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Changes in the air for KAFA FM
KAFA is the official radio station of the U.S. Air Force Academy. It broadcasts in Colorado Springs at 97.7 FM and online at http://www.usafa.org/KAFA.aspx. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Changes in the air for KAFA FM

Posted 7/23/2010   Updated 7/23/2010 Email story   Print story


by Dave Edwards
Academy Spirit staff writer

7/23/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Big things are in the works for the Air Force Academy radio station, KAFA 97.7 FM.

For one, a request for an increase in wattage is in the pipeline and appears likely to be approved. That would boost the station's power from 20 watts to 100 watts, which is what its current license allows.

"KAFA is currently looking at ways to increase our signal strength," adviser Dave West said. "The No. 1 request we get from listeners is, 'I wish your signal was stronger.' And we're working on that."

The station's current signal reaches from Monument Hill to Garden of the Gods Road and east past Powers Boulevard. According to Mr. West, the stronger signal would not expand coverage, but it would improve the sometimes-spotty reception in the current coverage area.

KAFA began broadcasting in the 1970s but then went off the air for several years. It returned in 1989 but managed to carve out only a very small niche with few listeners. Mr. West was determined to change that.

Although the number of listeners is still comparatively small, about 800 a week, it has doubled since KAFA's coverage of the arrival of the Class of 2014. Like all the station's programming, that broadcast was transmitted worldwide via the KAFA Internet stream, which is paid for by the Association of Graduates and is online at http://www.usafa.org/KAFA.aspx.

"We try to promote and tell the story of the Academy and what cadets are doing. A lot of parents cannot come with their kids (to inprocessing), so our goal is to give kind of an inside peek at what's going on," Mr. West said. "And that's what got General Gould's attention."

KAFA received a considerable amount of fan mail after its inprocessing broadcast. A listener in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote: "You guys are great -- I've been listening all morning. Thanks for making this morning a little easier on this '2014 cadet mom.' Thanks for your tip about writing letters and to start now -- I've just finished writing my first one (mostly about you guys and your broadcast)."

Another e-mail came from Michelle Hackett of Trabuco Canyon, Calif. She wrote: "Thanks so much for the broadcast this morning! My nephew is going through inprocessing today, and hearing your broadcast made me feel like I was there. Thanks again!"

Besides inprocessing, Mr. West said, the station has also aired a couple of interviews from Jacks Valley so that listeners can get a general idea of what goes on during basic training.

Once the Academy school year begins, KAFA will resume its normal programming schedule. That includes coverage of various sporting events, such as volleyball matches and baseball games, as well as the Falcon Sports Blitz program. In addition, retired Chief Master Sgt. Bob Vásquez will return to host his weekly interview-style show, "Character Matters."

But the top draw will continue to be the music. According to the station's website, KAFA plays "today's best new modern rock, targeted to the cadet age group."

"Most people come to us for the variety of music that we play," Mr. West said. "A lot of commercial radio stations are really safe in the songs they play. We're not as conservative with our playlist, and because of that we'll play a lot of songs that didn't make the charts. We try to be first with the best new music because we're not shy about taking a risk."

That's an approach that Cadet 1st Class Barrett Schake with Cadet Squadron 32 knows well. After spending last year as the KAFA music director, he steps into the role of general manager this year.

Cadet Schake said the thing he likes most about the station, besides the music, is the opportunity it affords to share the Academy experience with outside listeners. He described his new job as "a little less music and a little more coordination."

He plans to have fewer DJs and more training, with an eye toward improving their on-air presence.

"In general, I think we want to be a little more professional, have a little more quality control," Cadet Schake said. "We want to sound as good as any other radio station in town."

The transition back to regular programming will likely begin in the days leading up to the Aug. 5 start of classes, he said.

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