Press Archive

Marine Corp Families Connect to Loved Ones in Iraq via SDSC Video Teleconference

Published 12/17/2007

For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:
Jan Zverina,
SDSC Communications,
858 534-5111 or jzverina@sdsc.edu

Warren R. Froelich,
SDSC Communications,
858 822-3622 or froelich@sdsc.edu


Marine Master Sgt. Ken Reynolds, serving in Iraq, spoke to his family (from left) - daughter Kelsea, wife Teresa and son Tyler - via satellite videoconference yesterday at the Supercomputer Center at the University of California San Diego.
JOHN GIBBINS / Union-Tribune

The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) hosted a series of live video teleconferences during the weekend, making it possible for several San Diego-area Marine Corps families to speak with - and see - their loved ones stationed in Iraq during the holidays.

The video conferences, made from the SDSC facility located on the University of California, San Diego campus, connected two families at a time to troops deployed in Iraq from the 3rd Marine Air Wing at MCAS Miramar. More than a dozen families participated in private, 30-minute video linkups throughout Saturday, spanning more than 7,700 miles and creating a connection that emails, letters or conventional phone calls simply can't match.

"Speaking face-to-face with a loved one who is deployed thousands of miles away is an emotional and wonderful experience for the families here at home as well for our troops," said Jim D'Aoust, who volunteers two or three weekends each month to coordinate the calls between the supercomputer center and two Marine bases in Iraq.

D'Aoust, a project manager for the Cyberinfrastructure Partnership at SDSC, along with fellow SDSC staff members Don Thorp and Amit Majumdar, have been hosting the video links since early 2006, connecting about 750 Marine families from both MCAS Miramar and Camp Pendleton to date. "It's been very rewarding for us to be able to both support our troops this way and to witness the joy that it brings the families as they cope with eight- or twelve-month deployments."

This week's video links connected troops stationed at the Al Asad Marine Airbase in northern Iraq with their families throughout the greater San Diego area. Using SDSC's facilities along with 50-inch plasma displays, D'Aoust is also able to connect families with their Marines at Camp Fallujah in Iraq, and in the future hopes to be able to access additional sites in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We try to stay in touch every day through text messaging or e-mail, but seeing him on the screen - it just makes me cry every time," said Teresa Reynolds, while waiting with her daughter Kelsea, 16, and son Tyler, 12 to see her husband, Marine Master Sgt. Ken Reynolds, a 20-year veteran who was last deployed to Iraq in August. "Snail mail and e-mail just doesn't make the connection like this does, and phone calls are scarce. I cannot thank everyone enough for making this possible, especially around the holidays."

The video conferences (VTCs) are provided through a partnership between the Freedom Calls Foundation, and SDSC. Freedom Calls, a New Jersey-based not-for profit, provides the satellite communication networks independent of the military and the needed equipment in Iraq to complete the internet connection with the supercomputer center.
SDSC was established to provide scientists and engineers from across the country with access to high-end computing and data storage that enables them to further their academic research. However, on weekends the Center's extensive video conferencing facilities go relatively unused, and are therefore made available to Marine families.

Related Links

San Diego Supercomputer Center http://www.sdsc.edu/
Freedom Calls Foundation http://www.freedomcalls.org/