News: Kherwar radio station provides news, link to leadership
Story by Pfc. Michael Sword
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Every day, the soldiers of C Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and their Afghan counterparts patrol the villages surrounding Combat Outpost Kherwar. While they talk to villagers and provide security to the area, they have another tool working for them back at COP Kherwar.
The district of Kherwar is mountainous and devoid of cell phone towers, making communications between villages difficult. However, C Troop with the help of an Afghan DJ, bring news, music and dramas to the people who would otherwise be without news.
"Everybody in Kherwar listens to the radio," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Miller, of Anapolis, Md., and the officer-in-charge of radio programming. "Their primary news comes from the radio station."
"Every day we have messages, music and citations from the holy Koran," said Miller.
The radio station is a recent development for the people of Kherwar.
"The radio station started in November and we got here in early December," said Miller. "It's something our squadron is pushing to really get the message out there."
In order to help ensure the message gets out, C Troop soldiers have given away many hand-cranked radios to the people of Kherwar. The radios do not require batteries so they are perfect for the area, which during the winter is often covered in several feet of snow.
In addition to the normal programming, the deejay also takes requests from villagers.
"Since they don't have phone towers here, people who want to request music or a poem to be read on the radio, take the request and drop it off in the district center," he said. "A lot of them are poems and shout-outs to their friends."
"We have an average of just over 300 requests a week and some people from as far as 7km away will walk to the district center and drop off a request," he added.
Recently, they've added an event they call "big Friday." Every Friday, the deejay will pull one name from the requests of the week and they win a prize, usually a blanket and radio. "Big Friday" premiered in January and has become a hit.
"Everybody loves it," said Miller. "We've never had a guy not claim a prize."
But he added the weekly prizes aren't the only benefit to the radio station.
"Our main goal is to bring in Afghan leaders because it's their district, it's their country," said Miller. "It's also a very good way to legitimize the Afghan leadership because the people can become more familiar with the [Afghan National Army], the police chief and the sub-district governor."
"They usually each come in once a week," he said. "If there's a big event, they usually come in right after the event."
Having a radio station in the Kherwar District, having long been a haven for the Taliban, is also affective in the fight against insurgent forces.
"The Taliban have a cultural advantage, they live among the people," Miller explained. "When our messages are coming over the radio, they don't have a radio they can use to counter back those messages."
"When we have the ANA platoon leader, the [Afghan National Police] chief and National Defense Service guys coming in and talking about the progress were making, they don't really have anything to counter that," he added.
As the radio station reaches more and more people, Miller and his deejays have plans to keep growing and improving the station.
"We want to get more material," Miller said. "We're getting more and more each month."
The investment in more material is a small matter compared to the benefits of the station.
"I think this has been a winner of peace here," he said. "The people feel like they're involved with the leadership and what the leadership has to say. Everything we do is backed up with messages on the radio. It's a pretty big key to developing this area."