US soldiers surf local airwaves

Spc. Jessica Abner
First published in
SFOR Informer#153, December 5, 2002

Every Saturday Kalesija's radio station, 'Freal', airs more than just music. With an hour devoted to SFOR programming, the airwaves are taken over by soldiers who create their own programmes with the aim of making a difference to the lives of the listeners.

Kalesija - Continuing the good work done by their predecessors, individual soldiers continue to ensure SFOR has a positive image in the community by discussing topics ranging from mine awareness and education to sports. "We want to make sure the children who are our listeners are aware of what is going on in their local areas," said Sgt. 1st Class Carl Bjornstal.
Humans just like everyone else
Ranging in age from four to eighteen, listeners call the station to speak to soldiers. Callers answer questions and can win prizes provided by SFOR, such as T-shirts and basketballs. "We're humans just like everyone else. We want to make sure the kids are not afraid of the soldiers and wave when we drive by or talk to us when we stop on the side of the road," said Bjornstal. "We're here for them."
Bjornstal said it is important for soldiers to participate in the radio show. "It's good for us to continue in any form of communication, whether it's radio or face-to-face. The radio station is just helping by reinforcing our job."
Because part of the broadcasting experience requires soldiers to speak on live radio, it oftentakes some time to get used to the idea.
Also a way to relax and laugh
"I was a little nervous about being on the radio at first, I've never been on the radio before. The closest thing to it was probably a speech class in college. My family can't believe that part of my job is to talk on the radio for an hour," said Bjornstal.
Besides reinforcing SFOR's mission, the hour spent on the air is also a way to relax and laugh. "I do some teaching and coaching back home and it's a little extra for me to get the chance to talk to kids. They are great to talk to," said Bjornstal. "When you're surrounded by solders all the time, it's a release to talk to the kids and be a little more relaxed. It's really fun because they have some interesting comments."
"The show is always a fun time for me, I love talking to the kids," said Spc. Steven Connelly. "They are always saying funny things and they are more than willing to sing a song for us - something that I would probably be embarrassed doing."
Positive results
With the help of a translator, who has been doing her job for five years, the soldiers communicate with the audience easily. According to Lelja Buljugija, the interpreter, she has witnessed positive feedback from the local children. "I see the positive results when the kids stop by the radio station," said Buljugija. "The kids really enjoy the show and I'm proud to be a part of it." The radio show not only provides a way to enhance SFOR's image, but also gives the soldiers involved a chance relax and be themselves by discussing issues in a way that is fun for them as well as the kids. According to Connelly, it is important that they try to achieve their goals and go far in life. "If I could say one thing to the kids I would tell them to shoot for their dreams and tolerate others because they are the future of this country."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US
SFOR at Work

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Photos: Spc. Jessica Abner

Interpreter Lejla Buljugija said she has witnessed positive feedback from the local children.

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Spc. Steven Connelly, another member of the team, talks with callers during the radio show.

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During the radio show Sgt. 1st Class Carl Bjornstal asks his listeners to call in and talk about topics such as safety and sport.