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Staff Sgt. Stephanie Csornok broadcasts Tuesday during Readiness Radio.
Staff Sgt. Stephanie Csornok broadcasts Tuesday during Readiness Radio. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Country followed by rap. Barry Manilow and Weird Al Yankovic.

It’s a free-for-all at American Forces Network’s “The Edge” radio station here this week, with all-request radio 24 hours a day.

There is a trade-off, however: Disc jockeys will play callers’ favorite music — as long as the lyrics meet common decency standards — but they’re also dishing out command information every time they pick up the mike.

It’s called Readiness Radio, a unique radio format that comes to life when the 35th Fighter Wing conducts its quarterly exercises or in the event of a real-life crisis.

“The intent is to deliver targeted command information to the wing that is in sync with their contingency needs,” said Master Sgt. Ron Przysucha, AFN Misawa detachment chief.

This week’s contingency, scheduled to end Friday, is staged. It’s an Initial Response Readiness Exercise, or IRRE, testing airmen’s ability to quickly deploy to a fictional location. All 15 military members on the Edge radio staff work 12-hour shifts, taking turns as DJs and producing commercials and announcements exclusively geared toward the ongoing exercise.

“If the commissary is having a case lot sale, we probably won’t mention it,” Przysucha said. “We try to stay in character.”

DJs, in a studio draped with camouflage netting, talk about living wills, immunizations, self-aid buddy care, what to pack in a mobility bag, paying off bills before a deployment and other topics on which airmen may be tested during an IRRE. Their material comes straight from the Airman’s Manual, reinforcing information airmen should know but may not remember or have to time to read.

The broadcasters try to keep listeners interested by giving away prizes for requesting songs, correctly answering readiness trivia or spicing up dry topics with some humor.

“Ladies, having your man stolen from you does not count,” said Staff Sgt. Stephanie Csornok, the detachment’s noncommissioned officer in charge of radio, while explaining the definition of “deadly force” over the airwaves Tuesday.

The Readiness Radio concept is unique to Pacific Air Forces, if not the Air Force, officials say.

“I’ve done nine bases overseas in 22 years of service, and I have not seen (American Forces Radio and Television Service) do this anywhere I’ve been,” said Misawa spokesman Capt. John Haynes. “In addition to getting the word out, they encourage people to call in, to get involved, to be a part of what’s going out over the air.”

The service, he said, is especially helpful for airmen working in isolated locations or shifts during the exercise, who might otherwise be bored.

Przysucha brought Readiness Radio to Misawa about a year ago. Outside the purview of the wing, AFN is not required to take part in wing exercises, Przysucha said. But Przysucha, a veteran broadcaster with stints in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, has seen firsthand the vital role AFN can play during contingencies.

“It’s absolutely what keeps people alive downrange,” he said. “There are so many hazards out there, so many things that can hurt you, that if you don’t know about it, you will become a casualty. It’s information you need to keep safe.”

Readiness Radio not only trains military journalists for deployment, but it also contributes to the wing mission during an exercise, Przysucha added.

“I’ve been in a war-time situation, and this is a lot of the same stuff we talk about,” said Csornok, referring to her 2001 stint in Bosnia.

On a lighter note, Csornok reminded Edge radio listeners that the station has 45,000 songs in its library.

“We have played everything from Barry Manilow to Weird Al Yankovic — we don’t care,” she said.

Przysucha, who’s staffing the airwaves from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. this week, said the phones at certain hours ring nonstop for requests.

“I did two hours this morning and I didn’t have to pick one song,” he said.

Not all phone calls, however, are to request a song.

“‘Is the exercise over yet?’ That’s probably our most common question,” Przysucha said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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