Group Takes Entertainment to Troops

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2007 - Armed Forces Entertainment makes it a mission to bring a piece of home to servicemembers stationed far away.

With the priority of reaching remote and isolated locations, Armed Forces Entertainment, has been entertaining troops since 1951. The Defense Department agency hosts more than 1,200 shows each year and reaches more than 500,000 servicemembers stationed at more than 300 military installations around the world, according to the group's Web site.

Armed Forces Entertainment is a member of America Supports You, a DoD program connecting troop-support groups, individual citizens and corporations with members of the military and their families at home and abroad.

"Armed Forces Entertainment is the single point of contact for the Department of Defense in sending entertainment to our troops overseas," Melissa Welch, a spokesperson for the organization, said. "The two most requested (music genres) are rock and country."

There has been a shift in that trend in regard to the Middle East, she said. There's a younger demographic fighting on those front lines and they're asking for more rap and hip-hop.

Filling those requests can be a bit challenging, Welch said.

"The reason why it's challenging is because those rap artists would have to clean up their act a little bit," she said, adding that there are rules that apply to all of the entertainers Armed Forces Entertainment hosts. "You can't have expletives within your music, or they must be limited and very, very, very soft.

"Beyond that, we can't have any kind of commentary about race, religion or ethnicity," she said.

She noted that artists often are willing to modify language to participate in an Armed Forces Entertainment tour.

That may be because the organization, though it often works with the United Service Organizations to facilitate celebrity tours, works largely with up-and-coming artists for its shows. Often the up-and-comers develop a fan base in the servicemembers they entertain.

"The military personnel are so grateful, and they become fans of this artist for a lifetime," Welch said.

What an Armed Forces Entertainment tour can do for new artists' careers is on par with what their performances does for the morale of the servicemembers in the audience, Air Force Lt. Col. Tamara Moes, chief of Armed Forces Entertainment, said. During a tour in the Middle East, she was on the other side of the equation and, instead of helping get the shows to the troops, got to enjoy several that were jointly sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment and the USO.

"One time I was stationed for just 120 days in Baghdad," she said. "I did receive probably six shows ... during those 120 days."

While the majority of shows may be musical in nature, comedians, actors and sports celebrities all have been part of Armed Forces Entertainment tours. Comics Drew Carey and Kathy Griffith, rapper and singer Kid Rock, and World Wrestling Entertainment personalities are among them.

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