AFN Eifel Airman named 2007 DoD broadcaster of the year

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- Senior Airman Richard Gonzales, American Forces Network Eifel Detachment 9 broadcaster, performs duties as a radio and television broadcast journalist at AFN, located at Bitburg Air Base. He has wanted to be a broadcaster for as long as he remembers. (US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brandon Hoyt)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- Senior Airman Richard Gonzales, American Forces Network Eifel Detachment 9 broadcaster, performs duties as a radio and television broadcast journalist at AFN, located at Bitburg Air Base. He has wanted to be a broadcaster for as long as he remembers. (US Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brandon Hoyt)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- Senior Airman Richard Gonzales of American Forces Network Eifel Detachment 9 received the 2007 Department of Defense Broadcaster of the Year award May 11 at the Defense Information School at Ft. Meade, Md. He was up against members from all services. To win, Airman Gonzales combined hard work with the idea of constant improvement, never allowing his last story to be his best. 

He said he first wanted to become a broadcaster during the first Gulf War. 

"I remember watching coverage of the first Gulf War on television as a kid and saying to myself, 'Those jets look really cool! I'm going to fly that one day!' Then, the video would cut back to Peter Jennings and I'd say, 'Wow, I really want to be that guy.' So, once it came time to figuring out how to get there, I just combined the two things I've wanted my whole life. And, that's how I ended up in Air Force broadcasting." 

Airman Gonzales had to submit a collection of pieces he had done over the years as part of his application packet. 

"I had to submit television anchoring, television stories I wrote, shot and edited together, and segments from my time on radio," he said about all of the areas his packet covered. "This is the best work I've ever done," added Airman Gonzales. "But, in my mind what set me apart from the rest of the competition were the people I did the stories on. The anchoring I submitted was from the 9/11 newscast we put together. The whole package came out to 15 minutes of television and radio products, all of which were from my deployment to Iraq last year. 

"I traveled the country, rode in convoys, jumped on Black hawk helicopters. All of which put me in the middle of everything. I had a lot to prove being an Airman embedded in an Army unit or sweeping houses with Marines. My way of giving back to them was to put everything into those stories," Airman Gonzales said. "People would e-mail saying they appreciated how I told their story. Then, they'd email the link so a wife or mother could watch their son or daughter half a world away making a difference. 

"I did a story on a Muslim Marine who told me it wasn't the War on Islam ... it's the War on Terror. 

"You can't put a title on that. No award will ever mean as much as telling those stories. It's a burden on the unit to take in a civilian or military journalist because the reporter isn't used to how the unit operates," Airman Gonzales said about the dangers of reporting on the front lines. "This means someone now has to constantly watch the reporter to make sure they aren't in harm's way." 

This Houston, Texas, native said that he does not know what the future holds for him, but it looks bright thanks to the military training he has received. 

"It's something I've always known I could do," he said. "There are a million things I want to achieve in life. Maybe being a broadcaster is specific to my time in the military. I'm not sure. But, this is a high-speed job and I know I would have never learned as much in such a short amount of time if it weren't for the military." 

Not only has he been awarded DoD Broadcaster of the Year, he has also received a scholarship to Syracuse University. The military has been offering the scholarship for a one-year course in photography, print and videography, but this is the first year the Air Force will send Airmen broadcasters to join their Army, Navy and Marine Corps counterparts. 

This is not only an honor for Airman Gonzales but also for the Air Force. But, he said that it is also an honor to those men and women who allowed him to shadow them to report their stories. 

"Winning to me means I did justice to the people who put themselves at risk having me come and cover their unit."