WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2011 — The soundboard lights went dark for the last time when American Forces Network Radio Iraq “Freedom Radio” went off the air at midnight Sept. 23, after an eight-year run in Baghdad.
The station’s ending closed a chapter in the final 100 days of the U.S. drawdown of Operation New Dawn in Iraq.
Operated by Army Reserve broadcasters, AFN-Iraq hit the airwaves in March 2003, when a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq to oust dictator Saddam Hussein.
Since that time, the team of Army announcers kept service members entertained and informed with a variety of music, chat and news.
“It’s … a morale boost for the troops,” Army Staff Sgt. Brad Ruffin, an AFN-Iraq announcer, said of the broadcasts. “That why we’re here. We do it for them.”
Army Sgt. Adam Prickel called entertainment an important factor in AFN-Iraq programming, “to get [the troops’] minds off something that might be stressing them out a little too much.”
Emails from listeners came in every day to say they enjoyed the music AFN-Iraq played, announcer Army Staff Sgt. Jay Townsend said.
The final broadcast that began at 6 a.m. Sept. 23 was filled with listener requests, entertainment and special interviews.
“We had shout-outs from celebrities, interviews with military leaders and the famed Adrian Cronauer,” Sgt. 1st Class Don Dees said during his on-air shift.
Cronauer is the former AFN radio broadcaster who was the inspiration for the 1987 Hollywood film, “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
Coming up on midnight for the final time, AFN-Iraq Freedom Radio played its most-requested song: “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” by Toby Keith, Dees said.
Radio programming now gives way to AFN signals from other locations, he said.
AFN-Iraq, an Army Reserve 206th Broadcast Operation Detachment in Texas, will become AFN-Europe out of Germany, officials said.
“We lived by the motto, ‘Always there, on the air,’ ” Dees said.
The station also plans to keep its Facebook page, which has 5,400 “friends,” active. “We have decided to keep this page running indefinitely,” according to a post on its wall.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)