Keeping Service Members Informed
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 1996 Service members in Bosnia may not be able to have a beer, but they do get their daily newspaper. They may not have "three hots" a day, but they do have TV and radio.
"The Stars and Stripes" newspaper and American Forces Network in Europe ensure U.S. service members in the area covered by Joint Endeavor get news and entertainment daily.
The European edition of "The Stars and Stripes" had reporters and a photographer on the ground in Tuzla, Bosnia, before Bosnian, Serb and Croat leaders signed the Dayton agreement. The team started filing reports around Thanksgiving from what was to be the headquarters of the U.S. effort in the country. The newspaper currently has three reporters and a photographer covering the area.
The day before leaders signed the agreement, the paper printed a special section entitled "What U.S. Forces Will Find Inside Bosnia." The 32-page section gave U.S. service members and their families a look at conditions in the war-torn country.
The paper sent a correspondent to Hungary to report on the U.S. buildup to support the Bosnia mission. It also received stories from reporters covering the operation in Italy and aboard ships.
Getting the news out was a problem: Phone lines are not great in Bosnia and newspapers depend on phone lines to transmit stories and photos. But officials at the paper also had to worry about getting the news in. U.S. European Command flies 10,265 copies of The Stars and Stripes a day to Bosnia and Hungary. The papers are free to the troops.
When American forces started arriving in Bosnia, one of the first vehicles off the plane ramp was an AFN Humvee. Conditions in the area are tough for television. TV works on line of sight, and the mountainous area U.S. forces are occupying means network personnel must set up many TV satellite antennas and several transmitters.
Making the job more complicated is the number of base camps. Officials originally planned nine base camps; there are now 23. Tuzla Main was the first camp equipped with TV and radio. Service members at the camp receive radio and television service. Radio listeners can hear everything from National Public Radio shows to the Rush Limbaugh talk show and a full range of sports, according to Army Capt. Ken McDorman, AFN operations officer.
Broadcasters and engineers went along on the deployment. At first, AFN used broadcasters from its facilities in Europe. However, Army reservists with the 209th Broadcast Public Affairs Detachment from Rome, Ga., just relieved the 15 AFN engineers and broadcasters in country, McDorman said.
AFN set up a radio studio in Tuzla to allow broadcasters in Bosnia to go on the air live. "Monday through Friday from 5 to 9 a.m. we broadcast a live radio show," McDorman said. "We also are on live during the afternoon drive time from 3 to 6 p.m. On Saturdays, we have an 8 a.m. to noon live show."
He said this allows local commanders to put in any command information they deem important. Soldiers, sailors and airmen also call in and request songs.
AFN also covers the news in the region. Right now, according to McDorman, teams rotate from Frankfurt, Germany, to Bosnia. The broadcast public affairs detachment sends reports to the network.
Both The Stars and Stripes and AFN are available at the Implementation Force headquarters in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The network is also available in Split and Zagreb, Croatia, and in Kaposvar and Taszar, Hungary.