USS RONALD REAGAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Hundreds of Sailors assigned to the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group are keeping in touch with their children through the "United Through Reading" (UTR) program since departing San Diego, Jan. 27, on a surge deployment.
Sponsored by the Family Literacy Foundation, the program allows deployed Sailors to read books to their children on videotape or DVD, and then mail them back home. The goals of the program are to boost family morale and reinforce parental support for the spouse left at home and ease fears by children about parental absence.
"I have three daughters, seven, five and 18 months old, and one on the way," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Jeremy Preston. "I just transferred from USS [Abraham] Lincoln to the Reagan on Jan. 26, and I haven't had a lot of amount of time to spend with them."
Preston said he heard of UTR while stationed aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), but never took advantage of the program. This time he said he wasn't going to let the opportunity to bond with his children while on a deployment slip away from him.
"I always seemed too busy to take advantage of the program," said Preston. "When I heard they had it on the Reagan I wasn't going to let this great opportunity pass me by again."
Ronald Reagan's Command Master Chief Jim DeLozier said that the UTR program is a great opportunity for children to be able to see their deployed parent, and build a strong bond even while their parent is away.
"This program facilitates communication with children at home while on deployment," said DeLozier. "You will be videotaped, in private, reading a book to the special child in your life. Then mail the DVD or videotape home, enabling the child to sit and read with their deployed parent over and over again."
According to Lt. Chris Anderson, Ronald Reagan's UTR coordinator, the program was first implemented aboard Ronald Reagan during last year's maiden deployment. He said that because of the great reviews the program received it was brought back for the current surge deployment.
"I can tell you from personal experience that reading to your children, nieces, nephews, little brothers and sisters and even unborn children pays huge dividends towards their personal growth and easing the stress of you being away from home," said Anderson.
Ronald Reagan Sailors have been eager to sign up for the UTR program.
"This is the next best thing to being at home," said Fire Controlman 1st Class Darren Hume. "E-mailing letters and sending boxes is nice, but sometimes children need to hear the sound of your voice. Adding in the fact they can see you and read along, if they have the book, makes for a very happy child."
According to Hume, this program also strengthens the bond between family members.
"I believe this is a very important program," said Hume. "Last deployment I stood watches up in the reading room, helping out shipmates. This year I'm even more involved in the program. It's a great feeling to know that I'm helping make a child's day brighter. It's a real win-win situation for all parties involved."
Ronald Reagan was commissioned in July, 2003, making it the ninth and newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The ship is named after the 40th U.S. president, and carries the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency.
The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group departed San Diego Jan. 27 on a surge deployment in order to fill the role of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), the Navy's only permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier, as it undergoes scheduled maintenance in Yokuska, Japan.
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.