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3rd ID Troops Reach Out and Touch

American Forces Press Service

CAMP LIBERTY, Baghdad, Feb. 9, 2005 – During their first rotation in Iraq, the soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division here had difficulty staying in touch with loved ones back home.

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Valdosta, Ga. native Spc. Michael Carmack, Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, uses a computer to contact home in the Internet Cafe at Camp Liberty, Iraq, on Feb. 7. The Internet is just one of the ways a deployed soldier can stay in contact with his family in the States. Photo by Pfc. Ricardo Branch, USA

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These days, numerous methods of communication are in place to help them let their families know they're doing fine.

Internet access, long distance phone lines, and video teleconferencing are just a few ways a soldier deployed in Iraq can stay in touch with people back home.

"When I first arrived here, I didn't know what to expect," said Capt. Elzie Mitchell, Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "I suspected a few AT&T phone centers, but not decent Internet or video teleconferencing to be available in Iraq."

The new facilities and areas set up in the many forward operating bases throughout Iraq now come with AT&T phone centers and Internet cafes, making loved ones just a dial tone or the click of a button away.

"Being able to contact your family is a great thing to have when you have a long deployment ahead of you," Mitchell said. "Just sending your family an e- mail or a phone call to let them know you're alright and alive makes them feel good and helps make the stay not so bad here," he said.

A relatively new tool communication tool, the VTC had been available for a few 3rd ID soldiers. Now it will be more available for use by those in the various forward operating bases in Baghdad after 1st Cavalry Division redeploys.

"It's a pretty good tool to allow soldiers to see and hear their loved ones over a large monitor from the States," said Chief Warrant Officer Eugene Gardner, Headquarters Company, 1st Cavalry Division.

"It [the VTC] has been used for soldiers who've had kids born while they've been deployed as well as graduations and promotions," Gardner said. "If there is an available time slot, soldiers can be scheduled anytime, day or night, as long as they give at least a 48-hour notice."

For the soldiers of the Marne Division, the availability of phone lines and Internet since their last deployment have changed immensely.

"The Internet access has grown considerably since the first rotation," said Sgt. Ronald Coleman of the division's Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion. "It's not real fast like back home, but it's far better than what we had.

"It makes life easier for the soldiers in Iraq and does wonders for morale," he said.

"During the first deployment, you sometimes waited an hour in a huge line to get on a phone for just a few minutes," Coleman said. "Now there are more phone centers and Internet cafes and the VTC is more available The stay won't be so bad this time around," he said.

In addition, Morale Welfare and Recreation centers also provide access to computers with web cameras, allowing soldiers even greater access to loved ones back home.

(Based on a story by Army Pfc. Ricardo Branch of 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs.)

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Related Sites:
3rd Infantry Division
1st Cavalry Division

Click photo for screen-resolution imageChicago native Capt. Elzie Mitchell, Headquarters Support Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, picks up a phone and calls home to keep in touch with his family while he's deployed in Iraq. Photo by Pfc. Ricardo Branch, USA  
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