AFN Iraq signs off with final broadcast
Stars and Stripes September 24, 2011
WIESBADEN, Germany --- “Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That’s all, folks.”
On Friday night, the stuttering Porky Pig spoke the last words broadcast on American Forces Network Iraq.
Since World War II, voices of AFN disc jockeys have been heard over the airwaves by deployed troops, a sure sign of a sustained American presence.
The same held true for Iraq, where AFN started broadcasting from Baghdad in December 2003.
“Freedom,” a song written and recorded by Paul McCartney in response to the 9/11 terror attacks, was the first song played on AFN Iraq. “Freedom Radio” became the moniker of the station’s programming.
Friday marked the latest footnote in AFN’s wartime history, as Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of The Red White and Blue” became the final song to be broadcast from AFN Iraq’s studio.
While the song played, the AFN Iraq crew, made up primarily of Reserve soldiers from the Texas-based 206th Broadcast Operation Detachment, huddled like a football team, relishing what AFN Iraq DJ Sgt. Adam Prickel described as an emotional and historic moment.
The choice of song may have pleased some in the Iraqi audience, as well. DJ Staff Sgt. Jay Townsend said many AFN listeners were students at the University of Baghdad, near AFN Iraq’s home studio at Forward Operating Base Prosperity.
“The university students send in requests day after day. A lot of them like country music, old-school country,” Townsend said.
As troops and more than 2 million pieces of equipment continue to be shipped out of Iraq, it’s no surprise to the AFN Iraq staff that song requests from troops have been on the downslide.
What did surprise them was the number of requests pouring in from the local Iraqi population. AFN Iraq’s Facebook page is full of pleas from Iraqi listeners, begging them not to leave.
“I don’t know if anybody in Vietnam wrote anything like that to the American troops,” Townsend said.
AFN Iraq’s commander, Lt. Col. Freddie Mack, said some museums have been in touch in hopes of acquiring some of the station’s memorabilia.
“I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it,” Mack, who’s heading to the Pentagon for his next assignment, said of the station’s final broadcast.
The thousands of troops and contractors still stationed in Iraq will continue to get their fill of AFN; a signal will be broadcast from AFN Europe’s studios in Germany.
“I get to be a part of the last crew. It’s the most fulfilling part of my service,” said AFN Iraq’s top enlisted broadcaster, Sgt. 1st Class Don Dees.