Skywave is a military-led competition organized by the Canadian Communications and Electronics branch. The exercise challenges competitors with voice and data contacts between domestic and international teams via HF sky-wave propagation. Providing training experience through the exercise and competition, Military Radio Operators from around the globe are invited to crown the best HF Operators.
The JFHQ-NCR/MDW team consisted of three telecommunications specialists from the Communications-Electronics Directorate and two telecommunications specialists from the 744th Communications Squadron from Joint Base Andrews. The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) also sent members from their Communications-Electronics Directorate to observe and learn.
The exercise consisted of four events: Establishing the Net, Free Play, Team Contact Challenge, and Back to the Future. During the competition portion, voice and data contacts were logged with as many stations as possible, with bonus points awarded during certain phases for the longest distance contacts. Once both stations logged the contact, the results and high score for the top twenty competitors were displayed in real-time on the Noble Skywave website.
"The capabilities of HF are so important and relevant because it delivers global reach without the use of repeaters or satellites," said Michael Koeniger Jr., Telecommunications Specialist, JFHQ-NCR/MDW Communications-Electronics Directorate. "If the satellites fall out of the sky, cell towers go down, and the internet goes out, HF will still work. These abilities provide our command with more flexibility during real-world contingency events."
The 2019 competition included 183 registered competitors from Active-Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Auxiliary Force units, representing 13 countries: Australia, Canada, Haiti, Iraq, Italy, Latvia, Libya, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Spain, UK, and the U.S.
Competing for the first-time, the JFHQ-NCR/MDW team was ranked 4th place of 34 U.S. teams and 28th place of 89 world-wide teams. Throughout the competition they were able to validate PACE (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency) communication requirements with U.S. Northern Command, as well as contact competitors across the US, Canada, UK, Latvia and Peru.
"Exercise Noble Skywave is designed to improve participants' high frequency radio communications abilities using the spirit of competition," said Koeniger. "By competing, not only are we are we using our equipment in a real-world scenario, but we are also instilling good-will and confidence among friendly military and auxiliary volunteer forces."
Prior to the exercise, normal testing procedures for JFHQ-NCR/MDW involved communicating no further than A.P. Hill.
"This event allowed us to really flex our radio's "muscles" so to speak and see how far we could really reach. This was my first time using a military HF radio in an exercise and that alone made the exercise worth it," said Koeniger. "Not only that, but we ended up taking 4th place among other US teams, of whom the top 3 had more powerful radios or were popular due to their location in terms of scoring points. I believe our greatest success was connecting with the extreme long distance sites like Latvia, Germany and Hawaii. We're talking distances of nearly 5,000 miles with a 125W radio and a simple dipole antenna."
The Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) mission provides contingency HF communications to support the Department of Defense and the military. Additionally, MARS also supports communication for combat commands by providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, contingency communications for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA), and morale and welfare communication in support of the DoD.