USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 crew members had the opportunity to speak to their loved ones back home through unclassified video teleconferencing (VTC) in February.
The program was originally designed to allow fathers to communicate with their newborns for the first time, but because of its success, the ship's coordinators and the Family Support Group decided to expand the program to all interested crew members. Within a matter of days, Sailors and Marines filled all available slots.
"One of the hardest parts about being separated from a loved one is the inability to sit down face-to-face and chat and to see their expression when they laugh or the way they look at you when they say, 'I love you,'" said Family Support Group President Robin Stein, who was in constant communication with Truman to coordinate the program. "A VTC offers families the chance to feel closer than is ever possible through e-mail or a phone call."
Organizing such a complex program, especially when one-half of the party is currently deployed on a ship in the Persian Gulf, is not an easy feat.
The standard setup for a VTC is a camera connected to an integrated system digital network, which is then broadcasted to U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk via satellite. The satellite is usually used for e-mails, telephone connections and the distance learning program. In this case, the satellite brightened the day of some service members and their families.
"Norfolk has a similar setup which makes this all possible," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Ben Baumgardner, one of the technicians assigned to the VTC program.
Overcoming the technical obstacles was worth putting in long hours so service members could see their families face-to-face. For some Sailors, it was a chance to see someone very special for the first time.
"It was great. I have pictures of my wife and baby, but I actually got to see them while I talked to them," said Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Trevor Thornton, new father to a five-month old baby. "My baby was born on the day we pulled out, so this was the first time I got to see him."
The program was a combined effort with Truman, the Family Support Group, service members and their families.
"My wife organized [our session]," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 2nd Class (AW) Daniel Thornley. "She e-mailed me and told me we had a video teleconference today."
Any opportunity to communicate with family back home is welcomed by service members. Even if only for a few minutes, Sailors made time after long workdays to talk to their family.
The Harry S. Truman Strike Group, consisting of USS Barry (DDG 52), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) USNS Artic (T-AOE 8), USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) and the aircraft from embarked CVW-3 deployed Oct. 13 for its second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism.
For related news, visit the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.