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Video E-mail Launches for Deployed Soldiers, Families

By Margaret McBride
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2006 – Soldiers and families can now communicate by video e-mail through the Army Knowledge Online intranet portal. On the first day, more than 3,500 video e-mails were transmitted.

"Thank you, that's all I can say," Pvt. Brenden Teetsell of the 44th Signal Battalion e-mailed on Dec. 6. "Thank you for allowing me to see my family. Your technology helps boost not only my morale, but thousands of soldiers a day."

AKO video messaging allows all deployed active-duty, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers to create video messages on a computer with a Web cam. The message is then stored on a server and sent to the recipient via a link.

Upon opening an e-mail, the user clicks on the link to get streaming video and sound. The video-streaming software allows a soldier to hear and view video e-mail even in limited bandwidth environments, but the link can be accessed any time from anywhere.

Instructions are on a link on their AKO home page. Soldiers must follow the same Defense Department security measures used for standard e-mail and are not allowed to use Web cams in secure areas.

Families with an AKO account can send video e-mails from home with a personal computer and a Web cam. They can also use Web cams in many of the yellow-ribbon rooms on military bases. Military bases in deployed locations typically have Web cams available at cyber cafes, officials said.

"Families no longer need to coordinate times to ensure everyone is available to see each other," said Gary L. Winkler, director for governance, acquisition and knowledge in the Army Chief Information Office, who initiated the project.

"This will help geographically separated families stay closer during deployment, and we also expect other benefits from this capability as users become more familiar and comfortable with it," he said.

In the future, Army video e-mail applications could also be used for distance learning and training, recruiting and telemedicine, officials said.

(Margaret McBride serves with the Office of the Army Chief Information Officer.)

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