Communications pioneer retires after 51 years

Tuesday - 5/1/2012, 9:51am EDT

Melvin Russell, acting director of Defense Media Activity and visionary of the American Forces Radio and Television Service, has retired after 51 years of military and civilian service.

Russell pioneered the expansion of AFRTS from a single-channel, over-the-air system into the multi-channel, satellite-delivered network that now reaches millions of viewers in 177 countries.

Russell came a long way from his days as an Army signal officer in Vietnam listening to sounds of home on the American Forces Network. He made the Army's first conversion from black-and-white to color television at Fort Benning, Ga. He assisted the British Army in setting up its first TV production facility and even helped CNN get off the ground

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