AFN-Iraq ‘Freedom Radio’ Goes Off Air

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)