From spinning records to digital age music

DMA photo/MC2(SW) Billy Ho

Walk by this former Air Force NCO’s room at the American Forces Network (AFN) Broadcast Center in Riverside and you’ll hear music classics: rock and roll at its finest — and maybe, if he’s in the mood, a little Sinatra.

Kent Peterson knows about music. He also knows about American Forces Network (AFN) history. Peterson started with AFN in November, 1995. In those days, many years ago, he played music – not from a file on a computer, but from 18-inch records. Video was recorded onto two-inch tapes from a cumbersome recorder. He focused black and white studio cameras loaded with film. 

Forward to 1986 and Peterson was the last weekend and holiday supervisor at the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) Broadcast Center in Hollywood. He worked every Saturday all day, every Sunday all day and all holidays. No joy on Friday for Peterson. When AFRTS moved to Sun Valley, California, back in 1988, Peterson established the TV Traffic Department. He did it all.

He was a TV operator, and of course worked overnights. In 1997 he moved to TV as a Spectrum Scheduler/Planner and later Movie Scheduler along with Spectrum. Peterson also took on correcting problems with the TV library and some 60,000 program items. When the project was completed he had reported 12,000 problem items. To keep him even busier, he took on the task of preparing reports for supplier payments.

It would be conservative to say that Peterson is a conversationalist. In fact, six years ago, he joined Toastmaster’s to hone his public speaking skills. His ability to communicate exceptionally well paid off. He attained the status of Distinguished Toastmaster (the highest level in Toastmasters), Qualified Speaker status and has served as a judge at the International level. He has received various other accolades while in Toastmasters. Peterson also stepped up to leadership roles. He just finished his duties as District 12 Governor for Toastmasters. He was responsible for 120 clubs, approximately 1,600 members in clubs from Barstow to Temecula and Pomona to Blythe.

Six years ago Peterson became the AFN Broadcast Center’s Media Manager. He was up to the challenge of the leap into the digital world. The volume of communications with suppliers went from approximately 2,000 in 1999 to over 22,000 in the last year. He worked with more than 200 contacts including those in media delivery, finance and contracting offices.  Peterson went from managing more than 40,000 tapes at one time to managing at least 200,000 files. He worked with 30 different financial offices and 140 different suppliers. He coordinated with 20 different departments in the building. As media manager, he took care of programming from cradle-to-grave.

“Kent has one of the most positive and hard-working attitudes of anyone I have worked for, or with previously,” said Heather Metz, his colleague. “Every day is something different and unexpected. He has taken me under his wing to make sure I have all the tools I need to succeed in this position,” she said.

Peterson welcomes questions, comments and concerns to better the organization, Metz said.

“He continues to keep my mind sharp whether it be a game of ‘guess that tune’ or ‘word association.’ He has quite the vast diversity when it comes to the music he blasts from Jim Stafford to Chumbawamba to Katy Perry,” Metz said. “On rare occasion, he even takes song requests. He does different voices and is always up to have a good time and make someone’s day with a joke or friendly ‘hello.’ His enthusiasm, kindness, humor and fun personality will be greatly missed around these halls,” she said.

Although Metz has been with Peterson only a short time, AFN Director of Television, Larry Marotta, has known Peterson for much longer, having worked together nearly 30 years ago at the previous broadcast center in Sun Valley, California. 

“He was a Tech. Sgt. and I was new to civil service. I learned a lot from Kent over the years. His rich experience and history working in many AFN roles around the world, and his passion for the mission and especially the people, have been an inspiration for countless broadcasters, programmers, producers and fellow managers,” Marotta said. “I will always smile when I think of Kent. He brings a deep sense of humanity and humor to everything he does and everyone he meets.”

No one who can deadpan better than Peterson, said Marotta, who still falls for Peterson’s antics.  “We won’t just lose a colleague when Kent departs. We will lose a bit of our heart and soul,” Marotta said.

Now a retired Master Sgt. and soon to be a retired civil servant, Peterson’s office will be a little quieter. Oh, he’ll still handle media, but that of his choosing, in his own time, and at his own place.