Hometown News kicks off holiday greetings program
August 14, 2008
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - An Army and Air Force Hometown News Service team from San Antonio will be traveling throughout Europe in August and September to record holiday greetings for broadcast on television and radio stations in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
Those eligible to participate: active-duty servicemembers, government civilians, retirees, Department of Defense Dependent School teachers and family members who won't be home for the holidays.
Last year, the news team recorded 2,677 greetings in Europe, said Kris Grogan, HN broadcast chief.
"We had a confirmed audience of (almost 40 million) for television and (more than 55 million) for radio," said Grogan, who was last year's and will be this year's European team chief. "Our greets aired in almost 100 million homes last year alone."
Allowing families back home to see or hear loved ones living overseas is the program's mission, said Grogan.
"I don't know how many phone calls I get from crying parents saying 'thank you because I haven't been able to see my son or daughter in the past year or two years,'" he said. "It means a lot to them."
Such was the case with the Gary family, who have been in Germany since 2004 and did greetings last year for relatives in New York, Florida and Jamaica.
"Our family doesn't get to see us much," said Sgt. First Class Allah Gary, of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, explaining why he and his wife, Sherla, and their 4-year-old daughter, Jayllah, participated last year. "When I was home on leave, I saw commercials with servicemembers saying 'hello' to their families, and I thought, 'wow, it would be nice if I could do that too' - now, it's my chance."
Chances of such greetings airing are excellent, Grogan said, explaining, "We are the only ones who (tape holiday greetings from military members) in the United States. We shoot anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 greets a year and 95 percent of those get on the air. Out of 10,000, you are getting 9,500 of those on the air. With an air rate of more than 100 million a year, your chances of getting on the air are almost 99 percent."
Grogan offers the following tips on how to make the most of the holiday greetings taping:
What to wear'
Active-duty members must be in uniform. If the holiday tapings are at an event like a bazaar, servicemembers can just bring a top to put on right before they get in front of the camera - the shot is just from the top pockets up." However, Grogan noted, "We prefer for them to be in uniforms ... because they are representing the United States on TV back home."
Civilians should be in appropriate attire. "If you're in Germany sending a holiday greeting back home, I wouldn't be in shorts and tank tops because you want it to look like it's almost fall here," said Grogan. "But if you want to wear something that screams your location or if you are from Green Bay and want to wear your cheese hat - go for it."
What to bring'
"All they really need is (their families') city, state and phone number - (with) area code being the most important," said Grogan. He added that the hometown news service can get it on the air with just locale data, but if participants have the phone number, it gives television and radio stations an opportunity to contact family members to let them know when the greetings are going to air. "About 95 percent of the time, the station will contact family members even in large markets like Detroit or New York," said Grogan, who did four holiday greetings for his family in Detroit when he served in the Army and deployed downrange. "They were called (from the TV station) and saw me every time."
What to say'
Participants need to say five things within the greeting: Who they are; where they are; who the greeting is going to; where they are; and some sort of holiday message. There is not a maximum or minimum time length on greetings. But the best ones are about 15 seconds long, said Grogan.
Family members must be accompanied by sponsors, unless they are deployed. Spouses and children can make a greeting if the servicemember is deployed, TDY or hospitalized, but they have to mention the deployment. Family members can also make a greeting to deployed military relatives, provided they are going to be downrange during the holidays.
There is not a limit on how many greetings one family can send to the States as long as family members live more than 75 to 100 miles apart and receive different television stations. However, greetings must be sent to people who are related by law or blood. FiancAfAs are not relatives.
"You can bring your pet for the tapings as long as I'm not going to get bit," joked Grogan, who added that he's taped many families with pets.
When customers arrive for taping, they will need to complete a form for every greeting. A member of the hometown news crew verifies the information before giving a quick briefing.
"Super easy" is how Kaiserslautern High School teachers Steve and Marcy Bond described their taping last year. And at the time, they had four children under the age of 5. "So easy - we will do it every year now," said Marcy.
Indeed, so easy that when it's time to tape, a crewmember will simply escort participants to the camera, give another short briefing and then place microphones on them. The camera operator lines them up and records the greeting in "5, 4, 3, 2 ...."
Holiday Greetings European Team Schedule:
RAF Lakenheath, Aug. 25
RAF Mildenhall, Aug. 26
Spangdahlem AB, Aug. 28-29
USAG Kaiserslautern, Aug. 30, Sept. 3
Landstuhl, Sept. 2
USAG Baumholder, Sept. 4
Ramstein AB, Sept. 5-6
USAG Schweinfurt, Sept. 8
USAG Wiesbaden, Sept. 9
USAG Mannheim, Sept. 10
USAG Heidelberg, Sept. 11
USAG Stuttgart, Sept. 12
USAG Ansbach, Sept. 13
USAG Hohenfels, Sept. 15
USAG Grafenwoehr, Sept. 16
Vilseck, Sept. 17
USAG Bamberg, Sept. 18
USAG Vicenza, Sept. 25
Aviano AB, Sept. 26-27