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Face of Defense: Officer Swears in Son from Thousands of Miles Away

By Army Pfc. J.P. Lawrence
Special to American Forces Press Service

BASRA, Iraq, May 26, 2009 – Army Lt. Col. Harold Turner is a man of plans. As the logistics planner in the plans cell of the 34th “Red Bull” Infantry Division, he helps develop logistical support for operations across the nine southern provinces of Iraq.

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Army Lt. Col. Harold Turner, logistics planner in the plans cell of the 34th Infantry Division, prepares to swear his son, Brett, into the U.S. Army via a webcam connection on the Internet between Baghdad and Iowa. Courtesy photo

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His son, Brett, planned to follow his father into the National Guard. The elder Turner told his son that if he waited to enlist until he returned from his year-long tour in Iraq, he would be there to swear him in.

But when plans changed and Brett decided to enlist ahead of schedule, the elder Turner embarked on a special mission to connect with his son using the power of the Internet.

Turner, who has served 26 years, never planned on his sons joining the military. “I didn’t really push the boys into military service,” he said. “I didn’t want them to think, ‘This is what dad’s doing, you gotta do it.’”

However, as Turner’s deployment to southern Iraq came closer, Brett began to reconsider. “I said, ‘Son, think about it and do some research, and when I get back, maybe I can swear you in,’” said Turner.

As Turner worked in Iraq, Brett and his roommate, Chris Albrecht, talked in their Iowa apartment about joining the National Guard. They arranged to join the same Iowa National Guard unit as forward observers and when Chris took the plunge, Brett soon followed.

“Well, I got an email,” Turner said. “And he says, ‘Hey, I’m getting in, Dad.’”

That was certainly a change in plans, but using the same business practices he uses in his job as a planner, Turner came up with a solution.

“Some of the guys around here said, ‘Hey why don’t you do a connect session and swear him in from here?’” Turner said.

“We called some people,” he said. “It’s real easy, just do it over the Internet. He’d email me, I’d open up the email, right-click the link. And then the picture would show up on the other side.”

Unfortunately, a wrench was thrown into the plan, as Turner was then called away from his office in Basra to go to a conference in Baghdad.

After his conference, Turner went out in search of a computer. He approached the desk of the Army public affairs office, where they were already prepared to help him. People who knew about Turner’s predicament had called ahead to Baghdad to set everything up.

“They took me back to a studio,” Turner said. “There it was: a computer with a camera, and we were able to do full video and use the speakerphone better than we had dreamed.”

As Turner swore in his son, he looked through the screen and saw not only Brett, but his other son, Grant, his wife, Jana, and his wife’s parents, Jane and Billy Davis.

“It’s a very special feeling. I kind of get tears in my eyes and I am proud,” he said.

(Pfc. J.P. Lawrence serves with the 34th Infantry Division).

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Lt. Col. Harold Turner, logistics planner in the plans cell of the 34th Infantry Division, returns a salute from his son, Brett, after swearing him into the U.S. Army via a webcam connection over the Internet between Baghdad and Iowa. Courtesy photo  
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