Radio station broadcasts in Iraq
By NICK ROGERS
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT WRITER
When Radio TFO-FM 94.6 signed on for broadcast at Camp Freedom in Mosul, Iraq, most of the American troops stationed there thought it was a joke.
Brian Pierce and Kellie Michaels, morning DJs on WNNS-FM 98.7, took to the lunch-hour airwaves Friday to show their seriousness for sending soldiers songs of the ’70s.
“This is the no-joke voice of Camp Freedom,” Pierce belted out to open Friday’s “I Love the ’70s Lunch” broadcast, which will be burned to compact discs and sent to Camp Freedom.
The 139th Military Public Affairs Detachment, half of whose troops are based at Camp Lincoln, Springfield’s National Guard headquarters, has set up Radio TFO for broadcast there.
According to Michaels, her and Pierce’s segment will be the first American radio show recorded and sent to Iraq for radio rebroadcast.
“You could fit the amount of equipment required to broadcast FM in a trunk,” Pierce said. “And the studio’s probably not even a studio, but a five-disc CD changer plugged directly into a little transmitter that goes out 40 miles. Probably every major group over there has the capability.
“It hadn’t occurred to anybody to provide these guys with some real programming. Duh. I just can’t imagine that it hasn’t occurred to somebody to do this on a more grand scale.”
Since January, Pierce and Michaels have spoken with members of the 139th via satellite phone on Wednesdays during their morning show. It’s part of an ongoing outreach program WNNS has with the 139th, which has included sending Starbucks coffee to the detachment and building a Web site on which family and friends can post messages. The Web site is nearly finished.
When Col. Paul Hastings, a Chatham native, recently announced the detachment had started a radio station, they had an idea.
“Kellie’s eyes just got wide when he was telling us this,” Pierce said.
Hastings admitted they had not given much thought to programming, and Pierce asked if he would broadcast any programming they sent.
After the request for ’70s music came, the perfect opportunity to program Radio TFO (standing for “Task Force Olympia”) presented itself.
Pierce and Michaels last September started the “I Love the ’70s Lunch,” to huge listener response. The program – from noon to 1 p.m. – is a free-form show where they pick the songs they want to play.
“This show will be broadcast to the troops, and the Iraqi people, should they care to pick it up,” Michaels said.
“Hold on to the steering wheel of the Hummer, big guy,” Pierce bellowed into the microphone as the opening strains of Ohio Players’ “Fire” kicked off the hour. He encouraged the troops later to cue their air guitars for Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” and James Gang’s “Funk #49.”
“We’re going to make those guys think we’re the rockingest light rock in North America,” Pierce quipped.
Families of people stationed with the 139th also called in, leaving messages live on the air to be included in the hour sent to Mosul.
“I love my daddy and I’m proud of him,” said Sara Rotherham, 5, to her father, Sgt. Brian Rotherham.
Kris Wellman dedicated Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said” to her husband, Lt. Dan Wellman, for whom Diamond is a favorite.
“To all the troops there, our sons think you’re all superheroes,” Kris Wellman said.
Michaels said several more shows will be recorded and sent, as will CDs with just music, and those featuring messages recorded at support group meetings for families of 139th soldiers. And they’ll take e-mail requests from any serviceman who wants to hear a specific song.
“We’ll do this for them as long as they want us to do them,” Pierce said. “If we get a boatload of requests from servicemen, we’ll go to town.”
Nick Rogers can be reached at 747-9587 or email@example.com.