Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Bob Stoffel AFVN
We've lost a friend. Bob Stoffel was the creator and moderator of the AFN group over at yahoo. Bob did a lot for all of us and is in our prayers. Bob told his story to our friends at http://www.macoi.net/ an amazing collection of AFVN biographies.
Originally I was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division PIO office in Phu Bai. After arriving in country in January 1970, I impressed the PIO Major, Richard Bryan, with my ability to take the Hometowner News Program to the Number One position of all Army Divisions worldwide. The Commanding General of the 101st was also pleased, I was told. By May of that year, Major Bryan allowed me to transfer, without orders, to AFVN DaNang, for doing such a good job at the PIO office. I was told I would be doing two live sports shows a day to approximately 75,000 GIs and to the CG of our division who watched TV every day. Major Bryan wanted him to see my Screaming Eagle patch on my uniform and not forget the 101st. He only asked that I report back to the 101st each month on payday, which I did, to see that I was okay.
I soon discovered that AFVN DaNang was sorely lacking in sports graphics to help present sports news each night. So I wrote to every major sports outlet in the United States begging for help. Within weeks I was inundated with sports slides from NASCAR,the PGA, the NFL, the NBA, etc. I never knew there were so many golfers. I amassed a small treasure trove of sports slides of every conceivable sport on the planet.
I was on the air (two sports shows) daily, at 6 PM and 11 PM. Roger Stillman (whose bio appears above) did the news with me. After the 11pm newscast was finished, I (and several partners in crime from the station) drove down from Monkey Mountain to the PX at the Navy facility in DaNang. The Navy Chief in charge of the mess area (and pastry shoppe) loved country music. So each night I would take him a dub of country music. In exchange, he would load up our jeep with everything from steaks to doughnuts. I gained a few pounds during my time in Vietnam and it has taken 40 years to get rid of it.
One of the most interesting assignments I had while working at AFVN DaNang was to interview Miss America 1969 when she and her entourage of five runner-up girls visited the Camp Eagle headquarters of the 101st. They would be putting on a show in the "Bob Hope Amphitheatre" (as we called it). Since I knew Camp Eagle like the back of my hand, I was told that I was to do the interview. Actually, I thought this was some kind of cruel joke since I had not seen an American girl in almost eight months. Oh, there were "doughnut dollies" working in Vietnam, but I would only see them from a couple of miles away. I knew they were girls because in the distance they jiggled when they walked. Guys didn't jiggle! The first American girl I was going to see was Miss America, up close, I mean two feet from me. I was sweating (and dreading) this assignment. I was nervous through the entire interview. Their perfume smelled so great. Their jeans and shirts looked great on them. I did not handle this close-quarter torture very well. To this day, I have no idea if I was able to get a usable interview to air on the radio.
In the Summer of 1970, the PIO Major told me he was promoting me to E5 and changing my MOS from Journalist to Broadcast Specialist. By late October, a new Major had taken control of the PIO office at the 101st. He decided that all of his personnel should be in the field in some capacity getting the story of the GIs on the front line. I had only two weeks to go before returning home, so I dreaded the thought of going into the field and putting myself in harm's way. Fortunately, I was able to stay at the PIO office before shipping out.
When I returned home on my way to Europe to finish out my Army commitment, I was going to be married. I contacted my former Major (now a Lieutenant Colonel) Bryan at the Pentagon, and he agreed to be my Best Man. He and his wife flew to Charlotte to participate in the ceremony. I was so pleased that he would go out of his way to come to be a part of my wedding.
Today, I live on disability following a heart attack in 1997 and a 25-year career in broadcasting at the ABC-TV affiliate in Charlotte. My free time is spent running a website for former members of The American Forces Radio and Television Service worldwide. It began as a way to keep in touch with those who had worked at AFN Europe but soon grew to include anyone, military or civilian, who worked with military broadcasting. Today (as of March 2011), my group numbers 418. The earliest serving member began working at AFN Europe in 1946 . . . and some members are still working for AFN in Europe today. Even the Commanding Officer of AFN is a member.