CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- Thanks to video teleconferencing deployed Marines and sailors with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) got a chance see really big smiles in real time here June 10-11.
From inside tents at three locations here, service members from the 11th MEU (SOC) Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, MEU Service Support Group 11, from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, were connected to family members at locations in Camp Pendleton and MCAS Miramar.
The 11th MEU (SOC) is currently on a six-month deployment throughout the Western Pacific and the Middle East region in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
Cpl. Chris R. Holden, wireman, communications platoon, BLT 1st Bn., 4th Marines, said “awesome” was the only way he could describe the feeling he felt seeing his first-born two-month-old son for the first time on video.
“He was screaming because he needed a diaper change,” he said. “It gave me an idea of what I have to look forward to when I get home.”
Holden said his wife Candace was very happy and excited to see him on the screen, but “she half-jokingly told me, ‘I can’t wait until you get home so I can take a vacation. Then this kid will be all yours,’” he said laughing.
According to Kimberly Hayes, wife of GySgt. Robert D. Hayes, Command Element, her first-ever VTC experience was also very positive.
“We were able to see each others' expressions and the kids were able to blow kisses and see their daddy. The kids are still talking about it.”
Hayes said the best part about the experience was seeing his newborn son James through video for the first time as well. Although little James slept through most of the session, just seeing his son sleeping peacefully in his wife’s arms put a big smile on his face.
“My daughter had not talked to me one time over the phone since the deployment began. She actually talked to me through the VTC. I believe she was more comfortable because she could see me,” he said.
Kari Blankenship, wife of Gunnery Sgt. Robert K. Blankenship, combat camera chief, Command Element, agreed. Their 6-year-old daughter Abby said it was "cool" and "nice," because she got to see her daddy. “You don't get to see him when you talk on the telephone.”
Memorable moments like these were possible because of the hard work and coordination between many Marines here and volunteers at Camp Pendleton from I Marine Expeditionary Force, 9th Communications Battalion, the 15th MEU and 1st Marine Regiment, said MSgt. Mathis B. Richard, communications platoon chief, Command Element. “This experience was one of many examples of team effort from many Marines to make someone’s day better.”
The face-to-face interaction also gave the service members and their families a huge morale boost, said Richard.
“It felt warm and good to see the kids so happy and showing off for you, or maybe it was for the camera, hard to say I guess,” wrote Blankenship in an email to her husband. “It made me smile and feel very loved to see you smile the whole time. You looked exactly the same in every picture. You had a great big smile on your face and it never went away.”