The Pentagon Channel: For Those Who Serve

As tax paying citizens, we all have an investment in Iraq. Those who have served, are serving, and will serve in Iraq represent a different kind of investment: namely their time and their lives.
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As tax paying citizens, we all have an investment in Iraq. Those who have served, are serving, and will serve in Iraq represent a different kind of investment: namely their time and their lives.

Several words come to mind when I recall my time in the service: orders from headquarters; get the straight poop; scuttlebutt; hurry up and wait; etc. You never quite knew for sure what was actually going on.

In Korea, we got our most accurate information from an Armed Forces Radio and Television Services station in Japan. Today's servicemen and women don't have a much better pipeline than we did back then. And that relates even more accurately to those who are in the National Guard and the Reserves.

Those not in Regular Army enlistments are bombarded with information from the television networks and their local outlets. Uncertainty runs rampant when there is no "straight poop!"

At least some of the anxiety and straight poop information is or will soon be available through what may, at first blush, seem curious. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and The EchoStar satellite network.

Until now, the military has relied on the Armed Forces Radio Television Service (AFRTS) to spread its news. But the Department of Defense realized that AFRTS is not authorized to broadcast directly to military bases in the U.S., because they routinely run recycled material from Fox, CNN, and NBC. The Pentagon Channel, which broadcasts totally military material, circumvents this legality.

Since the majority of our ground combat troops are not Regular Army, the Pentagon thought it would be a good idea to make their own version of the pertinent news available to those who wait to be called.

This soon-to-come-to-your town Pentagon Channel won't be biased by the networks and news services. In fact, the Pentagon channel talent is strictly military, creating a feel-good atmosphere about the sincerity of what it will report to the troops through Comcast, Time Warner, or Dish.

The Pentagon Channel (which is housed along with AFRTS in Alexandria, VA) is a free service of the Department of Defense, and as such, it's funded by Congress, most recently by $6 million.

Officially, the mission of the Pentagon Channel is to provide military service members with the news and information they need to "do their jobs better." But the aim of the Pentagon Channel is also to keep Department of Defense employees informed. In fact most of the active military bases, as well as those retired from the services, will appreciate having "their own" channel.

Standard fare will include Around The Services, inside pieces on each branch of the military; Studio Five, showcasing interviews with Department of Defense leaders; and Focus on the Force, which will highlight military missions such as those currently ongoing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They'll also routinely show news briefings, military news, interviews with top DoD officials, and short stories about military operations.

Meanwhile, the DoD adds up the opportunity this way: The cable channel gives them additional access to 1.4 million Active Duty services members, along with 1.2 million members of the National Guard and the Reserves, as well as an additional 650,000 civilian employees of the DoD.

The emphasis is on timely access to military information and news. There will always be scuttlebutt, and hurry up and wait, but all soldiers will now at least have access to "the straight poop!"