Caller number three, you’re on the air

by Airman 1st Class Trevor Rhynes
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Those voices heard on the radio come from people with different backgrounds, ranks and ages. They greet listeners on their way to work, during those slow moments throughout work and on their way home.

“We get the opportunity to provide accurate, entertaining and factual information to the military community,” said Army Sgt. Gene Muller, American Forces Network Kaiserslautern Eagle morning show host. “The intent is to be part of a show that represents one found in the states, whilst maintaining military bearing. We have the opportunity to show that even while performing a military duty, we can compete at a level that would represent the best commercial options available back home.”

The mission for these service members is simple: inform and highlight fellow members of the KMC in Germany.

“It’s a very rewarding career because you get to see all the wonderful things our military members are doing at work and in the community,” said Senior Airman Tory Secrist, AFN Kaiserslautern disc jockey. “We get to tell their story or highlight what they are doing. You get to meet a variety of people and everyday is different.”

In order to do this, DJs spend multiple hours preparing for shows.

“We spend a lot of time getting our shows together. We use entertainment and news websites to gather information about the artists we play and movie and music industry news,” said Demarrio Spence, AFN Kaiserslautern Eagle morning show host. “We research our interviews and come up with on-air contests to give away prizes. We also use what we call ‘24-hour show prep,’ which means we take note of things that happen to us throughout the day and figure out ways to work them into our shows.”

Running a radio show isn’t as easy as pushing buttons and talking about certain topics, DJs have to be ready in case something goes unexpected.

“If you have a technical malfunction during a show, it’s difficult to play that off if you’re live,” Secrist said. “You have to keep calm during your show and improvise if the song doesn’t start playing or if someone walks in the studio when the mic is hot. Or sometimes your interview subject can’t find the right words and you have to coach them along.”

Even though AFN personnel get official training before appearing on a radio show, these DJs work with each other and provide each other on-the-job training.

“The opportunity to learn from a person who is able to effectively communicate information is somebody that you want to learn from,” Muller said. “Learning becomes an exciting opportunity and something that you can actually have fun with.”

Some personnel have recently come across this type of work, but others have been doing this type of work for years.

“I grew up in the military, I’ve been a DJ since I was in high school right up the road in Bitburg, but I’ve done it for the Army in Würzburg and here in Kaiserslautern,” said Sergeant 1st Class Ian Camejo, guest DJ. “I’m assigned to 21st Theater Sustainment Command, but I host the Monday afternoon show as guest DJ in a partnership between AFN Kaiserslautern and 21st TSC.”

At the end of the day, DJs feel like this is a busy job, which requires more work than some listeners give them credit for.

“Many times, when I tell people that I work at AFN, they say, ‘It must be nice to listen to music all day’. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Master Sgt. Colleen Jones, AFN Kaiserslautern DJ. “In fact, as a DJ, when you put a song on for the audience, you are using that time to answer a phone call about traffic or weather, checking the latest exchange rate or prepping for a contest giveaway. The truth is, it’s a very high-paced job that takes a lot of multitasking.”

So, remember that person on the air isn’t simply talking into a microphone and listening to music over the course of a few hours. They’re taking care of the community by keeping service members and their families informed and aware on events happening around them.