June 19, 2021

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YouTube Channel Remembers and Preserves Ads From US Military’s TV Service

YouTube Channel Remembers and Preserves Ads From US Military’s TV Service

The American Forces Network is a U.S. government TV and radio broadcast service provided by the military for overseas personnel. But there’s an interesting quirk. As an official Department of Defense product, it’s not allowed to run ads or even mention commercial products, according to Stars and Stripes. “Instead, it lets commanders put out messages about force protection, weather, current events and base services.”

And that’s where things get creative…

Killer vending machines, security-conscious hamsters and a roommate who devolves into a caveman. These are some of the memorable features of Garry Terrell’s vast collection of military-grade videos from the American Forces Network and its predecessor, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. The son of a former U.S. soldier, Terrell is trying to preserve “all things AFN/AFRTS,” and boasts over 3,600 videos on the YouTube channel AFRTSfan. He began his collection nearly three decades ago, after learning that little had been done to save the many AFN spots that serve as a touchstone for troops and military families who’ve lived overseas.

The military-made productions fill what would normally be ad time in broadcasts back home… Because they’re broadcast across various theaters, the ads served as “kind of like this bonding thing” for kids’ friend groups frequently reshaped by duty station changes, said Sabine Brown, an airman’s daughter who grew up in Germany in the 80s and 90s. For Terrell, whose mother is German, “it was just my local TV and radio provider” growing up on the bases where his father served as a career U.S. soldier in the 70s and 80s. He took it for granted until the early 90s Base Realignment and Closure process threatened to shutter bases he’d grown up on.

“Fearing that AFN might also go away, I decided to try and collect some AFN radio and TV items to add to my ever-growing memory book of Germany,” he said in an email. “I felt like I was in a race against time.”

He began contacting and befriending AFN staff and alumni, growing his collection through contributions from his expanding network of AFN insiders and “superfans.” He started sharing this burgeoning library on YouTube over a decade ago, creating something of a time capsule, with spots that run the gamut from cringe-inducing, silly or lame to fun, brilliant and truly memorable.

The article notes that the videos once were even affectionately lampooned in a duet by two folk-singing Air Force pilots — which apparently remembers, among other things, the AFN ad illustrating the importance of the power-of-attorney by re-dubbing an old Hercules movie.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.