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Not your father's correspondence: Technology keeps deployed personnel in touch

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
I did something pretty remarkable the other day. I attended my daughter's parent-teacher conference. Normally an activity like that is an ordinary occurrence. What made it special was I did it while sitting in my room in Afghanistan using a popular video chat program.

Different smiling faces would pop onto the screen on my laptop and tell me how my child was doing in school. It made me feel involved with her academic progress and less like an absentee parent.

I have also used video chat with my son as we both watched the same football game and to help both of my children with homework. I have used it to ask my wife about her day at work. E-mail has also been a great way to get a quick update on how life is with my loved ones.

This made me think about how technology has changed the deployment experience. I couldn't imagine how earlier generations dealt with waiting weeks or months for letters and pictures to arrive. I guess if that is all you know, you would appreciate it. I get antsy if a box from home takes more than 10 days to arrive.

In just eight years since my first deployment in 2004, technology has improved. Back then, most people just used e-mail. Now laptops are more common and there are numerous other electronic devices one can use to communicate. Pictures of events my family attend are posted the same night on different social media sites. I can watch video clips of my children's sporting events.

I find this valuable for several reasons.

Most importantly, staying engaged in your friends and loved one's lives takes away a bit of the sting of separation. My spouse and children enjoy telling me what they did during the day and sometimes ask for advice on how to deal with their problems. I find it rewarding to help them and it lessens some of the guilt I feel for being away from them.

The updates are great for breaking up the monotony that can set in during a deployment. I find that breaking up my deployment time into smaller goal dates helps the time go by faster. I can use events occurring in loved one's lives as goal dates.

It also helps when you reintegrate with your family. Constant updates mean there are fewer surprises about things that have changed while you were gone.

Every different deployed location has a different setup for the internet. Some have the service for free and some require payment. Unfortunately, some locations don't have it at all. I advise deployers to make use of what they have at their locations, and do something remarkable with family and friends.