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Contractor Connects Marines, Families With Secure Web Site

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 – As a Defense Department contractor, Computer Systems Center Inc. has a connection with the military. But now that connection hits home, for Marines and their families.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Sgt. Tim Ferguson, the communications chief for the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Okinawa, Japan, said the new SemperComm interactive Web site will boost the morale of Marines at the remote center. Ferguson was on hand for the Nov. 18 launch of the new site, which was created for the Marines free by Computer Systems Center Inc. of Springfield Va. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Springfield, Va., based information technology company launched a new interactive Web site Nov. 18 that will link Marines at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, located in the dense forests of Okinawa, Japan, to their families and friends back home, and with CSCI employees who have "adopted" the Marines at the center.

Borrowing from the Marines' Latin credo Semper Fidelis, which means "Always Faithful," the new site is called SemperComm, and it allows the Marines to talk to family and friends, send e-mail, stream video and share pictures over a secure private network.

Company officials said the network is the first of several it hopes to create for remote bases like the JWTC.

"The Marines are really attached to us, right now," said Linda LaRoche, the company's chief executive officer. "I think they really feel the sense of family that CSCI really provides. Family is our business, as far as I'm concerned."

She said company employees, many of whom are retired military people, have contributed to the military in the past, but this year "we wanted to bring it a little closer to home."

Last year, the company donated tickets for servicemembers returning from the war to attend hockey games here, but this year, she said, employees "stretched their capabilities to reach out even more."

"They deemed this a very exciting project, because it's something different," she said. "And from a personal perspective, just knowing that we can do something is important."

LaRoche said it took CSCI software engineers and Web developers more than six months to develop the interactive site for the center.

Marine Sgt. Tim Ferguson, the communications chief for the center, said the new Web site will provide a "tremendous boost" to the morale of Marines in Okinawa.

"The morale has just shot through the roof at JWTC. It's been unbelievable," he said. "(Morale can be) one of the big problems out there because we are so isolated. There is no (post exchange) or commissary there; we have a PX that comes up three times a week for three hours a day. Our barber comes up every Wednesday. There's no Burger King or Taco Bell," he said. "So this contribution by CSCI is enormous."

Meanwhile, LaRoche said any company contribution to servicemembers and their families is important, especially during times of war.

"It's very important at this time," she explained. "I think that some of them are sitting out there and not realizing all the support that they have back here. And that's very important."

Earlier this year, CSCI joined the United Service Organizations as a world partner, and donated money, movie projectors, laptop computers and televisions to the center. The company also wants raise funds to help the USO provide a mobile canteen that will provide refreshments, books and games for the center.

Edward A. Powell, USO president, thanked CSCI for joining his organization and said the USO has but one goal: "To convey the message of appreciation, love and thank you to the men and women of this country that serve our armed forces."

"And it makes me really excited to come to an event like this today and see a group of people who so clearly 'get it.' It's affirming, it's exciting and from our hearts to yours and from your heart to theirs, 'Thank you.'"

During the Nov. 18 event, CSCI employees tested SemperComm by talking to Marines at JWTC.

LaRoche appeared pleased to see the result of her company's work. One of her goals for the project was to make sure that Marines there could talk to their families during the holiday season. A week before Thanksgiving, they did just that.

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