By Franklin FisherFebruary 9, 2018
CAMP CASEY, South Korea -- AFN Casey, the U.S. military's broadcast station that for years aired live, on-scene coverage of the Soldiers in the "tip-of-the-spear" region between Seoul and Korea's Demilitarized Zone, is shutting down for good.
But AFN will continue to beam TV and radio programming to the region -- which the U.S. military calls Area I -- by satellite from Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek. And its programming will also continue to be available to Area I service members and civilians online and on mobile phones.
The shutdown comes as American Forces Network carries out a consolidation of its stations Korea-wide, and is part of the broader, gradual re-positioning now underway that will see the bulk of U.S. forces in and north of Seoul move south, mainly to Camp Humphreys.
The mostly semi-rural Area I takes in Camp Casey and Camp Hovey in Dongducheon, both adjoining camps 11 miles south of the DMZ, and Camp Red Cloud, Camp Jackson and Camp Stanley in Uijeongbu, a city about an hour north of Seoul, South Korea's capital.
It also includes the Joint Security Area on the DMZ and the Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, a major U.S. military training range, in Pocheon.
"We started to disassemble the broadcast booths and all of the equipment that was inside the booths on 3 January," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Garrett, AFN Casey's station manager. "February 15 is the day the doors are shut forever."
The closing brings to an end the live radio shows that were broadcast from AFN Casey's station at building 2407 on Camp Casey, and the other on-scene coverage that kept AFN Casey staffers always on the move with microphone or video camera on Area I camps, ranges and local off-post communities.
During its time in Area I, AFN Casey provided more than its parent network's radio and TV programs. It also aired two live radio shows daily, Monday through Friday, with each geared to the Soldiers, Airmen and civilians stationed in Area I.
Among guests on its radio shows were enlisted Soldiers and officers from Area I's military units, including its biggest tenant, the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division.
For example, AFN Casey aired once a week the live, hour-long "Voice of Thunder" show, in which members of the Combined Division's 210th Field Artillery Brigade joined an AFN DJ in the broadcast booth and talked about people and events within their brigade.
"Representatives from Two-Ten would come on the air and talk about their units and the activities they had going on," said Army Staff Sgt. John Briggs, AFN Casey's operations manager. The show was a "way to showcase that brigade -- what they do, their importance and mission," he said.
For several years it also aired radio shows in partnership with U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I, which sees to the day-to-day operation of the Army's camps and other facilities in the region.
One of those garrison radio shows was "What's The Word?" It gave AFN's Area I listeners useful information on a broad range of topics including, among others, how to help prevent suicide, how to register to vote, and the importance of signing up for college courses at Area I's on-post education centers.
AFN Casey also did live interviews with Area I officials who told listeners about upcoming recreational events and the services available at on-post libraries.
In addition, AFN Casey's boots-on-the-ground staff provided on-scene coverage of live concerts and other recreational and sports events, combat training, and official ceremonies including Area I's July 4 Independence Day Salute to the Nation and its annual Labor Day Festival.
"We'd go out and do video, we'd tell the stories of what was happening around here," said Briggs.
"We also," said Garrett, "provided video coverage for all manner of training events, live-fire [exercises], personality features on individual Soldiers, just the typical things that you see on AFN television, we provided that for Area I."
Through its website and on-air reports, AFN Casey kept Area I Soldiers informed about interesting places and cultural events in and near Area I.
"We were able to introduce people to some of the local sights and tourist activities, some of the sights that you don't want to miss in Korea, as well as some of the services on post," Garrett said.
Besides closing AFN Casey, the network earlier closed its stations at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul and Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek. It will continue broadcasting to those military communities but from what recently became its flagship "super station" at Camp Humphreys, Garrett said. It will also continue to operate its existing stations at Kunsan Air Base on South Korea's western seacoast, and Camp Walker in Daegu.
In January, AFN Casey began breaking down its equipment for the move to Camp Humphreys. Staffers set to work unplugging microphones, switching off equipment, dismantling radio booths, disconnecting the music library server and CD players, and taking down the three satellite dishes that have long been a tell-tale feature of AFN's presence.
Though AFN will no longer have a station in Area I, its broadcasting to the region will continue as before.
"Other than not seeing our faces in the community and people not dropping by for our weekly live radio shows," said Briggs, "that's going to be the only change really. The service is not interrupted. As far as the quality, everything remains the same."