Growing up in Leesburg, Fla., in the mid-1960s, the radio bug bit Clark Taylor while he was still a teenager, working at WLBE(AM). That early experience would instill an abiding interest in radio, later motivating him to change the way American soldiers around the world receive radio and television news about the United States Army.
I myself worked with Taylor at Soldiers Radio and Television during my service in the US Army. He was not just an effective administrator and a talented broadcaster; more importantly, Taylor was a great team builder, able to focus divergent talent in a common direction and draw upon the strength of that talent to achieve amazing results—not unlike an effective infantry squad leader.
Now, Taylor is applying what he has learned as a Vietnam veteran, station manager for the American Forces Network (AFN) in Wurzburg, Germany, and founder and director of Soldiers Radio and Television, to reach a growing and under-served veteran audience online.
AmericanVETRadio.com, Taylor’s most recent venture, began serving the veteran community worldwide on Jan. 1 this year. It plays a mix of top 40, adult contemporary, current country and golden oldies. “Stir that up and you have the typical GI radio from Korea or South Vietnam or Germany [from] the 1950’s to [the] 1990’s,” he said.
The site also provides a “constant feed of information, as current as possible, with a lot of reinforcement of things they [veterans] forget about doing, like setting up a will,” Taylor said.
Music and information are interspersed in a style similar to traditional local radio. Of course, finding filler for broadcasting 24 hours a day is one of Taylor’s bigger challenges. “I’m looking for information from state and local veterans service offices, and state veterans organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and all the others,” he said.
Not only is the music familiar, but some of the voices are, too. Over the years, Taylor has recruited former Armed Forces Radio and Television Service colleagues to do voice work for the program. “In fact, if any AFRTS alumnus would like to cut a voice track or offer some work, I’ll gladly put it on the air,” he said. “A different voice might bring back a memory for a veteran who might be listening.”
Taylor’s the recipient of two Silver Anvil Awards for his work with the Soldiers Radio and TV branch of the Army’s Chief of Public Affairs office, which is where he established the Soldiers Radio Satellite Network.
Under Taylor’s management, the SRSN transitioned into what was formerly SoldiersRadio.com (now run through the military’s media website), expanding the information mix to reach a broader worldwide audience of soldiers, families and Army civilian employees.
Because the soldiers currently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to have been raised with computers, Taylor says he’s reaching a younger demographic right now. “The older guys like me are just catching up, and we’re having to go to our laptops to order prescriptions, check appointments, etc.”
In keeping with current trends, however, Taylor believes that the number of older listeners will increase as more veterans do business and get entertainment online.
One of Taylor’s goals for AmericanVETRadio.com is the carriage of daily news programs focusing on veteran news and issues, perhaps produced by some of the veteran advocacy organizations.
Though there are other online offerings and radio programs available to the veteran community, American VETRadio.com and Taylor believe the power of radio will help make the continuing transition from warrior to veteran easier with information and entertaining, familiar music.
Paul Kaminski, Sgt. 1st Class, U.S. Army, Ret., is the news director for the Motor Sports Radio Network, freelance reporter for CBS News Radio and, since 1997, a columnist for Radio World. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter, @MSRnet.