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Super Bowl Fever: Some Things Even a Peace Mission Can’t Beat

January 26, 1996

TUZLA AIR BASE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ War and famine may rage around the world, but around here, this week at least, the Super Bowl gets top billing.

A whole chorus of GIs serving in Bosnia has joined in the constant refrain: How do you get it, where do you watch it and, by the way, do you know what time it’s on?

``It’s totally absorbed us,″ said Capt. Ken McDorman of the American Forces Network, the Department of Defense broadcast service. ``It’s an American tradition. A lot of people are expecting to see the game.″

In recent weeks, it’s been McDorman’s high-stakes task to work out the broadcast basics. The mess hall brass are also working feverishly to provide good kick-off eats while rec officers plan full-capacity seats.

Word has it that not a few generals and other multi-starred types have thrown their weight around wherever possible to ensure their soldiers won’t miss Sunday’s Pittsburgh Steelers-Dallas Cowboys game.

Unfortunately, engineers and best intentions only go so far when you’re talking about thousands of troops spread over hundreds of miles of mountainous terrain.

Getting a signal, which is being transmitted from AFN’s Frankfurt hub, is easy for any GI on a base with a portable TV and rabbit ears.

But out in the field, where soldiers hunkered down in the cold and mud could use a morale-booster most, the logistics are daunting. AFN engineers have bumped over hill and valley to set up remote units for the big game.

The basic package requires a decoder, receiver, modulator, satellite dish, TV, huge quantities of cable, power, a protected place to store it all and a sentry to guard it. All this out in camps where there are still no showers.

Still, McDorman estimates that about 80 percent of the roughly 13,000 U.S. troops now in Bosnia will be able to follow the game by radio, TV or both.

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