Armed Station Broadcasts Hits, Information in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2005 Freedom Radio is home to "the most heavily armed station on the air."
Army Spc. Daniel Sullivan plays a song during his show on
Freedom Radio in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Five soldiers and a Marine are the voices of Freedom Radio in Iraq. And yes, they carry weapons.
The station is part of American Forces Network-Iraq. The unit is the 209th Broadcast Operations Detachment.
It broadcasts to the more than 150,000 Americans in Iraq. It is the commander's tool to get information to the troops quickly, and to entertain the troops with the sounds of the United States. Army Staff Sgt. Adam Daley, the station NCO in charge, figures the listenership at about 100,000.
Daley, a reservist from Rome, Ga., said the station does all its own production. "We do all our liners, all the announcements, and almost anything you hear is live," Daley said.
He said the station puts out command information messages such as how to keep safe, what's going on with the election, what the command expects from the troops, "and then we use the music as the entertainment mode to keep them listening to the message," he said.
Monday through Saturday the station has adult contemporary music in the morning, then four hours of country music and then four hours of rap and hip- hop. At night, the station plays four hours of rock. On Sunday, the station plays 1960s, 1970s and 1980s "retro" music everything from classic rock to Abba.
The station has a request line. "Depending on the time of day, it can get pretty busy," said Marine Cpl. Isaac Pacheco, a journalist at the Albany, Ga., Marine base. He is the morning disk jockey for the station.
Servicemembers can phone in requests, but they also can e-mail them in. "That's the most common way," Pacheco said.
The Marine said he has gotten requests from the United States to play songs on some servicemembers' special day, such as a birthday or anniversary. "(The request is) always a love song," he said. "Something that says 'I miss you' in it somewhere."
The requests from Iraq go across the board, Daley said.
Pacheco said he is not tempted to begin his show like Adrian Cronauer bellowing "Good Morning, Vietnam," in the movie of the same title. "I tried 'Good Morning, Baghdad' a couple of times, but I can't really walk in those footsteps," he said. "He was a different man for a different era. He's someone, though, we look to as an example."
The station has 16 hours of original programming on it seven days a week. It gets music the same way stations in the United States do, although there's a little mail delay.
The station does two newscasts each day at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. "We talk about all the good stuff the military is doing here building schools, helping communities out," Pacheco said. "(Servicemembers) get enough bad stuff through other media."
Daley said no one on the station worked in radio before coming to Baghdad. "We've learned as we went along," he said. "Sometimes that can scare you. If you have a perfect show, maybe one or two people will say that. But if you mess up, everyone will be calling. Still, I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. I may have the best job in the Army."