News: Radio Station Designed for Deployed Troops an Internet Hit
Story by Spc. Ken Scar
FORT HOOD, Texas - Army Staff Sgt. Deon Williams is a large man with a booming voice who likes to broadcast himself - and when he does people listen. He also takes requests.
His natural talents serve him well as an in-processing non-commissioned officer at the Fort Hood Reception Detachment, but Williams also happens to be the central Texas area’s representative disc jockey on what is perhaps the most unique radio station in the country, Hooah! Radio.
Hooah! Radio is a free, internet-based radio station that exists specifically to “bridge the gap” between soldiers serving in the wars overseas and their homeland. It is on the air 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is accessible from any internet connection at www.hooahradio.com.
Rick Bradley, a 10-year Army veteran and experienced broadcaster, created the station in 2005, because his son was deploying to Iraq.
“We wanted to be able to communicate with him, and the internet is the easiest way to communicate with deployed soldiers,” said Bradley. He decided to design his son’s unit their very own internet radio station.
It’s a formula that worked incredibly well. Hooah! Radio quickly grew from a boutique enterprise into one of the worldwide web’s top sites. The station’s website registered 244,000 hits in its first year, over a million its second year, and is on track to log more than 80 million hits by the end of this, its sixth year.
The station is a not-for-profit venture, and is funded solely by donations from listeners, businesses, and even some of the artists the station plays. For anyone who cares about those who are serving, it’s money well spent.
“We’re heard in 250 countries, so it’s not just service members [who listen], its people all over the world,” said Bradley, adding that the station strives to be listenable to a wide spectrum of people, since soldiers and their families come from every race, religion and culture.
Plus, he added, the more listeners they have, the more support they can generate for the troops.
“It’s different from armed forces radio in that there aren’t super-strict guidelines and we’re not censored,” said Williams, “That gives us disc jockeys a lot more freedom to play what the soldiers want to hear.”
The types of programs on the station span a huge spectrum of tastes - from heavy metal and punk to country and NASCAR - but all the programming is designed specifically to entertain deployed soldiers. Fifty volunteer disc jockeys from all over the country, like Williams, give their time and talents to deliver the music, sports talk and interviews that soldiers want to hear.
Every radio personality on the station targets a different audience. For Williams it’s the old-school soul and R&B crowd.
“While I was stationed in Alaska, the urban station in Fairbanks didn’t play any 'old school' music,” he said. “There was no Parliament, no Cameo, Phyllis Hyman or Minnie Riperton. The University of Alaska radio station gave me that opportunity and I have been on the air waves since then.”
Because of his experiences in Alaska, Williams knew he wanted to be a part of a station that catered to all genres, and Hooah! Radio offered just that. Now Williams, a.k.a. “DJ Will,” hosts his show, “The Old School Café,” weekly - serving up the best selections of classic R&B ”dusties” from the comfort of his home in Killeen.
“That’s the beauty of the Internet,” he said.
Another constant of the station’s programming are the personal “shout outs” to the troops. Anyone with a computer can record a message and send it to Hooah! Radio. Once received, the messages are played for free throughout the daily broadcasts. Specific times can be requested so that the soldier waiting to hear the message won’t miss it.
“[Military Welfare and Recreation] doesn’t play family shout-outs or reunite families with soldiers through live feeds like we do,” said Bradley. “Plus they don’t offer anywhere near the diversity that we do.”
Even though Hooah! Radio gives its disc jockeys a wide range to play in there are a few boundaries, said Bradley.
“We have [listeners] from age 12 to 75, so we try to keep it PG-13. We want to make it comfortable for families to listen to.”
Families, friends, soldiers and people that care about soldiers have been drawn to Hooah! Radio in record numbers – but Bradley still feels his station is far from reaching its full potential.
“It’s all about letting [deployed service members] know we’re thinking about them 24/7, and providing them with a little bit of home,” said Bradley.
For the increasing number of Soldiers who’ve been tapping into Hooah!Radio from down range, that message is being received loud and clear.