The program "Radio in a Box" (RIAB) has been one of the more successful ventures the U.S. troops have experienced in several communities throughout Afghanistan. The radio stations broadcast out of the bases and use Afghan DJs to play traditional music, report news, and air important messages from the U.S. military and GIRoA. This can include health tips, dates and times for shuras, construction updates, the call to prayer, notices of training exercises so locals don't panic when they hear gun shots, and campaigns against the Taliban. Some of the scheduled programming also involves literacy tutorials so that people at home can learn the basics of reading and writing. For the most part, the Military Information Support Operations (MISO) teams in each district distribute hand crank radios (along with literacy training booklets) so that anyone within a few miles of the tower can listen to the programming. This allows the units to get into people's homes without really intruding and reach out to so many more people including women and children.
DJ Ahmad Naeem during a live call-in show
One of the Civil Affairs Teams (CATs) located in Panjwai, Kandahar mentioned that the DJs needed some basic items to continue their work. The headphones they were using were worn out and broken. Also, they were requesting phones and minute cards for the call-in sessions they have each week. Even though it is free to receive a call, many of the locals who want to participate do not have minutes on their phone so it becomes the DJ's responsibility to call them back so they can discuss topics on the air together. These shows allow the people an opportunity to connect with GIRoA officials as every Sunday, the District Governor and District Chief of Police sit down and answer honest questions from callers. Fortunately, SoA was able to provide rapid funding for the headphones and the cellphones in order to support the Soldiers' mission while improving the radio programming for the Afghan residents.
One of the CAT reps sent us the following update: "During the first week utilizing the cell phones from Spirit of America, the DJs at District Headquarters reported that nearly 20 individuals in Panjwai called the center. The RIAB DJs continued to advertise their newly acquired phone numbers and are now receiving nearly 40 calls per show. The addition of the headphones have allowed the DJs to perform 3 live shows per day, totaling in approximately 120 callers daily. The majority of the callers are commenting on how they enjoy the content that is played through the station. This is a dramatic increase of the capabilities of this station since receiving these supplies from Spirit of America. Moving forward, as more local nationals begin to feel comfortable calling the station, they will have the opportunity to speak with local GIRoA officials every week. This will greatly increase the connection of the District Government to the local villagers. The CAT expects to continue to see a steady increase of callers to the RIAB center as the DJs continue to advertise this new ability." These simple additions only cost a few hundred dollars but their impact has been priceless at implementing effective messaging towards target audiences, increasing the accountability of district government leadership, and promoting civic involvement of the Afghan people.
Afghanistan Field Rep