7,000 miles doesn't keep Soldier from child's birth
Michelle Cannaday poses with her daughter Julia after her birth, which Maj. Robert Cannaday, a Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors liaison officer, was able to watch live over Skype from his room at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, on Jan. 17.

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- During the World Wars, the length of time in which Soldiers in combat were informed about the birth of their children once took a matter of weeks and only amounted to a telegram or letter and photo.

Those serving during the Vietnam War were usually able to receive a call within days. During operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Internet allowed for instant messaging and electronic photos to be viewed in near real time. However, none of those options truly allowed a father to experience the birth his child.

On Jan 17, Maj. Robert Cannaday, a liaison officer (LNO) for the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors currently deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan; was speaking with his family in California, where he is stationed as the Assistant Product Manager for Navigation Systems at Los Angeles Air Force Base, via Skype (an internet calling system).

During his daily check-in with his family, his wife suddenly went into labor. Although this would be Cannaday and his wife Michelle's fourth child, it would be the first time he could not be there for the birth - sort of.

An hour and a half later from a delivery room at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, Torrance, Calif.; with his mother-in-law serving as videographer, Cannaday was able to watch and speak with his wife in real-time from his dorm room more than 7,000 miles away, as she gave birth to the newest addition to the family, a daughter named Julia.

"During the delivery the nurse was talking to me saying, 'Robert you almost have a daughter' and letting me know what was going on and that everything was fine. When Julia came out she gave her right to Michelle and I saw basically everything including watching my mother-in-law cut the umbilical cord," said Cannaday. "It was really neat, if you can't be there literally, I was there virtually and in tears just as I would have been in the delivery room. It ran a close second to actually being there."

In the days before his daughter's birth, Cannaday had been assisting in orchestrating the solider protection systems that will be needed to support the additional 30,000 troops that are arriving to Afghanistan. He had been working with US Forces Afghanistan to ensure all of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance equipment and appropriate training is available for Soldiers to use when they arrive.

Through technological advances, Cannaday was able to continue providing essential support, as the LNO while being assured his family back home was being cared for by being able to see Julia born with his own eyes.

Although he couldn't be there in person Cannaday said, "It makes you sad that you are not there, of course, I remember dreaming a couple of nights before wanting to hold her, and all my kids, but being able to actual see her and see her little face and to know that she is healthy is very reassuring."

Cannaday's wife also found the Skype solution to be a comfort. "It wasn't the same as the others (births), where he could hold my hand or put counter pressure on my back and support me physically, but mentally it was awesome for both of us knowing that he was able to witness this at the moment she was actually born," said Michelle.

Cannaday is scheduled to complete his deployment in the spring.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16