SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Sept. 1, 2009) -- Taping for one of the most recognizable holiday programs in America will begin soon, months before wreaths are hung and lights are strung in homes across the country.

Broadcast teams from the Joint Hometown News Service in San Antonio, Texas, will depart shortly after Labor Day this year to begin taping video holiday greetings of servicemembers and their families stationed overseas during the holiday season. This year marks the 26th anniversary of the program.

Servicemembers from all branches of service, their family members, and DoD civilians are eligible to participate, according to Erich Schwab, this year's holiday greetings coordinator. Schwab says three teams with three members per team will travel to the Pacific, Europe and Southwest Asia theaters, setting up their cameras in more than 60 locations.

Additionally, they have partnered with military broadcast organizations in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide coverage for those locations.

When a team sets up in your area, Schwab says there are just a few guidelines to follow to ensure family and friends back home see your personal greeting on local television.

Aca,!Ac Make sure to bring your address book. You'll need family members' names, city, state and phone number. No street address is needed this year, but station managers need phone contact info to let families know when your greeting will air.

Aca,!Ac Servicemembers need to be in uniform. Work uniform is fine. Family members should accompany their sponsor, unless their sponsor is deployed. And, of course, don't forget the props: Santa's hats, pets, banners and Christmas attire.

Aca,!Ac Depending upon the installation, there is a good chance there will be waiting lines. Lunch time and after work is normally prime time, so if you can break away for a few minutes during mid morning or mid afternoon, you can avoid the rush.

Aca,!Ac In front of the camera: There aren't a lot of rules, but here are some tips to make the experience go smoothly. The top three - relax, relax and relax. So what if you'll be seen by a million TV viewers. When you're taping it's just you and the camera.

Aca,!Ac Try to be cheerful and in the holiday spirit. It doesn't show well on camera if your teenage daughter looks like she'd rather be at the mall than wishing grandma happy holidays.

Aca,!Ac Try to keep hand gestures to a minimum. When you're giving your greetings, don't say "Happy Thanksgiving." Most greetings will begin to air on Thanksgiving Day and will quickly become obsolete if that day has come and gone when your greeting airs.

Aca,!Ac No need for a teleprompter or a script, but try writing down main points on a 3 x 5 card. Sometimes nerves can cause a bout of forgetfulness, so jot down family members' names and the points you want to get across. If you have family in more than one area, you can do several greetings. You've got 15 to 20 seconds per greeting, more than enough time to get in your holiday wishes to those closest to you.

When the teams return to San Antonio in late October, Schwab says production will run 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. Video and audio greetings are separated by state, and in some of the more populated states such as California, Texas, Florida and New York, stations will receive the tapes or DVDs based upon region.

Television stations will normally begin running greetings on Thanksgiving, and continue through New Year's Day. Schwab says many greetings air multiple times during the holidays and usually on more than one station.

Teams' schedules can be viewed online at 2009 calendar v2.pdf. You can also follow the teams on Twitter @hometownnews1.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16