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US Military Radio Entertains, Informs US Troops


In Iraq, American troops have many missions. At the American Forces Network headquarters in Baghdad's Green Zone, broadcasters and disc jockey soldiers are helping to keep America's 140,000 troops across Iraq informed and entertained over the radio. VOA's Margaret Besheer has more from Baghdad.

Staff Sergeant David Howell's Urban Renewal program rocks the troops five evenings a week, playing a mix of soul, rhythm & blues, jazz and hip hop.

"Soldiers need something to relax by. Music is one of those many things that I believe a lot of soldiers enjoy. I enjoy playing it for them," said Howell. "I enjoy doing the requests, dedications; it just makes my day."

The 44-year old staff sergeant, who is serving his first year-long tour in Iraq, has been in the military for 19 years, seven of those in radio and television broadcasting with American Forces Networks, or AFN.

When he's not spinning tunes for the troops, he takes care of military units in Atlanta, Georgia, his home town, where he is a Reserve Unit Administrator.

AFN began during World War II in Europe as a radio service to the American troops. In the 1950s AFN expanded to include the newest medium - television.

Today, troops across Iraq listen to and watch programs produced just for them. AFN has other stations that serve U.S. troops based in Afghanistan, Germany, Korea and other countries where there are U.S. military bases.

Sergeant Misha King is following in her father's footsteps serving in the U.S. military. Her two brothers have also served; one just left Iraq a few months ago. She returned to Iraq in July to serve her second tour here.

The 32-year old sergeant produces seven two-minute newscasts each day on AFN Radio which are solely about what's happening in Iraq.

"I tell them the good news and the bad news; I try not to sugar coat anything," she said.

She focuses her newscasts on what Iraqi political and religious leaders are saying, as well as projects the Americans are working on such as improving Iraq's infrastructure.

As broadcasting technology advances, Sergeant Howell says radio still remains an important format for troops in a war zone.

Not every camp or FOB [Forward Operating Base] has immediate access to cable or satellite systems. Radio is by far one of the few systems we have out here that lets us communicate with our troops.

And the troops appreciate it, saying AFN radio keeps them up-to-date and the music gives them a little touch of home especially around the holidays.